“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 Español 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.


Ruth Jameson said…
water can be the cause, so can ill fitting fins. If this woman was out of shape, your description of lumpy, maybe she was stressing her legs before with lack of training. Here is what USA Swimming says:

Hope she finds the reason..
Cj said…
Thanks for the link, Ruthie. I'll check it out. I saw her in the water today and she looked just fine, so all is well. Temporary Cramping Cranky Situation!
Cj said…
So sounds like, from the article, that they don't really know what causes the cramps, but pickle juice may be the answer. (That's funny!) But she was right--more water might help as well as potassium and sodium. And stretching!!--which makes sense!

I don't think she's out of shape, just shaped like she is, you know? But maybe she hadn't been swimming for some time. Who knows? Next time I see her (out of the water) I'll tell her about these possible remedies.
Thanks, Ruthie!
Mair said…
I love all of the funny, appropriate pictures you've chosen for this piece and glad your cramps are behind you!
Cj said…
Thanks, Mair. I love the pictures too. They're so fun to pick out. More fun than the writing often. Thanks for reading and looking and chuckling. And, yes, I'm SO glad my Cramp Days are behind me!

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