Missing my work-pool fast lane

Monday, May 2, 2016

I used to swim at lunch in a pool near my work. I don’t know how I got away with goggle marks around my eyes for every afternoon meeting for 5+ years, reeking of chlorine, but somehow I managed. The pool wasn’t great—the water was often waaaaaay too hot, and the change rooms were grimy, but it was a pool with a lane swim during my lunch hour and was close enough to walk to from my office.

The pool had the archetypes that every pool has – the bobbing breast stroke ladies, the triathlete, the bossy know-it-all (this particular guy was the slimiest swimmer I have ever met. I swam in the medium lane whenever he showed up).

I’m not a big talker when I’m swimming. I don’t really hang around the shallow end chit-chatting, but over the years, I got to know the other fast lane swimmers:
* The guy who had a fancy waterproof case on his phone who timed how long each 50m took him to swim.
* The really fast swimmer who looked so much like my ex, I pulled off my goggles the first time I saw him to make sure it wasn’t him.
* The white-haired angry guy who yelled at anyone who didn’t follow the rules, and would intentionally crash into people who were swimming the wrong direction.
* The tall, kind man with the large Celtic tattoo on his upper back who used a striped pull buoy and did a lot of arms only.
* The bald guy with a wicked whip kick and blue eyes who worked at a hospital nearby.
* And the one woman, a kind, soft-spoken woman who only swam in the fast lane occasionally. She did yoga before getting in the pool and rolled her eyes with me at the male egos that occasionally overtook the fast lane.

We were all there to swim and didn’t really talk beyond a cursory “hello,” or “enjoy your swim.” But that changed when I was pregnant. It took a long while for me to show, even in a bathing suit, and for months no one said anything. I was grateful on one hand for not having to talk about my body, or pregnancy (which, when you’re pregnant most people want to do), but it also felt strange to be in a bathing suit, with this flip turning baby that no one seemed to notice.

I was 30 weeks along before anyone said anything. I had to stop in the deep end and get my son’s foot out from under my rib and it was the tall man with the Celtic tattoo who asked. “I was wondering,” he said, noting he had seen me using the ladder to get out of the pool instead of hopping out.

And all of a sudden this silent group of swimmers became chatty, even the white-haired angry guy. They told me about their kids’ births, about their wives’ pregnancies, about their family trips, and the trips they took without their kids, missing them the whole time. They buoyed me when the last thing I wanted to do was pull a bathing suit on over my belly and get in the water and I looked forward not only to swimming, but also to chatting in the shallow end with this motley crew of fast lane swimmers.

But I haven’t seen them since my son arrived. I didn’t go back to work post-mat leave, and the pool is nowhere near my home and I realized today in my neighbourhood fast lane, that I miss those guys whose names I never knew, that weird five+ year fast lane family.

I want to tell them about Jack, about how I was swimming the day I went into labour. I want to tell them they were right, it has been the best and hardest and most wonderful year, and that as Celtic Tattoo predicted, swimming got me through it.

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  1. Oh my! This is a great story. What a lovely memory. I think you should print it and go post it at the pool for all your old fast lane buddies to read : )


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