I enjoy swimming, I really do (honestly!), it is the ideal sport for someone who only grudgingly tolerates the vast majority of the general public. As a nice healthy solitary pursuit, there shouldn’t be any physical contact, too much conversation beyond the polite “hello” (or not even that, being as far South as I am…), and none of the pointless* competitiveness that is such a feature of other sporting activities. Note my use of the word shouldn’t… Alas, in reality that is so often not the case.
I grew up in a small town where the swimming pool was as all small-town swimming pools should rightly be: nice and quiet with plenty of space for me swim my lengths without interruption or irritation. In retrospect, this lack of custom is probably why that pool has sadly since closed, but moving swiftly on… Learning to swim here gave me a false sense of how people generally behave in pools (and, one might say, high expectations). No pool since has ever lived up to this formative swimming experience, and sadly not as single swimming session has subsequently passed without me having the fleeting desire to drown at least one person.
I will only ever visit the pool when I can be sure it will be segregated into adult-only lanes. I avidly check the website to ensure the powers-that-be haven’t sneakily changed the timetable. I do not think my blood pressure could withstand me accidentally happening upon a ‘Family Swimming’ session. I am doing my bit to ensure a stress-free swim; others should take heed and do likewise… That means swimming in the correct lane. It’s not rocket science, really it’s not, the clue is in the wording on the boards at the end of each lane ‘slow lane’, ‘fast lane’, ‘Olympic lane’ – how mentally challenging is it to choose the lane that correctly corresponds to your speed/stamina? (As an aside, ‘Olympic lane’? Really, who do they think they are kidding?!). If I had a pound for every time I have angrily swam at a snail’s pace behind a supposed ‘fast’ swimmer, I would have enough money to build my own pool and this rant would be defunct. (And yes, it is possible to swim angrily, believe me). This blatant disregard for lane etiquette works both ways. On many an occasion have I witnessed a speedy swimmer zipping down the slow lane, overtaking little old ladies studiously paddling along, grey heads bobbing in single file. Stop showing off! Move into a faster lane, moron!
I strongly believe that a carding system should be implemented across every public swimming pool in the country: a yellow card every time you swim in the wrong lane (the lifeguard’s decision is final), and a year-long nationwide lane-swimming ban for anyone in possession of a red card. An automatic red card should also be given to anyone who fails to adhere to the ‘clockwise’/’anticlockwise’ instructions on the boards at the end of each lane: if you don’t know the difference then you are clearly a danger to yourself and others and shouldn’t be unaccompanied in a body of water anyway (feel free to attend a ‘Family Swimming’ session with a responsible adult).
Regardless of your speed, a prerequisite of attending a lane-swimming session should be a commitment to swimming in single file. If you only came to the pool to swim along slowly beside your friend, dutifully catching up on all the latest gossip, heads above the water so as not to ruin your perfectly coiffed hair, then the pool is clearly not the place for you. Go to the pub. Or preferably, go to a trendy wine bar where I am unlikely to bump into you after my proper swim.
For a short time, I visited my local pool first thing in the morning as I assumed that there would be a dearth of gossipy swimmers of the aforementioned ilk. I was correct (I don’t imagine they would have had time to re-apply their makeup before work). What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was the abundance of flirty octogenarians who frequent the pool at this hour. It is like a social club for the aged and there is something rather unsettling about witnessing the oldies a-courting before breakfast. Whilst wearing swimming costumes. And tight trunks. Try and get that image out of your head! This brings me neatly onto the subject of swimming pool flirting, something that should be made illegal. It is majorly disconcerting to have a member of the opposite sex approach you in a swimming pool and start a conversation that would be far better suited to a nightclub. As I paused for breath once at the end of Central Pool, a very hairy man actually looked me up and down and asked “do you come here often?” So very, very wrong, on so many levels. The speed at which I swam away from him would have made me right at home in the ‘Olympic lane’….
You are probably wondering why I still swim when it clearly enrages me to such an extent. Well, I will tell you: on a very rare occasion, I go to the pool, I swim my lengths and nobody forces me to swim so slowly I am almost going backwards behind them…. Or, if they do, they have the grace to let me go ahead when we reach the end. Unfortunately, so many folks are seemingly oblivious to the seething red ball of anger that is itching to get past them, and just turn round and set off again at the same painful pace. They are also probably oblivious to the fact that I am wishing upon them all kinds of painful deaths involving swimming pool drains, inhaled plasters and the like. (Sorry, I digress…) On a good day nobody attempts to strike up an inappropriate conversation, and nobody swims two abreast just to annoy me, and I actually enjoy myself. In retrospect however, I think perhaps I would be wise to knock swimming on the head and take up running instead…
*In my humble opinion