Swimming Lessons

Why do I have to go to swimming lessons when I can just stay home and play Sonic instead? 

That was probably running through my mind in the summer of 1993 or so, on a sunny, hot morning like today. It was like pulling teeth to get me and my brother up, dressed, and out the door, but once we hit the pool, we were having a grand old time. The one we used for our swimming lessons was outdoors, submerged in a bed of scratchy white concrete, and built up on all sides like Fort Knox with high chain link fences. It was like its own micronation of "Community Pool," complete with it's own laws (No Diving, No Splashing, No Running...etc.).

You could only enter in through the changing rooms, which served as its border crossing. The boys and girls separated. It was like passing into a third world country. Our changing room was nothing but a series of slimy, buggy, weedy showers next to a changing bench--which at the right angle was perfectly visible to the outside. That's okay, I'd gotten used to having no privacy, but could only imagine the luxuries the girls had. Their side was probably furnished like a Turkish bath by comparison!

In any case, I did not wear "floaties"...you know, those things that make you look like you're a real heavyweight stud whenever you... oh who am I kidding, there's nothing manly about floaties! I didn't need them. I could dog paddle with the best of them!

Anyways, most of our lessons involved swimming back and forth, launching off the sides, splashing 101 (holding onto the side and kicking), and learning how to "use spoons, not forks" when going overhand. I insisted on inventing my own swimming maneuver though, calling it "knives," but it didn't take me very far. When I was above water, it was about making bubbles, and when below, it was about holding them in. I used to spend a lot of time under water holding my breath, keeping my eyes open to see up from underneath the other kids like the shark in Jaws. The only bubbles I didn't like so much were the ones that filled my shorts after jumping in, which would blow up my hips and blurp out the leg holes unexpectedly in a big bubble. Well, no. I take that back, those were the best!

That pool also came with a slide, which I was practically running to get in line to (which apparently is against the rules or something). The only problem with the pool was the fact that the water was too damn cold, even on the hottest, most humid days. I could feel every limb on my body shrivel right up when I jumped in--and not just the usual suspect. Now, there were occasional warm spots in the water, but they probably weren't the kind I should've been hanging around in.

At the end of the summer, we were given a cheap printout award by the lifeguards in charge of our swimming lessons (usually slender little high school chicks or dudes with sunglasses and more SPF than Ug's nose. All I remember about that achievement was how horribly, horribly wrong they spelled our last name.

In short, it took a shower just to erase the effects of the chlorine. I can still smell it.

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