I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I am clear on the fact that I will never impress anyone with my athletic ability. That’s been the case throughout my life, even as a young person when I was actively playing softball and racquetball. It’s fun. It moves me around.

People talk about exercise all the time. Parents talk to kids. Teachers talk to students. Doctors to patients. And Michelle Obama to the entire world. Awesome.  I enjoy it when I engage. Plus this is the time of life when doing these big feats (as opposed to big feet, which will end up in a later post) rate some attention.  I am told swimming is also a good option for aging parts and reducing wear and tear but I can admit to some reluctance about swimming.

I have friends who do triathlons. I have friends who used to lifeguard at the beach. Let’s be clear. I marvel at these people. Confidentially, I have also wanted to ask if their toes are webbed, but I haven’t worked up the nerve. I know, I know. I break all the stereotypes about lesbians and being athletically inclined. Or at least having webbed toes. But I digress.

Would now be a good time to describe my last couple of adventures with swimming? Although, I am aware that many folks would not consider the first adventure to be swimming as much as it was… lying around…on the ocean floor. It happened while I was surf casting in North Carolina. I had the requisite casting rod and the requisite chest-high rubber pants that made me look like Tweedle Dum.  In other words, I looked great! Very sporty! Like I knew what the hell I was doing! So, with rod in hand, I waded out into the water and commenced my adventure.

I was quite comfy in my Tweedle Dum pants and feeling distinctly sorry for those fish I was on a mission to land. My feet sunk a little into the sand, the heavy rubber boots settling and the sand filling around them, creating a vacuum.  When the random big wave began to build, I did see it coming, but far too late. It built both speed and height too quickly for me to pull my feet out of that sand vacuum.

I couldn’t do it, and when that wave slammed over me, it hit with enough force topple me backwards, taking me underwater.

There was a problem with that whole underwater thing. Several problems, really.  My chest-high Tweedle Dum pants filled up with water immediately. The second problem was it was the beginning of March in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of North Carolina. That water was COLD. All of me was COLD. And the third problem, piling on the recognition of the other two problems was that with my Tweedle Dum pants filled up and the pressure of the water on top of me, I was pinned to the ocean floor, and I could not sit or stand up. Nor did I have gills. It occurred to me very quickly that I was going to drown in about three feet of very cold water. I blinked at the absurdity of it and wiggled in the weighted pants to see where there might be a weak spot as I breathed out a stream of bubbles to ascend to the surface.

A burb-bly approach heralded two of my friends who’d been standing on the beach rushing into the surf and disembodied hands grabbed my arms and the Tweedle Dum shoulder straps, dragging me—fishing rod still in hand– upwards and onto the sand.  Earlier that day when I’d proposed going out fishing, they both offered to come. I thought they might get bored standing around talking and watching me fish. Let’s pause to consider how this would have gone on that otherwise deserted beach, had they not opted to chat outside that morning so that they saw when I went down.

I knew it was all going to be okay when the one friend, an Episcopal priest, shoved me into a hot shower rather than offer me last rites. Not that I would have heard her giving me last rites–I had ocean water in both ears and I was distracted by a slight seaweed-y smell.

Yeah. I’m not sure you’d call that swimming. Or fishing! I’d call it a near-death experience but I think that detracts from the near-life experiences that I have most days.

My second adventure with swimming in more recent years was much more domestic.  Friends had a lap pool built and invited us over to check it out. I am now rather cautious about outdoor water, but indoor water still feels safe enough to navigate, so I was looking forward to this. I got all suited up and, following the directions of my host, I approached the front control panel that could have been designed by NASA.

“It’s really powerful, so be ready for it.”

Okay, this I was ready for. I touched the buttons in the sequence he recommended. The jets kicked on with a force that swept my feet out from under me and blew my board shorts right off. I clung to the Oh Dear bar for stability at the front of the pool in just my tank and my shorts bobbed peacefully at the far end.

After shooing my gracious host out of the room, I let the jets carry me to the other end to retrieve my shorts and redressed myself. Then I got out of the pool while the gittin’ was good. That was two for two. Obviously I am not engineered to be off dry land for any length of time.

Yeah. I know. That didn’t qualify as swimming either. But it flattened my spikes and isn’t that one of the evaluating criteria for any kind of exercise?

I get it. You don’t have to compliment me. I am an athletic carbon-based wonder. The wonder is usually about how I get into these situations in non-contact sports!


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