For those of us who are clumsy on land, the buoyancy of an aquatic environment enacts a glorious transmutation from awkward ape to sleek hydrophile. Much like, I assume, a wading pygmy hippo dancing on its tippytoes revels in its floaty, gleeful daintiness.
Sadly, the water’s transformative powers do not extend to social graces. Swimmers are just as rude submerged as they are on land. We might hope that the rules of the pools need not be spelled out, but my years of frustrated thrashing around rule violators suggest the need for exposition. My pool has a stern policy about patrons with diarrhoea (swim not!) but these particular chlorine-soaked criminals remain unpunished.
My kickboard drills are a reward for my arms after they’ve pulled me half a kilometre. Pool scum who can’t be arsed strolling over to the equipment bucket and nick my kickboard instead are the pits. They rob my arms of their well-earned rest and then I have to swim angry. And with tired arms.
‘Keep to the left’ is adhered to unquestioningly on the road, yet many in the pool lane consider it merely a serving suggestion. Some go crashing down the centre of the lane no matter how many others are sharing it. I am tempted to declare war and prove that you don’t need a car to play Chicken.
End-of-lane loitering is pleasant, but it must be done considerately to leave some room to turn around. Those milliseconds of subsurface rocketing as I propel myself from the wall are sacred, they are mine, and no one has the right to take them from me by hogging the lane end.
Breaststroke is not a stroke for the fast lane. Butterfly is not a stroke for the slow lane. My pool has defined slow, medium and fast by spelling out exactly how many seconds you have to qualify for each lane. What’s missing, however, is the enforcement; where is the timekeep with steely gaze, admonishing the thoughtless swimmer who switches stroke mid-length, adopting a leisurely paddle while the dedicated freestylers behind him start crashing into one anothers’ feet? It takes just a second or two to defer to a swifter swimmer and allow them to go ahead but deluded athletes power on, unwilling to acknowledge they’re a bit slow.
Swimming, for me, is an exercise in peaceful solitude. The last thing I want to do is talk to other swimmers, let alone correct their transgressions. Here I present an excellent, interaction-free proposal to ensure public pool harmony: the lanes should be labelled ‘slow’, ‘medium’, ‘fast’, and ‘crank’. The crank lane will be netted to keep out Band-Aids. You get one chance to be in the crank lane: the moment you violate the crank code of conduct, you’re booted out to the regular lanes. Permanently.