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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Watery Milestone


This past Monday evening was a milestone. Well, not maybe a “milestone”… nor a “half-milestone” even.
I stood at poolside; drying off with a dog-show freebie Eukanuba Dog Food towel from about 10 years ago, I enjoyed a minor sense of achievement.

I had completed Adult Swim Instruction without drowning or making a total fool of myself. Oh sure, my skills in the pool will not astound anyone. But, I have come further than I had even expected upon my first foray into the water. The biggest achievement is being able to stick my head in the water while swimming. I have to fine-tune the breathing thing (face in water-blow out, face out of water-breathe in) for some reason, I tend to reverse the procedure. This can cause a fair amount of anxiety and excitement as one attempts to gracefully expel a gallon or so of water without attracting too much attention.

Actually, I know what happens. I have always been apprehensive (no, scared doodoo-less) about sticking my face in the water. It may have to do with a couple of near-drowning experiences while young. Not being able to breathe with ease can do that to a person.

Now, I have overcome that fear. With the aid of some really cool goggles, I can actually swim with my eyes open and see! My vision is a bit rough; Mr. Magoo would be considered to have 20/20 vision in comparison to my eyesight. As a result, since the age of 7 I have worn either eyeglasses or contact lenses. Now, with the aid of the wonder-goggles, I have been able to stick my face in the water while wearing my contacts. I move my arms while kicking my legs, and actually propel myself forward! I know, many of you may be thinking “Big deal.” Well, let me tell you, Joe Biden summed it up when Obamacare was passed and he thought his microphone was turned off: “This is a (bleep) big deal!”

As a result, I can see the tiles of the pool sliding past. I can marvel at the tiny bubbles in the arc my arms make as they pull me forward. I can look to the side and see my classmates standing around. I can forget to breathe! Which I do, usually resulting in raising my head, exhaling like a whale, then sticking my face back down just in time to take a deep gulp of…water. Soon thereafter the wheels come off the cart. I deftly place my feet upon the pool bottom, and suavely move to the side of the pool; all the while emitting polite little “ahems” as I clear the water from my lungs. Apparently my Lovely Bride must be observing someone else, as she refers to my brief time of recovery as similar to a bear thrashing about at high tide while making strange hacking sounds which would embarrass a bull moose.

The image of a bear swimming began the gears in my head to turning. I thought of deer, dogs, cats, moose, caribou, horses, cattle, and sheep. I had visions of otters, beavers, muskrats, and minks. Then, it struck me; all these mammals can swim. And all of them swim without sticking their heads in the water! Now, I must clarify; I am not referring to marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and such. I am referring to bona fide, land dwelling mammals. The only time you will see a beaver swimming with its head underwater is when he purposely wants to swim below the surface of the water. Same with any of the above referenced critters; they all swim with their heads out of the water! Of course, there has to be a “class clown”. The duck-billed platypus holds it’s breath, and swims underwater, with its eyes closed! After about 2 minutes of bumping into stuff, it comes up for air, and repeats the performance. But, consider the source… a mammal which lays eggs?? Can you imagine God when He created the platypus?? He probably called to the angels “Hey! Check it out!! This is gonna keep them guessing for eons! HAA HAA HAA!”

But, I digress.

I then thought “Why would Man, a mammal, upon observing beavers, deer, elk, lions, tigers, and so on swimming, determine the thing to do is stick his face in the water?”

While there do exist ancient cave art, Egyptian ceramics, Native American petroglyphs and such depicting humans swimming, it is unknown who had the bright idea to hold one’s breath and stick your head in the water.

Still, the history of swimming is quite varied. The first recorded swim meet was in 36BC in Japan. Did you know the Japanese Emperor Go-Yozei declared all school children should learn to swim? None other than Benjamin Franklin invented the swim fin in 1716, at the age of ten. Also, the common front crawl, or “freestyle” stroke was unknown to Europeans of the 19th Century. During a swim competition held in 1844 in London, several Native Americans took part. While the British used the breast stroke solely, the Americans used the traditional front crawl, while placing their head in the water, and coming up for air.
The British were somewhat put out, as all the splashing which resulted from the Native’s swimming technique was most ungentlemanly. However, the Americans won handily with the much faster, efficient stroke. Oddly, the front crawl as we know it, was known not only to Native Americans, but to peoples of West Africa, and many Pacific Islands.

Of course, it is much more effective, faster and less dorky looking. I mean, a guy just doesn’t look all that cool doing a butterfly stroke. The backstroke? Who came up with that one? I mean, the idea of floating on one's back watching the world drift by is okay. But who decided to whip your arms around like a synchronized wind-mill while doing that weird, frog-like thing with your legs? Add the excitement of not seeing where you are heading (literally)... the recipe for calamity is complete. It is just a matter of time!

Still, if there were a way to swim effectively using the front crawl stroke, all the while keeping one's head high and dry...well, I am all for that!

Maybe the International Olympic Committee can begin working on a new category for swimming. They can call it the “splash around a lot with your head sticking up like a turtle” stroke.

Regardless, I have committed to another course of humiliation... I mean... instruction.

I am determined to accomplish this!

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