It’s summer at the YMCA and every day is a battle. In the pool. In the locker room. P must be strategic if she hopes to win a lane. A hairdryer. A little piece of her sanity.
“You know,” Janet sidles over to the sink where P attempts to yank a chlorine saturated tangle out, “I was at the pool yesterday, and all the kids had just come in, and the lifeguard was there and I said to him, “Oh the sweet sound of children!” She giggles softly as the baby sitting on the locker room floor lets out another uncensored wail. Mom is busy with big brother and Little Bro is having none of it.
“WHHHHAAAAAA!!!!!” he shrieks as if someone has murdered his puppy in cold blood on the floor directly in front of him.
Janet has moved back over to the sink, drying her hands after a wash, when the giggles start to tumble out. P can’t help but join in. They laugh and laugh and laugh.
Wailer Baby stops for a moment. Stunned? Distracted? He stares at the two women, his big brown eyes moist with tears, before opening his mighty mouth wide to the ceiling, letting forth another impressive scream.
Janet starts laughing again, matching his volume with her mirth. P can’t stop the giggles, wishing she’d had this strategy of Warrior Mirth earlier when the Newbie Lifeguard had started letting kids and more kids into the lap lanes.
The back story for this battle began with a swim team from a closed pool somewhere in Pinole. These kids were taking up two lanes in what is usually a quiet time at the Y, Sunday late mornings, 11:30 or so. P had spoken to the Newbie Guard about the swim team. His response had been cool and detached, explaining the situation and how these kids were “Pretty serious and not too noisy. You can pick a lane and swim. No problem.”
P had sighed. Loudly Part of the battle each summer was training the New Lifeguards. Why it was her job, she’d never know. But it was.
Yet today, she could tell This One wasn’t worth her Training Time and so she’d just muttered about how cranky it was. To have the lanes taken up with a swim team. Not to mention it made her feel all of her 55 years swimming next to 11 year olds who could swim the breaststroke faster than her freestyle with fins.
But back to the families. And the ongoing battles with aforementioned children. P is somewhat prepared for Children Mayhem Eventuality as the schedule had said it was “Family Lap Swim” from 12-2. Whatever the hell that meant.
First it was a dad and his son. They were so fine. The dad coaching Jr. on his stroke; the kid serious in his attempts to traverse the lane.
This is what Family Lap Swim is all about right?
Next, enter Mom with Hello Kitty daughters. They all clamor into the lane next to P. No laps here. Not even an attempt. There is some maneuvering of a kickboard. Baby Hello Kitty climbs up on deck with the board bigger than her, slamming it down into the water, hitting big sister on the noggin. Crying and laughter ensues.
But not laps.
Then the mom with the 3 teenage daughters. The daughters jump in, giggling and flailing. Again, no lap swimming, though the 11 year olds in the swim team are making valiant attempts to continue their workout in spite of the girls flagrant disregard for their lane squatters rights.
P had glanced up at Newbie Guard, who sat, oh so predictably, like a bump on a log, atop his white lifeguard highchair throne. He doesn’t glance in her direction. He doesn’t glance at the end lane now rife with mayhem and no lap swimming whatsoever.
In strides another lifeguard. This one knows the ropes, or at least P had thought so till she saw, to her horror, his motions to his compatriot to undo the lane line and thus give free rein to the Mayhem.
“Isn’t it Family Lap Swim?” P yells to Rope Knower Guard.
“It’s Family Swim,” he manages to be heard over the shrieking.
“It’s FAMILY LAP SWIM!” P hollers back.
He stops the process of lane attrition and rises from his squatting position on the deck, wipes his hands on his red trunks, and lumbers over to the posted schedule on the bulletin board. Stands for a moment, finger scanning down the column of blocked times for Sunday. Ambles back to where P waits, righteous in her Lap Swimming Indignation.
“You’re right,” he sighs, kneeling to screw the lane back into this solid lap swimming position. “It is Family Lap Swim. Whatever that means,” he shakes his head.
“Seems like they should be swimming laps during it,” P offers, trying not to smirk, but sometimes when a battle is won, the smirk is hard to control.
“Yeah, I’d have to agree. They should be swimming up and down and up and down.” He motions one long arm back and forth to demonstrate.
“Not much of that going on over there,” P nods to the frolicking screaming kids in the end lane.
“No,” he agrees.
“Guess you need to clarify that with your boss,” she adds, just because.
“Oh, I will,” he says, “believe me, that’s the first thing I’m going to bring up at the meeting this week.”
P takes off down her lane, this battle won. For now. Wishes she could attend the meeting. Not as a participant, but as a Mighty Mermaid Warrior. Strong in her Win. Minor and half hazard as it was.
For after all, it wasn’t like the Mayhem Lane had been told to swim laps or get out.
Back in the locker room, swimsuit on now and ready for his role to add to the Mayhem, the baby wails one last time as Mom scoops him up off the floor.
Janet gives P a knowing look and a final big grin, before taking off.
P smiles to herself as she heads to her locker to collect her stuff. Warrior Mermaid triumphs in small ways today.
But such triumphs must be taken and appreciated. Exhausting as it was to have each day a battle, she knew she had no choice.
It was Summer. It was the YMCA. And Warrior Mermaid was ready to fight.