Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas shopping, Poolphoria and Breathing.....

“Have you finished your Christmas shopping?”
Sandy guffaws in classic Sandy fashion, “You mean, have I started it?”
DL laughs softly, relaxing on the bottom shelf of Utopia. I grin, positioned next to Sandy on the top shelf. A silent Asian woman lies on the other side of me. I don’t gauge any reaction from her. Maybe she’s asleep? Maybe we’re disturbing her? Maybe she’s in the Utopia sphere of floating heat?

“I mean, I don’t do much shopping anymore,” Sandy continues. “Christmas is for the little ones, right? And if people get me stuff, well, I don’t regift it, but I do give it away. I don’t need any more stuff, you know? Though if my Sugar got me one thing, it better be 3 karats ---he can afford it!”
Not knowing what 1 karat looked like, I couldn’t comment on 3, but it sounded like a lot. And the number 3 is a good one!
“How was your swim?” Sandy asks me.
“Oh! Another Poolphoria,” I exclaim.
She nods even though I’m sure she’s never heard my made up word before.
“You had your own lane?” she asks.
“Yup! And the water was a toasty 83.5 and the lifeguard let me swim an extra lap after the 9:30 whistle.”

“Excellent! I’m glad.” Sandy always is so affirming. When she says ‘I’m glad,’ she really means it!

“Thanks,” I say. “I didn’t think I was gonna even make it here tonight. The parking! It’s from hell! If it hadn’t been for Neesie hailing a hipster dad in his Subaru station wagon to see if he was leaving his space, I woulda left.”

“I understand,” Sandy nods. “I did get a space, but I had to be aggressive. It’s good you’re leaving on a high note.”
So much here, I think. The aggressiveness of getting parking places lately just wears me out. I get so frustrated. Last week, I drove around for 20 minutes and finally someone left and I went to back into the spot and someone behind me tried to drive in it front ways and I had to just keep backing up, nearly hitting him, before he left.

It’s exhausting!

But the idea of leaving on a High Note—this is vital! I had left work today on a Low Note—no need to bore you with the details—and so leaving the Y on a High Note, and, of course it’s cuz of the pool, well, it revitalizes me. I am hopeful again. Anything is possible.

Even Christmas shopping!

Well, that might be going too far. The powers of Poolphoria only have so much reach!
And then Sandy’s on to the next topic. Something about ‘warming up to a hissy fit’—her Sweetie knows the signs and can head the fit off at the pass if he’s paying attention. (You know, by getting her that 3 karat gem!) And then her enviable ability to ‘cat nap’. “I know. I’m blessed,” she admits. “I can fall asleep when I’m just resting, sitting in a chair, for 20 minutes or so, and then… breathing, it can change? You know? I am asleep and then I’m conscious of my breathing and it wakes me.” Her eyes glisten in amazement.
I nod. Of course, it’s all about the breathing. In the pool. In your sleep. In your dreams.

I think if I concentrate on breathing then I can weather the Christmas shopping, the hellish parking, the
bitter job strife.

I’m going to try it now…..breathe in….breathe out…..breathe in…….
Nope. I need to go to the pool. Pronto.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers at the Pool Purrs Blog!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Forever 30!

I was in a mood.
Still seething after the man (of course it was a man and a tall man!) upstairs at the weight machines refused to let me ‘work in’ to the machine he’d been monopolizing for over 10 minutes. I had asked nicely. He had refused rudely. I stormed away. Dumped my wrath on sympathetic fellow gym woman (“You know, you could have reported him. That’s not what the Y values are about!” she’d harrumphed.) Good to know. But I wasn't in the mood today.
And so, as I prepared for the pool (I really hoped Mean Machine Monopoly Man wouldn’t be in the pool! Or I’d drown him in my territory!), I turned on the shower and damn. It was so cold! Grrrrr…..Brrrrrr!!!!
A stocky Asian woman was down the shower row from me. She nodded, smiled, motioned for me to come to her shower. “Here, you... this one…” she offered, no nonsense.

“Oh thank you!” I murmured gratefully.

The women were starting to restore my faith in the Y as a place to feel safe and work out.
And as I walked out on deck waving at the super nice lifeguard (also a woman), I started to breathe again. A swim would help. The pool was nearly empty except for Shower Sharing Woman and Ian. (Who, granted is a man, but he's a NICE man!)

Everything would be okay.
And it was.

I dove in. Kicked mightily. Swam and swam and swam. 45 minutes later, I’m kicking and notice that Shower Sharing Woman was resting at the wall, watching me. I smiled over at her. She gave me the thumbs up.
I love this!
Laughing, I finished up, resting for a moment at the wall, stretching, chatting to a colleague from work---another blog—and then heading into the sauna.

Shower Sharing woman was there. In the dark, a striped towel ensemble covering her instead of her sack-like swimming costume. (And yes, it was a swimming costume!) She grinned over at me. Gave me another thumbs up. Pantomimed a strong arm like Popeye the sailor-man after he ate his spinach.
“How old are you?” she asked me.
How am I? is what I heard. “I’m fine. How are you doing?”
She looked at me deeply, shaking her head. “How old are you?”
Oh, yes, Chinese culture—the first question is always, “How old are you?"even though in American culture you’d never ask a middle aged woman this. Age is so taboo. We live in a culture of youth equals beauty. But today, I don't care.

“I’m 58.”

Her eyes widened. She shook her head back and forth, amazement spilling out of every pore. “I thought!” she began. “I thought you 30!”
“You thought I was 30 years old when I was swimming?” I asked, incredulous.
“Yes, yes. 30! You strong!”
“Wow! Thanks, you made my day!” I exclaimed.
She cracked up.
“How old are you?” I asked her.
She counted on her fingers. “I... 62…63….” she decided, grinning.
“I thought you were 30 too!” I proclaimed.

Hilarity bursts forth from her. She leans against the sauna wall, the gales of laughter spilling out of her.

“We are both 30 when we are in the pool!” I assert, delighted with this new found revelation. How cool is that? The pool is the fountain of youth. We are forever 30 if we could just stay in the water!
And if I were 30? Damn, I coulda let that Mean Machine Man have it, right? Thirty year old women are more assertive? Aggressive? Or hell, if I'd been 30, maybe he wouldn't have treated me the way he did. Dismissed me the way he did. Or maybe not....maybe he would have been smarmy and ickee.....and sexist and....

Oh, who cares!

I’m just going to stay in the pool, stay 30, keep laughing, and never stop swimming.
Forever 30.
That’s me! And Thumbs Up Asian Woman. Who has the spirit of youth and joy to spare....

Thursday, December 08, 2016


I am in heaven! The pool is warm: a toasty 83.5 degrees. And……oh my god! Empty! Not only do I have my own lane, but there are only two other people in the pool when I arrive for my swim. Lavender Capped Bikini Woman in the far lane and Handsome Walking Man in the walking lane.
I step out onto the deck, amazed. Make a sweeping arm gesture at the empty pool. Handsome Walking Man chuckles, hollers out to me: “It’s all just for you!”
And it is. I dive in. The water’s warmth is perfect. I glide through my tiredness. It is euphoric. And then I think, no, it’s Poolphoric!
I swim and swim and swim. With every lap I expect more people to arrive, jump in, flail about, create chaos. But they don’t. Poolphoria prevails!
As I kick my last lap, I call up the lifeguard, “Not that I’m complaining, but I wonder where everyone is.”
He nods, “Yeah, I wondered that too. There were only 2 of you. I thought there might be 6.”
Why 6? I wonder, but don’t ask. Are there 6 lanes? Maybe. I’ve never bothered to count. Maybe he thought there would be one person in each lane. Instead there’s just ME by the time 9:30 rolls around and it’s time to get out.
As I pop my cap off, and shake out my wet hair, I tell him my new word. “You know the word ‘euphoria’?” I ask.
He shakes his head, “No….” He hasn’t heard of euphoria? Well, maybe there isn’t a lot of euphoria working at Target during the Christmas rush or life guarding at the Oakland Y. Though he has a euphoric spirit about him with his dazzling smile.
“Well,” I explain, “it’s the feeling of heaven. Of joy. Of everything being just so perfect. Like my swim tonight. I couldn’t believe that no one showed up! So…..Poolphoria is the euphoria in the pool that I experienced tonight.”
He grins, “Okay….” He laughs, radiant in his bemusement around word creation.
“I made up a new word!” I joke.
He grins, “Are these your personal paddles?” He is scooping up my equipment to put away for me instead of making me take it back myself. Such a gentleman!
“No, they’re yours.”
“Oh, great, thanks!” he says. He is so darn cute. Like he’s appreciative that I don’t lie and say they’re mine and steal them?
“You have a nice rest of the night. See you next time,” he waves goodbye.
I head into the locker room to tell DL about Poolphoria. She’ll definitely know what it means. Even if she isn’t a swimmer. Poets make up words all the time. And tonight, I am the Poetess of the Pool!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Damn, I Wish the Lifeguards Would Ask Me Favors More Often!

“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?”
I’d just gotten out of the pool at the 9:30 whistle and so now my earplugs were out, my cap was off, my mask wet and used. But, hell, for him? I’ll jump back in.

“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?

Climb over the lane line? This is strictly verboten, but maybe under the circumstances, it’s okay to break the rules. All in the name of Ring Retrieval.

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.”
Ah, another part time multiple jobs worker. The wave of the future in the next generation that started with my generation. At least in my field, that illustrious one of part time adjunct faculty.
“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?

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