Friday, June 8, 2012

The People of the Pool

I have logged countless hours on the treadmills at the Oxford Valley LA Fitness. Countless. I've watched too many middle-aged white men play too many hours of bad racquetball. (I'm just waiting to watch a volley go past three hits. And to see one of them cry.) I wish, oh how I wish, they would one day learn that those windows are transparent and I can see them.

Moving to the pool has been like moving to a whole new gym. The pool has different quirks and social norms. There are casual swimmers. You can tell them by the tankini's or swim trunks. There are the tweens and teenagers (they usually travel is pairs) who assume any pool is a backward pool for cannonballs and handstand practice. The 'don't judge a book by it's cover' principle is also in full effect in the pool. I've been lapped by people twice my age and size.

The most noticeable difference between the pool and the treadmills is the one that has become the bane of existence. There are at least 30 treadmills, 20 ellipticals, and 20 bikes for those seeking a cardio workout. In the four years I've been a member at that gym, I have never waited a minute for a 'mill. The pool, on the other hand, only has six lanes. This shouldn't be too much of an issue since swimming is not as popular and lanes can be split or shared with 2 people. 6 lanes = 12 swimmers, right?

Wrong. Apparently, people do not like to share. And those people who do not like to share are often those who do not swim! There is a new sport in the making. It's called 'Stand and Stare'. The participant gets into the lane. And stands. They do not walk. They do not do leg lifts. They do carry weights while 'jogging' up and down the lanes. They stand. And stare. This practice continues for about five minutes when it becomes time to move to the other side of the pool. The journey for a Stand-and-Starer is truly exhausting as they will then stand and stare from that angle. This must be a religious practice or mediation strategy that originated in Russia or Eastern Europe. The lane becomes hollowed ground that cannot possibly be shared with another. Even if there is a line. Even if there is a Stand-and-Starer in the next lane.  When a Stand-and-Starer is asked to share a lane by an actual swimmer, they respond with a thick, "NO!" and are forced to exert trace amounts of energy in order to escape the intrusion.

The opposite of the lane-hogging Stand-and-Starer is the "No. No, I'll wait" guy. This guy (or gal) clearly wants to swim. They have squeezed into a speedo and are armed with goggles and a swim cap. The patiently wait against the wall for a lane to open. I empathize because swimming is a chore and lanes can take a while to open up and offer to share.
"Hey, we can share if you want. I'm slow but I'll stay out of your way!"
"No, no. I'll wait." He (or she) responds. Ok. Is it me? Is my stroke that bad and pace that slow that he or she would rather sit against a wall and watch the minutes tick by than risk being seen with such a novice? Are they that good? What the what?  I swim on. And they stare on. And then get annoyed that most people aren't almost done. Ummm....but I asked? The best is when they do get into a lane-that they are simply in it to for a few laps or jogs. Was the wait worth it? Whatever.

The pool is also home to the Silent Stretchers and the Old Man Stew. These guys prove that a creep is a creep by land or by sea. The silent stretchers are not content with the mats and designated stretching areas in the open gym. They don't say a word, they just lay on the cold, chlorine-infused cement floor and 'stretch.' They could be sleeping. I'm not sure, it's weird. Old Man Stew is my term for the spa/hot tub. I have yet to see a person under the age of 45 willingly go into that tub. It's white in the mornings but a 'greenish-yellow' color by the evenings. It looks overs the pool and through the windows to back row of treadmills and elliptical. And just like their equally dumb counterparts in the racquetball courts, they mistakenly assume there is some kind of immunity or magic freakin’ curtain that hides their blatant creepiness. I guess the steam messes with their elderly minds and they fail to realize that even though my head is underwater, I CAN HEAR YOU!

I would not mind the Silent Stretchers or Stand-and-Starers if they would count laps for me. I can swim well enough to not drown in the Hudson but keeping track of my laps and distance has become the the hardest part. If you're going to hog a lane or be creepy, at least be useful. :-)


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