Three days after returning from San Diego, I realized that for a person who does not know how to swim, I’m awfully fond of the beach and the ocean and the water. One may, with some accuracy, call it a fatal fondness for the water. “Nothing will happen to me, I’m only chest deep in the water. Oh look, a large wave. And now, a larger one. And now a completely involuntary and completely uncontrolled somersault underwater. Whee?”
A few hours after that, as I sat in my genial (hah!) host’s living room, languorously watching the seawater drain out of my sinuses and gently soak his carpet, I decided that this had to change. To avoid washing up on shore one day, bloated with all the sea water I’d inhaled, and with a barnacle nestling under my chin, I would need to take swimming classes.
And I enrolled for them with surprising alacrity. Every Saturday afternoon during the fall, slam bang in the middle of my weekend, pretty much ensuring that I’m not going to be going on any weekend road trips for the next fourteen weeks…But I digress, the swimming classes. I signed on late on a Friday afternoon, and the next day I showed up for my first class.
All things considered, it could have been much worse. For instance, there could have been a large, hungry shark in the pool. Or piranha with a case of the munchies. The instructor could have been an axe murderer, or a tax collector. See, all things considered, it could have been worse.
If that previous paragraph led you to suspect that the class was a disaster, I apologize for misleading you. It wasn’t. All I was doing was pointing out worse case scenarios. For instance, you’re crossing a road, and a piano falls off a plane and falls on you. Or you are reading the newspaper and while your attention is diverted, you are attacked and subsequently eaten by a tribe of cannibal kindergarteners. You switch your computer on and that same piano jumps out from behind a door and falls on you. (This last case requires that the piano be a little more active than when it was dropping on you. But I’m sure you realized that.) Or you could be having dinner at a nice restaurant and a car driven by a pair of desperate hoodlums plows though the room. You narrowly avoid it by lunging to the left and heave a sigh of relief, and then you are run over by the cops in hot pursuit. You know, those cops, the ones in the movies, the ones who see no harm in driving through a crowd of civilians to get the bad guys. Worst case scenarios.
Now, most people here in this country, apparently learn to swim when they are wee tots. When they weigh half a kilogram and can be slung about with nary a care. Not something that one can do with me. Unless the swimming instructor was a three hundred and fifty pound linebacker.(…who looked upon me as the hated opposing team quarterback, and whose wife had run away the previous night with the opposing teams toaster. Run away in an eloped sense, and not in a stole the toaster sense. See another worst case scenario.) My instructor is a rather pretty blonde woman. She isn’t very large and she did explain to me that it was easier with kids, but reassured me that we should have no problems at all.
She said that the first lesson would involve teaching me how to float, both on my back and on my stomach. (Not simultaneously. I’m taking the basic aquatic contortionist course next year.).
“Floating is good,” I said, “Since it implies not drowning.” (Oh yeah. I still got it.)
So, there I was in the pool, trying to float , the instructor’s hand supporting my back, as I raised my hips and pushed my head down and enjoyed the sensation of all that liquid goodness entering my auditory canals. After a few moments of these delicate adjustments she said, “You should easily float now,” and removed her supporting hand.
My descent to the bottom of the pool would have put any rock anywhere in the world to shame. If sinking were a sport, I would have been its undisputed champion. The man who set the gold standard, a man who could not be caught in his generation, a man whose feats would inspire awe among his fans, and sadly, envy among his competitors, whose petty jealousy would cause them to allege the use of Sink Enhancing Drugs. Charges that would never be proved…
We tried again. It was slightly better this time. I did stay up on the surface for a couple of seconds before diving for the depths, like a German U-boat at the height of the second world war that had just been sighted by a few disgruntled Allies who wanted to discuss with it the U-boats distressing, some may say socially embarrassing, habit of sinking merchant ships and crippling supply lines.
We tried a third time. There was a gentle plop as the water took me into its gentle bosom.
The instructor realized that this wasn’t working. She decided that she’d like to teach me to float on my belly, hoping perhaps for more success.
I sank. Faster than when I’d tried to float on my belly. A feat that I would have refused to believe was possible scarcely five minutes in the past.
A few more repetitions with me doing my impressions of the brave ships Titanic, and the Lusitania, and the Bismarck. During that last one I provided sound effects. “Mein Gott. Was zeit ist ihnen?”
And far too quickly, I had but a minute left in the class. The floating remained a distant, seemingly unattainable dream. But then, perhaps the one sentence that made me chalk the class as a success. The instructor said, and I paraphrase because I do not quite remember her exact words, “The problem is, you’re too muscled. People who are very muscled usually have trouble floating.”
Um…This is probably the only time that an emoticon is far more eloquent than a sentence could ever be.
Um…I may have exaggerated a bit. By a bit I may mean a lot. By exaggerated I may mean completely fictional. Except for the statements about the muscles. That’s competley true.