Ah, the Gates of Paradise have opened for yet another summer of clean, wholesome fun. Sure, it took until a week into June to open because the Health Department said “You need this, that, and some of those parts  too,” but better late than never. I’m pretty sure last year they replaced the old drain as per new federal law with the kind that won’t disembowel you when it drowns you. Plus the water ain’t green and is no doubt only 25% urine at the end of each day. So open the damn thing already, Health Inspector!

Being more than slightly socially anxious,  I find a lounge chair sort of away from other people . I must hurry about this business anyway, as it is nearly 11am and if I don’t hurry my pasty self along, I’m going to  get burned and shrivel up like a California Raisin.  A large man in his 50s is already in the deep end clinging to a ladder and I am careful to find a place to jump where I won’t splash him. The apartment pool was built around 1972 when they still made pools good n’ deep, so the water ranges from 3 to 8 ft. I choose somewhere between 5 and 6 ft, a respectful distance from the portly man at the ladder. Once I pop up, I bob in the water. I can tread water without ever treading, my head can stay above the water like I’m standing, but my arms sort of  are away in front of me, kind of like a frog or turtle with its head above water.

And so the man says something along the  lines of, “Wow! You sure can stay afloat well without doing anything.”

I don’t really look at him because I’m floating the other way, and have I mentioned before that I’m shy? Just checking. I say in as cheery  a voice as I can, “That’s because I’m chubby!”  He says “Naw! I sure can’t do that.” But whatever, my good man. It is what it is.

I commence to my laps.  I could just leave it at that like a normal person would, but Gentle Reader,  then you wouldn’t get all the subtle nuances of the obsessive-compulsive experience.

I have little rituals for everything.

Everything?

Yes everything.  I will share the swimming only since I don’t feel like writing a post as long as War and Peace tonight.

Once I jump into the water I feel it is a necessity to acclimate my body to the water temperature no matter how warm, hence the stand up floating.

One, one-thousand. Two, one-thousand. Three, one-thousand. Okay.

After saying this in my head, if I haven’t hit the side of the pool, good for me, because that means I don’t have to repeat. If yes, do it again, unless the pool is just too crowded or you really gotta be somewhere soon. If the pool isn’t overcrowded,  and I am at risk of bumping into someone, propel away, preferably 3 strokes away because I tend  to favor the number 3 (since, it has a religious significance in Christianity, I took it sometime as my ‘lucky number,’ everything else I prefer evened out. If you don’t hit the wall where you can start swimming the length of the pool, breast stroke, head above water until you reach the furthermost part of the deep end.

I don’t like the breast stroke. I will leave that to Michael Phelps and let you know how I swim laps. Besides, it is somewhat impractical in the Ghetto/Trailer pool, since a) the rope that divides the deep end from the shallow will intercept you

and b.) lots of times you got to focus on not running into bunches of kids. So I swim like a frog just under the surface of the water. What I do is fill my lungs almost to capacity but not quite and swim the length of the pool, which is perhaps 25 to 30 feet long without coming up for air. About halfway, I suck the rest of the air in my mouth through my lungs and that sustains me to the other side (not like it’s the English Channel anyway). I’m not sure that is something for everyone to try at home. Perhaps some people would end up sucking water in through the nose. Perhaps it may be that since my muscles never quite relax, I have a bit more control in my breathing, or perhaps my nose just clogs up. Or perhaps, if evolution is true, I didn’t quite evolve from my amphibious ancestors.  Most likely, though,  it is unremarkable and the folks who seem surprised that I can get to the other side without coming up just ain’t tried it right yet. I usually can’t make it in a typical size lap lane without coming up, so there you go.

Once I get to the other side, I must rest at least 10 seconds  before I complete the lap by returning to the starting side. At one point a man says, “There sure is a lot of chlorine in this water.” I’m not sure if he is talking to me, but once he repeated his assertion I said,  Ohhh, I didn’t realize you were talking to me…….Yes, but my eyes have a high tolerance for chlorine.” I worry that the man might think  I didn’t answer at first because  he is African-American.  (I really could have used a ‘White Guilt Day’ greeting card right then preferably a waterproof one: http://zodiblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/dead-demon-fish-and-bill-murray/).  I’d hate for someone to think I was hesitant talking to him because of race, when in all actuality, my painful shyness is very much an equal opportunity pathology).

Ahh, but this year Club Ghetto/ Trailer pool must have decided to put more chlorine than they used to do, because Ms. Blue-Eyes Invinsible here starts feeling pain on her sixth lap, and by the time she finished, she could barely open her eyes on dry land. Whoops! She will later use the lid off her mouth wash as an eyewash because her eyes bulged and looked like she  was on an 8 day drunk.

At another point Club Ghetto/Trailer-Fab’s monitor comes out checking pool passes and while there she informs me I can’t wear a shirt in the pool over my bathing suit. Stupid, but I have promised myself to take it all in stride this year and only gripe when truly merited.  I saw 10 shades of red when they wanted to ban beads and hair weaves in the pool. Supposedly beads from kids’ hair were getting stuck in the filters, but I imagine if you dangled one of those young’ins over a balcony, just grabbing the child by one beaded strand, her beads would remain in her hair. It might not have meant to be a racist thing but it ‘felt’ racist, and it was a rule picking on little kids.

So off goes my shirt and I throw it over towards my chair. Now, I felt I had two pretty decent reasons for not wishing to relinquish my shirt. A.) I didn’t want my back turning fire engine red and B.) My bathing suit is old and severely worn out. In fact, it’s in such shit condition you would think it had been in constant service since the time Esther Williams did movies. For one, it has a rip in the side and then it’s all motley. But it wasn’t just aesthetics. It was that my suit for while has been stretching southward, a victim of gravity that dared me to have a wardrobe malfunction. But since the straps have elongated so much, I tie the straps together at my nape every now and then to prevent my stretch marked bosom from making a special appearance. Wish I could find my damn good bathing suit or buy a new one at the moment

Once I finish my 12 laps, 12 because I want to make sure I at least get 10 in case I miscount , I either float on my back  if no one is in the deep end, or  the stand up float if there are people. All that 1,2,3 jazz like I mentioned earlier. Hit one end of the pool like earlier after the 1,2,3 crap is done in my head. If there are people on both ends of the pool, I may exit. If not, I get to float at whatever jets are at that side of the pool, so it will propel me, which is amusing, If I am on the opposite side iof the jet, breast stroke over there I go. Then once I do that, I do one more floating session just pushing off the side. One and a Two and a three with an “okay.” Now I can exit.

I dry off, rest in a lounge chair, count to 300 in my head to relax me and give me time to adjust  to the temperature on land. Then I can return home. So soothing. Was my pool rituals as tedious to read as it was to write them down?

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