Why I don’t swim laps

My daughter is taking swim lessons.  She’s four.  (And “a half,” she’d add.)  And she’s a goldfish.  In the parlance of community pool swim lessons, the goldfish is at the bottom of the pile, under the more amphibiously gifted (and less domesticated) penguin, seal, etc.  She didn’t notice.  “I wanted to be something gold,” she said. 

These classes?  They are every weekday.  Which is great for kids, and a serious pain in the ass for the grown-ups.  The pool is outdoors.  I live in Portland, Oregon.  August, in Portland, Oregon, is lovely.  High-eighties.  Except for last week, on Monday, the first day of my daughter’s lessons, when it was 102 degrees.

This isn’t one of those parents-in-the-water-with-the-kids lessons.  I was excited about that.  At first.  I imagined myself lounging poolside with a NYT and some red wine in a sports bottle.  Thirty minutes of guilt free me, me, me.  Instead I found myself huddled with the other parents on white plastic chairs in the sliver of shade that the building throws on the concrete pool deck, as we watched our children frolic in a cool (Huge! Nearly empty!) pool.  

It was then that I noticed the lap lanes.  There are four of them.  On the deep side of the pool.  The side for the big kids and the swim team.  Two of the lanes were open, and some of the parents (the athletic ones, the ones with goggles) were plunging in one after the other and swimming laps.  

I do not swim laps.  I can’t figure out the politics.  I don’t know the rules.  I also read this rant in the paper a few days ago from some woman just incensed at the people who swam in her community pool who did not do it right.  I did not want that woman mad at me.

So I sat there.  All week.  In that two feet rectangle of shade.  Sweating. Watching the goldfish and the penguins and the seals and the swim club and the parents with goggles.  Until yesterday, when I wore my suit.

This was the day.  A person can be hot only so song before a person has to take a stand.

My daughter’s lesson started.

I eyed a lane.

Completely open!  I could claim it.

I saw another parent, the mother of a friend of my daughter’s.   She had just gotten out of the pool.

“What are the rules?” I asked her urgently, jerking my head toward the deep end.

“What?” she said.

“The rules,” I whispered.  “What side do you pass on?  How many people to a lane?”

“I don’t know,” she said.  “You just sort of wing it.”

Wing it??

She left and I looked back at the lane I had been heading toward.

A woman had slipped in it and was doing a sidestroke.  

The only thing worse than not knowing the rules, is not knowing if there are any.  

I settled back into my white plastic chair.

I am so lame.