Friday, November 19, 2004

Reality 1, Myth 0

So I'm swimming before I come back here and try to pound out a few jugularities for you (yes, I just invented that word). I'm plodding along when I'm suddenly hit by this tremendous spray of water. Then again. Every few seconds, I'm splattered. It's like The Perfect Storm in a swimming pool.

It takes me a little while to figure out what's happening, but I finally realize that there's a guy in the next lane who is swimming right along with me, and that's what's spraying me. When I try to breathe on that side, I'm sucking down a quart of chlorine as I inhale his whitecaps. I decide that I can swim just a little bit faster to get away from this guy.

What? You thought I might just wait after I finished a lap and let him swim clear? Don't be ridiculous. I'm a guy.

I speed up just a bit, and 'just a bit' is about all I have in the tank. And he's still there. He sped up. Now we're both slow swimmers, not in any kind of form to be competitive, but it's on.

How do you tell if it's a race? If there are two guys in it, it's a race.

I have a hard time even believing this as I type it, but this went on for a thousand meters. The way I swim, that's about twenty minutes, and I don't think we're more than a body length apart for most of that time. At the end, though, through some secret Olympian reserve, I pull ahead by about four body lengths. My workout is done and he's still going, though, so I figure I can watch him to see how fast I was swimming.

Underwater, everything is possible. A hippo in a Speedo feels like Mark Spitz. I felt like I was swimming pretty fast, certainly faster than normal, and I felt pretty good about myself.

Then I see this guy's form for the first time.

Do you remember Tony Curtis in Houdini? There's this great scene where he's shackled and manacled and dumped into a hole in the East River (or somewhere wet around New York city). I say 'hole' because the river is covered with ice, and as he sinks the underwater current pushes him downriver. He winds up frantically swimming under the sheet of ice, pushing his face up to get a sliver of air between the ice and the water, punching the ice as he tries to break through, thrashing around in complete panic.

That's my guy.

I can't tell if it's freestyle or a cry for help. It's the single worst swimming stroke I have ever seen, and that's the guy who was making me bust my ass to get ahead of him.

Don't expect a poster of me in my Speedo with gold medals draped around my neck anytime soon.

I'm just as relieved as you are.

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