Thursday, June 23, 2011

Season of Mayhem: Summer


“Are you okay?”
PP knew Something Bad was gonna happen. It had been inevitable. Hilltopia Pool was jammed packed with screaming children, spastic lap swimmers and wayward kickers.

Which is exactly what had happened to her.

She’d been kicked.


Was she OK?

It was too early to tell. The pain was sharp and shooting. Emanating from the spot on her back where he’d landed his icky big foot.

Into her kidneys?

It felt like it.

“Are you OK?” he repeats. PP can vaguely feel his concern. She can’t look him in the eye. Knows that it was an accident.

Except. It wasn’t. When the pool is this much mayhem everyone has to be a little more careful. Watch their kicks into the next lane a little more closely.

Yet no one ever does. Everyone just swims blithely on like they own the pool and they're the king of their lane.

And her lane.

For this is what happened. His powerful Man Kick (as DL dubbed it the next day when PP related the story) had strayed under the lane line and bonked PP’s kidney mightily. She had to stop. She had to swoon.

She had to get out of the goddamn pool.

Later she felt a little sorry for the Man Kicker. She had just left. Not responded to his query of was she OK.

And she was. OK.

But yet she didn’t feel okay enough to feel too sorry for him. At least not yet.

Maybe next time she sees him.
Or not....


“I just want to know why it is that the Master’s Team and the Aqua Aerobics are allowed into the pool 5 minutes early, yet the lap swimmers aren’t?”

PP’s pissed. She’d ventured into the El Cerrito Swim Center thinking maybe it’d be better than Hilltopia; but of course, she was wrong.

Summer: The season was enough to stop her from swimming.

She’d gotten to the pool early cuz she knew it’d be crazy. And when she parked the Geo at the end of the lot and witnessed the Spray Play Frog Fountain's gushing in the shallow pool with screaming children scurrying under it, she knew it was going to be a challenge.

Yet the deep pool where the lap swimmers swim was quiet. Still. Peaceful. Kid free.

So, maybe it’d be OK.

Yet no.

After waiting in line, ready to pay the exorbitant $5.50 fee, she faces the polite but non-registering her anxiety kid clerk who asks her, “You here for lap swimming?”
“You have to wait till 5:30.”
”What time is it now?” PP asks, craning her head under the window to see the clock as a parade of squealing kids with tired parents in tow pass thro the gate with no waiting.
“Can’t I go in now to get changed?” she asks. The lap swim time is only till 6:30 today. Only 1 hour. Which would be fine. If he would just let her in.

But he won't budge. Shakes his head, “Nope. Lap swimmers have to wait till 5:30.”
She wants to ask why but he doesn’t give her a chance, waving her to the side to help the next person.

So she waits. And the 5 minutes is a long one. She’s anxious since by the time he lets her in it’s gonna be 5:35 and it is.

In line in front of her, two Asian Hello Kitty Women’s Debit Card is declined 3 times. You Can’t Come In Clerk keeps asking them if they have another card. He keeps trying the same one when they shake their heads no. The clock keeps ticking. PP sees her lap hour slipping away.

Finally Hello Kitty Woman #2 pulls out some cash.
Why the hell didn’t she do that in the first place?

Can’t Come In Clerk takes his time making change. Lets them in. Motions for PP. Says some cheery bullshit when PP hands him the exact change, “Perfect. Have a nice swim.”
Fuck you Asshole, PP thinks as she hurries in.

It’s 5:35 now & Total Hell in the locker room. Kids crying. Moms swearing. Toilet paper draping.

PP hurries to get changed.But this takes 5 more minutes.

Now it’s 5:40; she heads out to the deck. Scrambles to put on her cap. Earplugs. Mask.

Now it's 5:45 as she jump into the pool.

45 minutes.

It’s better than nothing, but still. If You Can’t Come In Clerk had let her in at 5:25......well.... Her swim woulda been relaxing instead of stressing.

So afterwards, when she asks the Tired End of the Day Clerk why she wasn’t let in and got angrier and angrier as he made her repeat her question over and over until finally he shrugs,

“Actually, the lap swimmers are supposed to be allowed in 5 minutes early just like the Aqua Aerobics. In the past, the reason that we didn’t let the lap swimmers in was cuz they’d get dressed really fast and then jump in before a lifeguard was there."

“Obviously, that isn’t the case today,” PP interrupts, remembering how there were at least 5 or 6 lifeguards sprinkled round the deck for swim lessons. Lap swimmers. Good Measure.

“Yes....” He pauses. It’s so hard dealing with these middle-aged women lap swimmers.

PP is a type now; she knows it. Complaining about her ‘pool rights’.

“.... sounds like whoever you dealt with was enforcing a previous policy,” he concedes. Finally.

PP sighs. Loudly. Shit.

“Well, maybe you should let your employees know that the policy has been changed.”
He doesn’t look at her. “Yes, well....we have a meeting in 35 minutes. I’ll be sure to bring it up.”

Oh, sure you will, she thinks as she stomps off, shaking her head in frustration.

Is it a Small Victory that PP was proven right?

Did he offer to give her her money back?

Are you kidding?

Lap Swimmer Discrimination. That’s what it is.

Or Pool Clerk Idiocy.

Yeah, that’s really what it is.


“Can you help me move the lane line over?” Evetlana asks PP who’s just finishing up a surprisingly nice swim at the Oaktown Y in spite of the crazed crowd of parents and small children who’d been flailing in the side of the pool next to her for the last 50 minutes.

“Sure,” PP nods. “No problem,” as she takes her mask off and prepares to dunk under the lane line to help move it.
“Oh no!” Evtlana’s face falls, her pale features falling into a resigned frown of disgust.
“What?” PP glances to the spot where E is pointing.
“I have to close the pool. You need to get out.”
PP doesn’t have to be asked twice. The brown floating slime ickyness nudging its way toward her causes a momentary rise of nausea.

She didn’t need to add to the Brown Alert.

“How was your swim?” DL asks later as PP tries to recover in the hot tub.
PP tells her.

DL nods, “A Lily Pad of Poop.”

"Yes!" PP laughs.

Was she OK?

Sure. As long as she had DL to entertain her with Poetic Pronouncements.

Lily Pad of Poop! What a perfect way to end her first week of Summer: The Season of Mayhem.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It’s Meditative


“I have a problem for you to ponder while you’re swimming.” Sandy opens her locker, pulling off her workout togs to prepare for Utopia.

“Well, swimming's good for problem solving,” PP laughs, tucking her hair into her cap.
“Exactly. It’s meditative.”

PP nods, waiting for the Problem Description. She’s getting a little anxious though. Last week she didn’t give herself enough time to swim and barely got a mile in. Tonight she was careful to give herself lots of time, but now Sandy has a Critical Thinking Exercise for her to do in the Pool. Not that she doesn’t believe in swimming's problem solving capabilities, but still....

She really wants to swim NOW!

“You see, I have this vacuum,” Sandy begins, tossing her shoes into the locker, “and it has this very long hose. Oh it must be 30 or 40 feet long. It’s a special kinda vacuum..... What’s it called?” She pauses, thinking.

PP waits. Shit. A Vacuum Question? Like she knows anything about vacuums. In fact, vacuums, over the years, have been her arch nemeses. They never work. And when they do, they always jam up. And when that happens, she has a fit and throws them away.

She remembers the last vacuum she had. A bright yellow sporty model from ACE. It had seemed like a good investment but then the usual vacuum issues arose and the last image she has of it is its bright yellow plastic self, sitting forlornly on the sidewalk of 63rd street, just waiting for some poor sucker to pick it up.

Of course, someone did.

Did PP feel responsible for booby-trapping this poor person into a Delusional Working Vacuum World?

No. She was glad to get rid of it.

And now here’s Sandy wanting Vacuum Advice?

“.....I forget what it’s called exactly. But you know what I mean, don’t you?”

PP shakes her head. She has never seen a vacuum with 30 to 40 feet of hose. The potential for Various Vacuum Issues must be horrendous.

“Anyway, there’s something stuck in the middle of the hose and I can’t get it out. I tried hanging the hose off the 3-story balcony to shake it out. But no go. So, I was wondering if you had any ideas?”
“To get the Blockage out of the hose?” PP confirms the problem before heading off to the pool.

”Exactly. I need to find some way to get whatever’s blocking it out. I think it’s probably a piece of my old linoleum floor stuck in there and I can’t dislodge it. I know I could go to the vacuum repair guy and he’d cut it in half and splice it back together. But that’d cost a couple hundred dollars and I’m cheap.”

PP nods, trying to wrap her mind around the idea of spending $200 to fix a vacuum hose. “That is a dilemma,” she laughs. “I’ll see what I come up with while I’m swimming.”
“Thank you. I’d appreciate it.” Sandy shuffles off, wearing only her flip-flops as she heads to the sauna.


It was a glorious swim. PP had her own lane! The water was 84 degrees! And her mask didn’t leak.

A perfect scenario for solving Sandy’s Vacuum Hose Issue.

Of course, an idea did occur to her after about 1200 meters. But it was just a joke idea. Sandy seemed to be expecting a Real Solution.

Well, maybe this idea would work, she thought as she finished her 2000 meters and heaved herself out of the pool right before the lifeguard gave her half-hearted whistle, hollering “POOL CLOSED!”


Following DL into the sauna, PP spies Sandy in her usual spot on the top tier.

“So I came up with a solution to your problem,” PP announces. “You wanna hear it?”
”Please,” Sandy’s not sitting up for the presentation, but that’s ok. PP doesn’t expect her to.

DL plops down on the bench below Sandy, sighing.
“How big around is the hose?” PP asks.
“About 2 inches I would guess.” Sandy makes a circle with her thumb and index finger to show the circumference to PP.
“Perfect,” she giggles. “All you need to do is get a piece of cheese,” PP begins, grinning.
“And drop it down one side of the hose till it hits the blockage. Then on the other side, you drop a wee little mousie and let her push and push and push the linoleum out of the other side in order to get the cheese. It has to be a smelly cheese so that she really wants to work for it and....”

“I’m afraid that won’t work. All of the mice in Piedmont are too well-fed. The mouse wouldn’t be interested in it.”

“Oh....” PP allows her tone to show her deflation. “Well, I was only kidding.....”
“Yes, I know. But I have to take every suggestion seriously.”

And she was. Serious. It was no laughing matter. In fact, no one was laughing. Not DL and not Sandy.

But PP does, shrugging. Someone has to laugh at her stupid ideas. Besides what do you expect at the end of a long hellish day even if the swim was perfect?

“DL did you hear what Sandy’s problem is?” PP asks.
Sandy explains it to DL, who suggests running a snake down the hose.
“I thought of that too,” Sandy nods. “That’s a good idea. I’m going to give that one a try.”
“A Snake instead of a Mouse!” PP exclaims.
No one laughs at this joke either.
Deciding that it was time to call it a night, PP rises and heads for the shower.

Thinking how it just goes to show that while a swim may be meditative and thus a ripe arena for ideas, sometimes it just doesn’t yield anything worth sharing.

Even if someone does command it.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Alternate Universe

Dear Readers: Please read the preceding blog entry first, Missing Person, for proper chronological soap opera sequence.

~Part II~

“Hey, Sandy,” PP calls out to the prone form lying on the top deck of Utopia, Oaktown. “I found DL!
“Yeah,” DL laughs as she follows PP into the sauna, “ It only took a week.”
Sandy chuckles. “Very good. Where was she?”
“In an Alternate Universe,” PP jokes.
“Really?” Sandy shifts, squirts herself with a spray of water.
“Yeah, bet you didn’t know there was one at the Berkeley Y,” PP teases.

“Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me,” Sandy answers. “But seriously where was she?”
“In the upstairs women’s sauna. Did you know there was another women’s locker room, upstairs?”
“That’s right,” Sandy nods, knowingly. It does occur to PP to ask why the hell she hadn't mentioned another sauna to her last week when she'd been so panicked about DL's whereabouts. Chalk it up to Heaterization Disorientation?

“I had no idea,” PP shakes her head. “I’ve been going there for years and no one ever told me there was a Parallel Universe at the Berkeley Y.”
“The funny thing is,” DL interjects, “is that I did think of it. That there might be more than one sauna in that place. And when I asked this other woman who was in the sauna with me if there was another one she just looked at me like I was crackers and said, ‘No.’”

“Really?” Sandy says, “That’s odd.”
“Yeah, isn’t it,” PP agrees. “I wonder why she lied to DL about another Sauna? If she hadn’t, maybe none of this woulda happened.”
“No, you’re right. It could’ve been avoided,” Sandy agrees.
“I think the Lying Sauna Woman was part of the Evil Parallel Universe Cohort that didn’t want me to find DL or for DL to tell any of her friends about the other sauna. Then she could have it all to herself.”

”It was icky,” DL murmurs. “I didn’t know what to do. I was upstairs with a towel wrapped around me wondering where is PP where is PP I wonder if there’s another sauna and so when I asked this woman and she said no there wasn’t well.... I.... was very confused.....”
“I bet.” Sandy nods. “But tell, me, PP how did you end up finding her if you didn’t know the other sauna was up there?”

PP paused for a moment, trying to remember. What had she done? They’d told her at the front desk that they didn’t have a PA system and so she’d been completely flummoxed by this, not knowing what to do, when oh yeah that’s right, she’d mentioned that she was supposed to meet her friend in the sauna and then the Big Pasty Clerk had asked her which sauna.
“There’s more than one sauna?” she’d asked, astounded.
“Well, yeah, there’s one upstairs and one downstairs. Which one were you supposed to meet your friend in?”
PP had shook her head, “I had no idea that there were two saunas. I was just in the downstairs one..... I guess that’s what happened. My friend is in the upstairs one.”

And sure enough, when PP had hurried up the 3 flights of stairs, her bare feet cold, her wet hair tangling, her panic beginning to subside, she arrived breathless into the Women’s Locker room. Upstairs.

So weird.
A parallel universe.

PP glanced through the rows of lockers where a door was open into a weight room, the clanking and banging adding to her disorientation. It was too bright. Yellow. Eerily empty....

And then voila! there was DL wandering around in a daze, her eyes bright behind her wired rimmed glasses, a towel wrapped around her waist, “OH MY GOD!” she’d exclaimed.

“Here you are! I had no idea there was an upstairs women’s’ locker room!” PP had cried, so happy and relieved to see DL.
“Where were you?” DL asked, the panic melting off her face.
DL broke into a grin, “Upstairs, Downstairs.”

“Yeah, something like that,” PP laughed, her having to go to the bathroom suddenly hitting her hard.
“Okay, well, I’m so glad I found you,” she’d said, “Meet you downstairs?”
”Yeah, yeah....just give me a few minutes. I’ll be down after I put some clothes on.”

After PP finishes telling the story, Sandy laughs.“If you’d peeked behind her and seen Erica Kane working out, then you’d really know you were in a Parallel Universe!”

And it’s true. If La Kane had been there in her little black stretch pants and designer sneakers, lifting weights with her perfect make-up, it wouldn’t really have surprised PP at all.

Parallel Universes. Missing Persons. Sauna Liars.

It was all just another day in the life of a swimmer. In an Alternate Universe, that is....

Mad as Hell!

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