I have discovered that the best time to go lane swimming is on Friday nights. I usually work until six and walk over to the pool that is next door. This is a time, I realize when most people are at home making dinner, or picking up Pho to eat around the dinner table where they complain about traffic or the price of gas that just went up for mysterious reasons, that are not related to the price of oil.
We are the Friday night lane swimmers. We are the odd balls, I suspect. I look around me and see different swimming techniques. There is the Chinese lady in her sixties, who does the back stroke with the most beautiful smooth strokes, it is like she was once on the synchronized swim team of 1970. There are the water smashers, mainly men, the ones who seem to just beat the water out of their way as they somehow make their way from one end to the next. There are the chatters, the ones who swim/walk their way across the pool as they talk heatedly in Russian ( I believe), for a few laps, go to the steam room and back to the pool without stopping their conversation.There is a man who swims slowly across the pool as his friend walks along the side, saying encouraging words to him, I believe, in yet another language that I don’t know.
I am the head up front crawl lady, the fat lady in the pool. And is it only me that understands that little sign that explains which direction to swim in? I study it for the umpteenth time, wondering and sometimes asking the lifeguard, because no matter where I swim those laps- someone is always swimming in the wrong lane. “Rebels! Swim along the sides people, and up the middle!” But I shouldn’t complain. Most lanes have only a handful of people in them, at most.
I can’t help but recall swimming at a local pool in London when I was on holidays many years ago. How packed it was in a really big city. How lane swimming meant dodging a persons toes dangerously close to your nose with another body close behind.
As I was heading home, I passed a theatre where Les Miserables was playing a live show. I bought a cheap ticket at the last-minute. So, with messy hair and a wet chlorine towel under my arm, (my swimming buddy had bought a ticket in another wing), I hurried into the darkened theatre. Next to me sat the queen, I am pretty sure anyways. Her hair was in a fancy up do and she sat with a completely straight back. She didn’t show any signs of emotion, in Les Miserables!! I was lucky that I had a towel because I wept buckets. I tried to hold in my grief by chewing my nails, I stuffed the back of my hand to my mouth, I squirmed in my seat and blotted my face with that big wet towel, but to no avail. I kept looking at the queen next to me, did she have a heart? I doubt it.
It was the best show I had ever seen. The music swept me up and blew me away. I was mesmerized and torn apart. That night- when I innocently went for a swim and came back a changed woman.
To this day, I can never separate Les Miserables without the sensory memory of chlorine.
Here is my favourite YouTube spoof of I Dreamed A Dream.