Thursday, December 01, 2016
“Excuse me?” The bashful, sweet, and definitely cute lifeguard is talking to me? The lifeguards here at the Oakland YMCA pool NEVER talk to me. What’s up?
I grin, nod encouragingly. “Could you do me a favor?” he asks, his voice and demeanor shy, hesitant.
He is so adorable. Of course! Anything, I think. I say, “Sure.”
“There are these neon rings that the kids left in the bottom of the pool and I couldn’t get them to pick them up. I can’t reach them.” He stands on the deck, hands spread in a dramatic shrug accompanied by a dazzling smile. “Would you mind going back in and retrieving them for me?”
“No problem,” I answer in the millennial vernacular. “Anything to stay in the pool longer!”
He laughs, watches me hop back into the pool and starts to direct me to each ring’s location. “There’s one over there,” he points out one orangey one at the bottom of the first lane. Since I’ve taken out my earplugs, I have to retrieve them with my foot. This is hilarious as I try to grab the ring with my toes and then flip it up and out of the water. But voila! I’ve got it. On to the next one.
He points out all the rings to me in the first lane and then notes that there are some in the next lane over. Damn. How am I going to get into that lane without going underwater and getting water in my delicate ears?
And so I do: push the lane down, clamber over it most ungracefully I’m sure, and then pop into the next lane where I can repeat the foot toss up retrieval process.
There are a LOT of rings! I mention this to him. “Yeah, like I said, I tried to get the kids to pick them up but then their mom said they had to get outta the pool and get dressed it was time for bed and so….” He shrugs.
Well, he tried.
And, it’s a fun project for me on an otherwise uneventful Wednesday night swim. No Soft and Shy Muslim Swimmer tonight. No super speedy Korean Women to gawk at. So, the Ring Retrieval delights me.
Plus the water is warm!
I finally retrieve the last one and hand it up to him; he bends down to shake my hand, introduce himself. “I’m Tyrone. And you’re?”
“Carol. Well, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.”
I climb out of the pool, satisfied with a job well done. Probably more appreciation for this job than all the jobs I’d done all day!
“Are you new here?” I ask him as I head toward the locker room.
“Nah….I’ve been here since……” He pauses, counting on his fingers. So cute! “5 months since July.”
“Okay, well, that’s pretty new. I haven’t seen you here before.”
“Yeah, well I work at Target in the afternoons before I come here and sometimes I work at night and can’t make it.”
“Bet it’s pretty busy at Target this time of year,” I comment, knowing full well from my years of retail how the holiday hoards descend.
“Oh, yeah!” He nods at me again, grinning that dazzling smile.
And so, we part. I head into the locker room, eager to tell DL of my adventure. Who is suitably excited. She starts to list the possible titles for this blog. “Ring Retrieval Situation” or RingTrieval Situation” or…..
I think I’ll call it “Damn, I wish the Lifeguards would ask me favors more often!”
Yes, perfect, don’t you think, DL?
Posted by Cj at 4:51 PM
Friday, November 25, 2016
Yet she did. Just fine. Her hands paddling in quick dog paddles, her body floating flat behind her, legs kicking straight and true.
Stopping to rest at the wall, she raised her mirrored silver goggles off to rest on her forehead. Gave me a sweet smile.
I smiled back at her, then gave the lifeguard the thumbs up as he snapped the lane line into place. “How you doing tonight?” I asked her.
“Okay,” she murmured, her eyes gazing at me in softness before she pulled the goggles back over them.
“We can just split the lane, okay?” I suggested. “You can take that side and I’ll take this one.”
She nodded, then paddled off, her black fabric swimming costume floating around her in soft waves in the blue water.
I had wanted to delay her. For a moment. To ask her, really, how are you doing? Have you had any trouble the last two weeks after the election of the Racist Preacher of Hate who has vowed to send all of her kind back to where they came from. Or round them up and place them in internment camps. Or line them up and shoot them….
Did I make that last one up?
To me this is the most appalling and unconscionable aspect of the current violence that the Preacher of Hate has inspired. The hate of ‘others’ has always been there, but those that hated, that feared were ‘more cordial’ about it as one of my students labeled it. She told me of women, young Latinas who had been hit by hate crimes and abuse. A woman on BART. A woman walking down the street in Alameda.
And this is the Bay Area!
But it does.
And I am so upset and sorry for this.
As I swim next to this young woman tonight, each time passing her, her black scarves floating in wavy beauty under the water, I think how hard it must be for her now. How she must fear for her safety and those in her family in these horrid times.
I’m so glad, though, that tonight, she’s here. Safe in the waters of the Oakland Y’s pool. With her mirrored racing goggles. Her soft, strong energy.
And her smile that assured me, ‘I’m okay.’
I hope she is. I really do. If she could just keep swimming, here at the Downtown Oakland Y, and never get out of the pool, she’d be okay.
I wouldn’t stand by and watch like those stunned? Fearful? Ashamed? people in DL’s experience.
At least I don’t think I would.
Posted by Cj at 7:58 PM
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Oh, and yes, I hear you skeptics out there. Obama Care is responsible for these big spikes in coverage this coming year. No! The insurance companies are! The greed and sliminess of these corporations know no bounds. Hillary Clinton, during her husband’s administration, tried to pass Single Payer Health Care, but the legislators blocked her efforts. Where would we all be if she had been successful? If her vision had been carried out?
I’ve been writing about and bemoaning the state of health care in this country for over 25 years (Check out “The Kaiser Stories”, Norton Corker Press, 1991), and truly believe that as long as insurance companies control our healthcare, our premiums will continue to rise and at some point, only the ‘elite’ (ie: RICH--aka Donald Trump--has he ever had to worry about health coverage? That's a rhetorical question, obviously) will be able to afford health coverage.
And so, I return to my original question, if Trump fulfills his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, what will happen to all of these millions of people who will lose their insurance?
I think he’ll have a lot of sick and angry people on his watch. Some of whom, I bet, voted for him.
Posted by Cj at 12:06 PM
Thursday, November 03, 2016
I think DL has a similar story. I’ll have to ask her when next we meet in Utopia.
She was eating it up.
Her Boyfriend, or friend, or wanna be boyfriend, a scrawny pale dude, stood by her forlornly. He did look cold.
Does talking a lot keep you warm, I wondered?
All in 5 minutes!
DL shook her head as we climbed into Carmine.
“She definitely had the extrovert thing going on,” I said, quoting a favorite line from my friend Mary Anne.
“Yes, that she did,” DL agreed as she turned on the engine.
I sank back into the seat as DL pulled out onto Broadway. Relaxed in our silence for a moment, I sighed.
Thank goodness DL isn’t Bubbly, I thought, as she turned onto grey plusher street and headed toward my car….It is vastly overrated. At least from an Introvert's point of view!
Posted by Cj at 7:04 PM
Friday, October 14, 2016
I watch him hobble onto the elevator, baffled. He looks like Super Swimmer Man, but…?Could this be him? He can barely walk as he shuffles onto the elevator. What happened?
In the pool he is a miracle. He stands on the deck for several moments, stretching his lean body and flexing his long arms. He dives into the pool, speedy and eloquent as he zips past me to the other side of the pool. His stroke is strong and mighty. He has both technique and lyricism in the water. I marvel at him whenever we swim side by side.
So tonight, when I see this hobbling shuffling slight little man get on the elevator, I am in disbelief. Can it really be the same person? I know that water is transformative. That people who have difficulty on land are in paradise when floating, but the dramatic difference here takes me aback.
I climb the stairs, shaking my head, thinking I must be mistaken.
At the top of the stairs, the elevator doors slide open. He shuffles off the elevator, waves to me, “I thought that was you,” he grins hobbling up alongside me. I slow my step. I hadn’t thought it was him, but I don’t tell him this, just nod, “The pool was nice tonight,” is all I can come up with, my standard rapture.
“Yes, yes, it was. I haven’t seen you in a while. Do you still swim in Oakland?”
“Yeah, I usually go to the Oakland Y on Wednesdays, but tonight I headed up here to Hilltopia for the lap swimming. It was busy!”
He chuckles, “Yeah, a little.”
And then me. I felt very feminine and outnumbered. And Super Swimmer Man confirms this for me when he repeats, “Yeah, I thought it was you. I’d recognize your stroke anywhere.” He grins, doesn’t elaborate.
He starts to veer from me, as he tells me how he only swims on M/W/F or Tue/Th/Sat. I understand, I say. “Yeah, I can’t do it anymore,” he muses, not depressingly, just philosophically. “I have to pace myself.”
I wonder what his injury is. Or maybe it is just the body wearing out. Not wanting to swim every day. I know my body protests when I swim too many days in a row. Like when I was in Hawaii and swam 8 days in row, two times a day. It was worth it, but my neck and back were sore at the end of the trip.
So, tonight, as he starts off into the parking lot, I stop him, “What’s your name?” I ask. “It’s so silly that we don’t know each other’s names after all these years we’ve been swimming together.”
He chuckles softly, holds out his hand formally to shake mine, tells me his name. One I never would have guessed. I tell him mine. He doesn’t repeat it. Just calls out to me as I head down to my car, “You have the most recognizable stroke. I’d recognize it anywhere!”
I smile to myself. Yes, and I’d recognize his, too. In the pool. But not on land. On land, he’s a different person. We don’t need names in the water. We know each other by our strokes.
His is strong and powerful and speedy. Mine is elegant and smooth and unique.
What else could take a tired, slow, bent old man and transform him into a young, strong whippersnapper!
No longer baffled, I stumble down to the car, shifting my heavy swim bag, breathing in the cool, night breeze....
Posted by Cj at 7:45 PM
Thursday, September 01, 2016
“Were you cold in the pool?”
“Of course!” Beautiful Indian Woman, a fellow Oakland displaced swimmer, gives a subtle shrug, standing in the Berktopia sauna, drying off.
“I know, right!” I exclaim. “It was freezing!”
Miss Gets Warm After 2 laps, smiles from the top shelf of the sauna. I’d asked her earlier if she’d been cold in the pool. “No, only for first 2 times.” Her English was some second language, but I knew she meant 2 laps of the pool.
Oh, I can’t stand people like this! I never get warm in cold water. And these people? They like it. It’s some sort of badge of honor. If they are cold (and often they won’t even admit this), they are only cold for the first couple of laps. And this is a good thing. It gets them going, you know?
Beautiful Indian Woman continues, “I don’t like cold water.”
“No, me neither,” I agree. “I don’t ascribe to the ‘No pain, no gain’ philosophy!”
They both laugh at this. Warmer now, I join DL at the lockers, wondering if I meant subscribe instead of ascribe. I’ll have to ask DL about this later. She’s the wordsmith.
I snuck into the corner, momentarily upsetting a woman’s top of her water bottle cap situation--she'd left it on the deck and my hastily discarded cap, fins and mask touched it. “That’s my top,” she’d murmured. Not in a nasty way, just in a hand it to me way. Which I did before going on my rant about how cold the pool was.
She stared at me widely, her white towel turbaned head nodding. “Yeah, that’s why I go in here first. To get warm.”
“That’s a good idea,” I sink into the bubbled aqua heat. “I shoulda done that.”
“Some people say that if you go back and forth between the cold water and then in here in the hot water and then back again into the cold water that it’s good for the circulation.”
“Ummmm…. Some of them just do that all day. Back and forth back and forth back and forth.” She chuckles, amused.
“Well,” I grin, “I’m not going back in that Cold Pool!”
We both laugh as she heaves herself out of the Jacuzzi and heads for IceLand.
“Have a nice rest of your evening,” she answers. Maybe knowing that no way was she going to have a good swim in that cold pool!
How many blog posts can I write about freezing cold pools? An infinite amount it seems. It’s like when Jon Carroll writes his car rants. He’s said it before: the driver who doesn’t signal; the tailgater who raises your blood pressure; the oblivious right lane driver who doesn’t let you merge onto the freeway. But every time he does, we, the readers, love it. That’s right! A woman did that very same thing to to me this morning! I was trying to merge onto 80 offa Barrett and this lady in a Subaru station wagon, completely oblivious, wouldn’t budge from her right hand lane either by changing lanes or hell, tapping her brakes to let me in, almost causing me to crash into her!
Is it that hard to heat a pool?
The jury’s still out, or maybe it’s in permanent recess, but in the meantime, thank goodness my regular WARM pools will be open again next week!
And when I see Beautiful Indian Woman in the pool at Oakland next week, we can exchange a knowing sigh of ‘ahhhh’ as we swim in the warm warm waters of Utopia!
Posted by Cj at 2:03 PM
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
“Do you really wake up every morning thinking what bad thing is gonna happen today?”
Sanctimonious Admonishment Woman gazed at me across the bubbles of the hot tub, serene in her superiority. What the hell?
Sure, I’d just been whining to DL about how some teenage girls had stolen my fins off the deck while I was swimming, claiming that they didn’t know they were mine when the lifeguard who’d so gallantly helped me locate them, asked them. I’d referred to this night of swimming as mayhem, but more on that later. I guess I’d also made some comment about waking up thinking what bad thing was gonna happen to me today, which SAW picked right up on. How do I respond?
I laughed. “Well, I’ve had a run of bad things lately, so it seems appropriate.”
Shit. No. I don’t believe this. But I go along with her, cuz what am I gonna do? Start an argument in the hot tub? I glance over at DL whose eyes are wide in engagement at the exchange.
I lied. “Sure, I suppose, you have a point. I’ll give this a try and see what happens.”
She nodded, satisfied, smug. She’d been water walking the entire time I’d been trying to swim amidst the mayhem. She was far away from the chaos of thieving fin teens and throwing ball kids. So, when the mayhem analysis came next, I had to refrain from pointing this out.
“No,” I answered, thinking, I avoid them as much as possible, but summers in the pools at the YMCA make it difficult. They may be practicing their normal kid energy when they steal my fins, but hell, I don’t appreciate this one bit!
When I mention the fin stealing episode to Sandy later on, telling her about the kid energy perspective from SAW, Sandy had whistled softly, then shook her head, “Were your fins on the side of the pool while you were in the lane?”
“Well, then they knew that the fins belonged to you no matter what they said. They stole them plain and simple.”
“Of course you were!” Sandy exclaims. “Next time someone tells you that it’s just normal kid energy, you just tell them ‘La dee da!’”
I crack up. “Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Thanks, Sandy.”
Nodding seriously, she goes back to her careful lotion application process as DL and I gather up our stuff to head out of the Downtown Oakland YMCA.
And SAW? Where was she?
I have no idea. I’d never seen her before. And I hope I never see her again. But if I do, I’ll tell her how I’ve been waking up every morning and thinking what good thing is gonna happen to me today.
And when she answers with some other nugget of positive wisdom, I’ll just smile and say,
‘La dee da!!!”
Posted by Cj at 2:05 PM