The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Swimming in a sea of tears

Seeing as it is summer time, I have received many letters from worried readers asking questions like, "Why haven't I seen anything about swimming pools?" and "I want to read more about swimming pools." Well, since I'm a man of the people, I will write a column about swimming pools in order to satisfy the desires of these readers who do not exist.

The house I grew up in actually did have a swimming pool. Most of you are probably thinking, "Wow, a pool must have been great when you were younger. All your friends coming over, wild pool parties, naked chicks." (Okay, maybe only the guys are thinking about the naked chicks). Well, that's what I thought too, but it didn't happen. There were few friends coming over, no wild parties, and certainly no naked chicks. At least not that we didn't pay for.

You have to realize that past the age of 6, kids and adults don't want to go swimming for recreational purposes. Adults basically only go swimming when pushed into a body of water by their obnoxious, attention-starved friend, Rob, who thinks it's hilarious to push people in the water with all their clothes on. As you can see, this is not the makings of a wild pool party.

Over the years, my family had various "pool parties," and people would come, stand around the pool, size it up, talk about how great it must be to have a pool in your backyard, and talk about how nice it is that they don't have to actually get in the water.

It didn't help that our pool just happened to have the climate of Boston in February. For some reason our pool's temperature always has hovered around 32, maybe 33 degrees. However, this came in handy on those sweltering summer days when we could walk up to the pool while sweating profusely and think, "Hey, at least I'm not in the pool."

In order to raise the pool's pathetically low overall fun rating, we went out and bought an assortment of inflatable devices, some arriving at our door in unmarked brown bags. The boxes to these inflatable rafts, tubes and animals all had pictures of incredibly happy people enjoying some sort of inflatable utopia. My brother and I would spend our summer afternoons attempting to inflate these monstrous rafts until at least one of us passed out.

We've also had chronic problems with keeping our pool blue. That doesn't sound like it should be that difficult, sort of like keeping President Bush stupid. Well, we screwed it up somehow. Our pool seems to strongly prefer the color "nasty green" over the more popular "crystal-clear-with-a-light-blue-tint," which can be seen on every pool or hotel brochure ever made. Once the green tint consumes the entire pool, the pool begins to look more like the fishing hole out behind Uncle Jimbo's house, which is also a great place to swim as long as you keep an eye out for leeches and copperhead snakes.

The only thing worse than swimming in a green pool is being on a swim team. My mother insisted that I be on the swim team for at least two summers. It was possibly the most horrifying experience of my life.

Although I was young, I still was one of the worst swimmers ever to hit the water. I spent a great deal of my heroic swimming career tangled in lane lines. I couldn't bear waiting on those little benches wearing a bathing suit that if seen in a movie would result in an NC-17 rating. All the swimmers sat there, terrified and cold, anticipating a chance to avoid drowning while hundreds of excited parents thought to themselves, "Why don't they sell beer at these things?"

Eventually we got our turn up on the blocks, practically wetting ourselves (or maybe that was just me), and preparing to dive into the water. I believe my pre-race mental attitude was, "Please don't let me drown. Please God, don't let me get eighth place. Just let me beat one kid. Let one poor kid be more pathetic than I am. That's all I ask."

Did I mention my father set state swimming records in his youth?

During these swim meets, if any of us false started and didn't know it, the officials would lower a line of string into the pool to stop us from swimming. That was by far the most exciting time of my life. When they lowered that line down, and I had no idea I had false started, I thought to myself, "Oh God! There's a string in a water! Lord, why dost thou spite me?! I must keep swimming! I'm getting tangled in this line of death! Not only will I lose the race, I'm not going to make it out alive!" Finally, I lifted up my head to see a hundred people staring at me while the other swimmers still stood on the blocks wetting themselves out of laughter. And on top of all this, I was forced to get back on the blocks and do it again when what I really wanted was to go home, have some milk and cookies and get in a warm bath with a toaster.

But one good thing did come out of my glorious time on the swim team - it made the time in my own ice-cold green pool seem like a relaxing, tropical paradise.


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