Show Some Respect!!!!


The pink ball plops into the middle of my lane. I stop, exasperated, but undaunted as the boy springs into my lane, fetches the ball and dives back into the mayhem family lane. Yes it’s summer at the Downtown Oakland Y and while I have my own lane, I have the misfortune of it being next to the family lane. Hence the ball interruption.

But whatever. It’s no big deal, right?

I keep swimming. Swimming. Swimming. Maybe 10 laps.
Then again, the pink ball plops into my lane.
Shit. The same process is repeated. The boy hops into my lane, retrieves the ball, and hurls it back at his playmates. He’s loud. Brash. Confident. Doesn’t give me a second glance. I stop. Stare at him in amazement. Then stare at the lifeguard who’s standing on the edge of the deck observing the lap swimming interruption .

Why the hell doesn’t the lifeguard do anything?

Oh, yeah, I’m at the Downtown Oakland Y. The lifeguards are completely ineffectual. And part of me thinks, okay, it’s not their job to parent the kids’ raucousness (no parents in sight by the way. This kid is probably what? 10? 11? His companions about the same age, maybe a little younger. I’m terrible with ages, esp. kids. )But in any case, even if the lifeguards aren’t responsible for the kids, they are responsible for the smooth operation of the pool and one thing that keeps the pool running smoothly is NOT interrupting lap swimmers!

I remember observing this same phenomenon weeks ago. The pink ball splashing into this lap lane. But that lap swimmer had just kept on swimming. Didn’t even stop. No matter how many times the ball spun into his lane, he just kept swimming, a steady unrelenting freestyle.

Not me. I’m pissed. But I do keep swimming, thinking to myself—Patriarchy! It starts early! The ball throwers and interrupters are all giddy-uncaring-run-over-old-lady boys. Both bump-on-the-log lifeguards are men. And me? I’m just an old Crone trying to do my laps! The Patriarchy just mows me over!

I’ve had it!

DL had sent me an email weeks ago about how she and her niece were playing this game: every time something went wrong, they’d blame the Patriarchy. They were at a restaurant, had ordered a pizza, when the waiter delivered it, it was burnt: Patriarchy! Her niece’s mom was sick, a bad cold had her in bed for weeks: Patriarchy!
And so tonight, when I am just trying to swim my swim, and these boy children are rowdy and uncaring, I think to myself—Patriarchy! It starts early!!!

But I press on, trying to get in my laps. Too soon, it’s 9:28. I have two minutes left before the whistle blows (Patriarchy) and yup, the pink ball plops into my lane AGAIN!!!! This time, the kid swims under my lane to retrieve it, and then just floats underwater in front of me completely oblivious? Or belligerently taunting me?

I’m on my kick board. I want to wait till he emerges and then brain him with it! But instead, when he does finally surface, this time, I’m standing there, steam coming out of my ears, and I just start yelling:

“You know, I’m trying to swim laps here! This is not part of the family swim play area!”
The kid stares at me, taking his mask off, his dark eyes wondering what the hell?

And then I let him have it: “Show some RESPECT!” I holler.
His mouth opens slowly, then ekes out a sincerely contrite, “I’m sorry,” before diving back under the lane line to the safety of his friends and family swim sanctuary.

Wow! I think he really heard me! Why didn’t I yell at him sooner? Now my swim is over, but at least I got an apology!

Will I change the Patriarchy? I think not, but maybe at least this kid will think twice before tossing the pink ball into the lap swimmer’s lane.

Pink ball? Any significance to this? Maybe the Matriarchy working her subtle magic?

Later, in the hot tub, I tell DL the story and her eyes widen in wonderment when I repeat the “Show some Respect!” command.
“That’s the worst thing you can say to a kid!”
“Yeah, guess that’s why it worked. Even on the Patriarchy!” She giggles,nodding.

We go into Utopia, no Sandy tonight. I lament her absence, wanting to tell her the story.
DL says, “Oh, yeah, she’d have something choice to say about it! Too bad you can’t share the blog with her. Maybe in another Universe….”
“Yeah, cuz we know in this Universe, I never could! Share the blog!!!”

DL starts to giggle. I join in. We can’t stop. The laughter rings out into the hot air. We can’t stop. Truly. It’s like we are in 7th grade and passing a note back and forth and giggling so hard and trying not to, knowing we’ll get caught, but the giggles are contagious and have a life of their own.
Now, the giggles subside, a few women enter quietly into Utopia, settle in, a quiet reigns.

I close my eyes, breathe deeply, relaxing, finally ……Then open my eyes and stare up and into the dark ceiling. I watch, mesmerized, as a pretty pink ball appears before me, hovers for a moment above me, and then slowly, magically, begins to float up and up, resting for a moment on the ceiling before disappearing into my imagination.

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