Monday, 1 August 2011

The Etiquette of the Swimming Pool

Despite my blog being called "I'm not a morning person", yesterday I had an epiphany. Yes, an epiphany. I decided I was going to get fit. I was going to wake up in the morning, get my arse out of bed, and exercise.

There is only one sport that I remotely enjoy, and that is swimming. No sweat patches, you can get that anti-gravity effect thing going on, and not to mention it exercises every bit of your body.

So I decided to pay a trip to my local swimming baths at 10.30 sharp. I would get up at 9, eat a nutritious breakfast, flush out all the anti-toxins with several gulps of water, perhaps even warm myself up with a few sit ups, before finally heading out the door in high spirits, eating an apple, radiant and glowing.
In reality, I got up at 9.42, slobbed around in my dressing gown for half an hour drinking tea and eating crumpets while watching 90210, before finally heading out the door, looking haggard, exhausted, and without an apple. Note to self : Don't stay up all night watching Lord of the Rings.

When I finally dragged myself to the swimming pool, I realized there are certain unspoken rules, or guidelines if you will, that every swimmer unintentionally follows;

Rule 1: Try not to look like a pervert in the changing room cubicle.
I know it sounds ridiculous since you are assigned your own cubicle, however, there can be complications. For one, I had stupidly put my money in my pocket of my skinny jeans, and while writhing around like a worm trying to wriggle out of them, my coins went flying everywhere. In a moment of panic, with my trousers still around my ankles, I dropped to the floor, and began scanning the floors of the cubicles. Cringe to the absolute maximum when I heard a "Pouf" sound, and jerked my head round, only to see an old man's wrinkly foot with his trousers around his ankles a couple of cubicles along. With no sign of the coins anywhere, I stuck out my hand into the next cubicle to have a feel around, but instantly retracted it when I heard an "EXCUSE ME." I soon realized how utterly perverse and awkward I looked, trousers down, peering under the cubicle separators with my fingers out-stretched. Not wanting to be branded with the status as the "Pool Pervert", I had no choice but to leave my money and retain my dignity, and pray to God that a pool attendant wouldn't come banging on my cubicle door mid-squat. So take my advice. Just act normal.

Rule 2 - Get the awkward walk from changing room to pool over and done with - fast.
When you emerge from the cubicle, all swimmers feel a moment of vulnerability. There is a simple solution to this. Hastily shove your bag into the nearest locker and bolt. Try not to slip up on the way to the pool. Not only will you be injured, possibly bleeding, but you'll have to deal with the humiliation of being in a swimsuit in front of others for at least another 2 hours. Also, when actually getting into the pool, don't panic like I did and bomb into the pool arms and legs sprawling. You'll only attract more attention to yourself. Just simmer down and keep it casual.

Rule 3 - Claim your lane.
In every pool, there is an unintentional "kids half" and a "serious swimmer half". While there will be no clear lanes marked out, make sure you get a good clear runway where you aren't bumping in to old people, (trust me, you know something's up when you pass one and you swim through a strange patch of warm water) or knocking out children while trying to do front crawl. Own that lane girlfriend. Take a stretch of water for the hour and command it. No-one enters your lane. Travel up it fast and fluently, this is your spot.

Rule 4 - Don't make eye contact with anyone.
Especially if you think you know someone. I had the awkward experience of trying to work out if it was my English teacher swimming up and down the pool in the lane along from me. This is cringey in itself for two reasons : 1. It was possibly my teacher. Isn't swimming in a pool wearing next to nothing illegal or something?  2. I must have looked like I was checking out my English teacher, contributing to my overall unintentional perverse presence at this pool. I decided to swim on, and not look back. I was never going to get an A anyway.

Rule 5 - Always try and prove to the posh professional swimmer guy in speedos you are just as good as him and under no circumstances can he overtake you in your own lane.
There is always going to be a guy there who thinks he owns the pool. He's pretty easy to spot. Swimming cap, poncy goggles that look like they've been beamed down from outer space, special "speedo endurance" swimwear. Thrashing around in the water trying to beat his own personal best, and taking pleasure in over taking everyone. Exhibit:

Show this guy what you're made of. Especially if he crosses into your own lane. Challenge him, swim up parallel to him and assert your authority. Just because he has a cap doesn't make him better. Just because he has bigger muscles doesn't make him superior. (Even bend Rule 4 a bit and make eye contact - a ferocious stare). Just make sure you win the race.

Rule 6 - Pick your timing wisely.
Today, I was unfortunate enough to pick the time to go to the pool when all the children in the whole town would be there, thanks to the council's "All children free from 11AM" rule, the pricks. I was doing a casual breast-stroke, when suddenly, the next time I looked up, children were swarming from the changing rooms, screaming and laden with rubber-rings and arm-bands, shooting off into the pool in a mass frenzy. It was an invasion. Already half the pool had been taken over. Posh-Professional-Swimmer-Guy was down, the children crashing through the invisible boundaries that was his lane with their floats and plastic balls, and I knew I was next. I bolted to the end lane and started doing a violent front crawl which would repel any living thing, let alone a child. I claimed my lane like I'd never claimed my lane before. It's life and death - if you don't assert yourself, those children will bring you down faster than a pinata, they are a force to be reckoned with. Exhibit:

If you are like my friend who is scared of children full stop - never venture into any pool of some sort - they WILL find you.

Well there you have it, the unspoken rules and etiquette of the swimming pool. Just remember to not look like a pervert, be wary of the children and be assertive and you should survive. Apart from these minor complications, swimming really is an enjoyable sport. And, if you keep doing it, you may even end up looking like this: 
Just a little bit of motivation.