Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Having a Problem

“It’s a good thing the pool is only 4 feet deep….. But come to think of it….. if you’re having a problem, you’re having a problem.”
Pudgy Peach Shaped woman clucks her tongue as she dries off her pudding limbs, pasty white and dimpled in the locker room glow.

We’d both just witnessed a distress situation with the lifeguard here at Hilltopia. One minute, she’s sitting in her big white chair, spaced out and staring. The next minute, there’s a call over the intercom “Attention. Attention! Blah blah blah and blah blah blah to the Pool Deck. To the Pool deck!”
I had heard the intercom’s blare, registering the Pool Deck location but nothing more. I was busy swimming my laps and had my earplugs, mask and cap on, deep into the rhythm of my workout when the call rang out.

But I wasn’t so engaged that I didn’t witness the three staff members appear on the deck, crowd around the lifeguard and then escort her into the little lifeguard staff room at the back of the pool area, closing the door solidly behind them all.

What had happened to her? Was she okay? She had seemed fine before when I’d asked her to please close the door—“It’s so cold” I’d complained. “Sure, no problem,” she’d answered, and then closed the door, blocking the cold January wind from whooshing over the surface of the pool.

This lifeguard was one of the ‘nice’ ones who would close the door for me. Some of them I wouldn’t broach the request anymore; they gave me such a hard time. But I digress.

Today, NiceGuard had seemed fine. And now, evidently, she wasn’t. Had my asking her to close the door had something to do with her collapse? But how could that be? I mean, is it always about me? Was I responsible for her distress?

I felt worried for her and stopped at the edge of the pool to ask her replacement about what had happened.
“Is she okay?”

He nodded, adjusting his knee pads. I guess he’d been playing soccer or some other sport that required such guards and had been called into to fill NiceGuard’s place while she was indisposed.
“Yeah, yeah, she’s fine,” he answered me as he climbed up onto the white chair, settling in with the large red rubber lifesaver on his lap.
Okay? I thought. Well, what could I do? If he said she was okay, then I guess she was, but if this were really the case, why was he here filling in for her?

I continued my swim, feeling sorta worried about her as she had disappeared into the little room with one of the staff members, Asian in Charge Woman. After about 20 minutes, Asian in Charge woman emerged and exited the pool area. But still no sign of NiceGaurd.

What was she doing in the little room? Was she passed out on a cot in there? Or worse, on the floor? What else could it be but some sort of health issue? Yet Sub Knee Pad Guard had said she was okay.

It was all very mysterious.

I glanced over at Ian who was still swimming—had he noticed anything? Hard to tell as we were both in the thick of our workouts. And Pudgy Peach Woman was just floating at the edge of the pool in the center lane, seemingly oblivious. It was only afterwards, in the showers, that she’d made the comment about having a problem.

Ian got out and left. Pudgy Peach Woman starting a slow float down the lane. I had a few more laps to go when NiceGuard emerged from the little room. She’d been in there about 45 minutes. Resting?
She took back up her position from Knee Pad Guard who exited the deck. I finished my last few laps and then started a few minor stretches before getting out.

But I was too curious. I had to ask.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes….yes….” She had moved off her chair now and was leaning out the door of the lifeguard room, half in half out. What was up? Was there someone in there that she was keeping watch over? Or was there some sort of fan or something that was blowing on her to keep her from passing out?
“Was there a problem because I asked you to close the door?”
“No…no….I’m okay,” she assured me.

Still, she didn’t offer any explanation. So I had no choice but to leave without my curiosity satisfied. Pudgy Peach Woman was curious too; hence the exchange about having a problem.
And it’s true. Even if the pool is 4 feet deep, if you’re having a problem, you want the lifeguard to be alert and aware. Ready to rescue.
And if she were having a problem, well, this could be a problem, right?

Later, on the ride home, I asked Ian if he’d noticed the NiceGuard situation and what he thought. He hadn’t noticed. So I explained briefly and asked him what he thought had happened to her.
“Maybe she had to report an incident about a crime or some other incident that was confidential.”
“But then why did the others have to be called down in the middle of her shift? There weren’t any other swimmers, just us and Pudgy Peach Woman,” I argued.

“Maybe it was something to do with a situation of abuse or….” Ian was a dog with a bone. The more he speculated, the more ludicrous the ideas. I had to laugh as none of his suggestions made any sense in the context of what I’d witnessed. But I joined in.
“Maybe she’s pregnant with her sister’s husband’s secret love child, had a bout of morning sickness, and had to go into the little room and lie down to recover.”
Ian laughs. “Yeah, that’s probably it. She’s pregnant.”
“I watch a lot of soap operas,” I joke.
But frankly, it wasn’t really a joking matter. Whatever the situation had been with her had been serious enough to take her off duty for almost an hour. How was it that she was fine enough again to watch the pool?
As Pudgy Peach Woman had said, “If you’re having a problem, it doesn’t matter how deep the pool is.”
And I have to agree. You don’t even have to be in the pool to have a problem.
We all know that one, right? Even if we’re not pregnant with our sister’s husband’s secret love child.
Though that certainly would add to it……wouldn’t it?

Sunday, January 17, 2016


“Excuse me? Ma’am? Oh… Ma’am?”

I’m putting on my shoes, tired after a difficult swim. (I’d had to swim in the walking lane and then share a lane and then the water had been just a tad chilly and my mask had leaked and my shoulders and neck hurt slightly and I was tired and….)

Yet, now swim over, I’m warm and dressed, my back to the locker room where the Ma’am hailing voice is coming from. The voice is vaguely familiar, yet doesn’t know my name. Yet, of course, there are many women here at the Hilltop YMCA that I ‘know’ but not by name. And the 'Ma'am' address? I've given up caring about this anymore. It used to make me feel, 'old'. But now, since I am old, I don't care. Maybe age does have some advantages!

In any case, today I turn and behold AIDS Breast Milk Swimmer. I’d dubbed her this years ago when she told me in all seriousness that breast milk given to AIDS patients cures the disease.
Today, I doubt she remembers telling me this if I were to remind her. And besides, what difference does it make other than an internal moniker of my own?

She’s distressed. Wet and limping from the pool. Her pretty purple tie die Speedo wet and sticking to her dumpy belly. Her short grey curls dripping with tiny drops of chlorinated water. Her eyes wide and round, frantic around the edges.
“Am I in your way?” I ask, thinking that I was blocking her locker access here in the prime corner where everyone wants to be.

“No, no…” She shuffles over to me. “Excuse me for bothering you I just want to ask you do you know why I get a cramp in both my legs….”She eyes me earnestly.
What? Am I the Cramp Expert? As a matter of fact, I used to be. But not the kind of cramps she’s talking about. I used to suffer horribly every month from cramps; excruciating pain that kept me in bed and even out of the pool. That period (pun intended) is thankfully over now, but the memory of the pain still comes to me in dreams albeit rarely with the advent of The Change.
“Is it because I don’t drink enough water? Do you know?”

I shake my head, “Did you not drink much water today?” Hell, how should I know if water deprivation and leg cramps are related? I have no clue. The only time I’ve gotten cramps swimming is when I wear wrong shoes all day and then when I get in the water, sometimes my feet cramp up. It’s strange and painful with the toes actually curling inward toward the bottom of my foot till I stop at the side of the pool and massage it out.
However, I’ve never gotten cramps in both my legs. That would be some really wrong footwear!

“I drink only one bottle.” She holds up a large purple plastic container to show me. I admire her identical match with her suit but don’t comment upon this. Instead I tell her that that seems like quite a bit of water, but is it less than she usually drinks.
She nods, “Yes, and today, I had to get out after only 35 minutes. I wanted to swim for 40 minutes, but the pain was too much. I just wondered if you knew what caused the cramps.”

Again I deny any knowledge cramps causation. If I had my phone, I could google it like the rest of the world but today, I’d left the phone at home. Who needs it in the pool anyway?
“I don’t know what causes the cramps,” I tell her, sympathetic. “But they sure are painful. I know!”

She nods, sadness oozing out of her wet pores. I can tell that not only is she in pain but cutting her swim short has caused her much consternation. I get that one! If I don’t get my whole swim in, for whatever reason, I’m super cranky! It’s usually because of some Y related situation: pool closure because of fecal matter or a birthday party of 50 screaming 9 year olds suddenly jumping into the water with gleeful splashing pandemonium.


But I’ve never gotten out of the pool because of cramps and so this really sucks and I feel sorry for AIDS Breast Milk Woman.
“Maybe if you go into the sauna it’ll help?” I suggest. “And then when you feel better, you can finish your swim?”

She brightens a little. “Yes, that’s a good idea. I did do 35 minutes though.”
“35 minutes is great!” I proclaim. After all for whatever reason I’m the swim guru for the day. And why not? I’m here all the time. I swim a lot. Why wouldn’t I know the answer to the cramp question?
Yet, I didn’t and I still don’t. Of course, now that I’m at the computer, I could easily google it. But why bother now? It’s not like I can help her and even if I had known the cause earlier what good would that have done?

I suppose her idea that she hadn’t drunk enough water was part of why she asked me. If I’d said, Oh, my! You need to drink more water and then the cramps will disappear, she coulda done so and voila finished her swim.

But alas, I didn’t think of this. And she may be right. Water is the answer. It is for most things if you think about it.

“I will try the sauna,” she nods, turning to head toward its warm embrace. “Thank you.”
“Sure, I hope you feel better. Those cramps are painful!”
“Yes….yes, they are….”

I watch her purple self lumber down the aisle and open the sauna door. “Como estas?
“Como estas?!...”
And the sauna chat ala EspaƱol begins. Maybe she’ll find the answer to her cramp question in another language?
Or maybe she’ll just sink into her familiar Spanish community here at Hilltopia and forget, at least for a moment, how the wretched cramps cut short her planned 40 minute swim.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Last Swim of the Year, Dec 31st 2015

She zooms past me. A sleek spray of her fuchsia suit amidst the aqua. I’m a poky plodder in this Encinitas YMCA. Everyone is young, fast and beautiful. If there were a Swimmer GQ, they’d all be in its pages.

Miss Fuchsia would be the centerfold.

I was in awe.

She lapped me every few minutes. I stopped keeping track of how many times, but knew she was there, in my peripheral watery vision, zipping up and down the lane.

Then….wham! She’s comatose. Motionless. Floating and then sinking quickly. Her legs and arms are deathly still. What had happened to stop her flying through the water so suddenly? Heart attack? But she was so young and beautiful. This didn’t seem possible. Drugs? But would such a specimen partake of foreign substances in her beautiful body?
It hardly seemed likely.
The lifeguards spring into action. Whistles blowing. 3-4 of them diving into the water with the stretcher. Pulling her lifeless body out of the water, her porcelain limbs eerily still after their furious strokes and kicks just moments before. I watch as they drag her out of the pool. Lay her flat on the deck. Begin resuscitation efforts.

Hanging onto the side of the pool, I’m not the only one who’s stopped swimming. There are a number of us watching the horror before us breathlessly.

Then I spot one of the lifeguards, a dark haired gangly beauty, who motions at me and others hanging on the wall. I can’t hear what she’s saying at first. Earplugs. But she shouts louder, waving us away, “It’s okay. She’s okay. It’s just a drill.”
Just a drill? Shit.

I thought I’d just witnessed a sudden mysterious drowning situation on the last day of the year. Wasn’t there a way to notify all of us swimmers that we weren’t really party to deadly pool event?

Apparently not. And I suppose this makes sense for them. If we’d all been told there was going to be a lifesaving drill today, then the lifeguards would know too and then couldn’t be tested on their ability to go from totally spaced out to totally saving lives in 10 seconds or less!

And of course, I was so relieved that she was okay! Damn! What if I’d actually seen a woman drown on this last swim of the year at the Encinitas YMCA? What would that have meant? I mean besides the obvious loss of life.
That 2015 was drowned and gone?

Later, after Fuchsia Drill Girl had jumped back into the pool, finished her swim and was hanging out at the edge, I had to say something (of course).

“That was really scary back there....." I begin.
She smiles, exposing perfect white teeth below her soulful hazel eyes.“I’m glad you’re okay," I finish.
“Yes, I work here. The lifeguards have these drills 4 times a month to keep in practice.”

I nod, taking it in. Do I mention how scared I’d been that I thought she’d almost died? Or that there must be some way for the YMCA to forewarn swimmers that a drill is taking place so we don’t all freak out?
Nah, what’s the point? I’m only visiting after all. It’s not like this happens at the Oakland Y or Hilltop. At least not that I’m aware of.
Though maybe it should.

Instead I grin, “You’re a really good actress.”
Beaming, she shakes her sun streaked locks, “Thanks.”

She lifts herself easily out of the pool, grabs her towel from its hook and saunters off to the locker room.

I stare after her for a moment, then shrug. "Happy New Year," I call out to her.
She turns back and winks at me.
.....Nope. I'm making that up. But wouldn't that have been grand? Especially after what she put me through! Leave it to the YMCA to make my last swim of the year one I'll never forget.

Mad as Hell!

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