Last Friday, as part of my planning for this week, I went to our aquatic center’s website to find available lap lanes during open slots in my workday. The times and availability change every week, which is annoying because I thrive on routine when it comes to exercise. At any rate, I reserved a lane for Tuesday morning and one for Wednesday morning. I immediately put the times in my calendar and moved on with my life.
I had it in my mind that my Tuesday reservation was for 8am. I showed up at the pool at 8, and the parking lot was mostly empty, which should have been a clue, but instead, I thought, Cool, I’ll get my own lane.
When I walked in the door, the woman at the desk looked up and said hi, like she always does, but her head was cocked a little. I scanned my (newly restored) membership card and said, “I reserved an 8 o’clock lane. Andrea Badgley?”
“Hi, yes,” smile/grimmace. “The competition pool doesn’t open for public swim until 9 today.”
“Oh.” Shit. I can’t wait around until 9, I have to get back to work, and I didn’t bring my laptop. “Is that what time I reserved a lane for?”
“Yes. You can try the leisure pool, though, if you’d like to go ahead and swim now. You don’t need a reservation for that pool.”
I stepped over to the window and watched the elderly ladies bob around and chat with each other in the lanes of the leisure pool. There was one lane open, and the other two lanes were occupied by lane walkers. Gah. What do I do? I didn’t want to go barge in on their social hour; I know their routines and their paces and the type of swimming I wanted to do didn’t match the swimming (bobbing) they like to do.
I really really wanted to swim, though. I’d planned my morning around it, packed a bag last night, was depending on the exercise (and the post-swim shower), and had driven 15 minutes to get here. So I decided to risk it and go for that empty lane. At least it would be warmer than the competition pool.
After depositing my stuff in the locker room, I took off my glasses and pulled on my swim cap, and I made my way to the lane. It was no longer empty. The woman in it was swimming rather than walking, though, so that seemed like a good sign; maybe I’d be less annoying to her.
I leaned down from the side of the pool as she finished a lap and said, “Hi, do you mind if I share this lane?”
It was a very narrow lane. (I imagined) She gave me a look that said yes she minded, but her mouth told me I could share.
If you’ve never swum laps, I’ll interject here that having your own lane is the best swimming scenario. It’s such a treat! You have all the space to yourself, you can swim at your own pace with no worry of running into someone or how to pass, you can do flip turns and drills and it’s just awesome. Second best is when you have a wide lane with only two people, so you can split the lane. Flip turns are tricky for me in that scenario because I’m not good at them, but they’re doable. If the lane is narrower, it’s not so bad to share if you and your lane partner swim at similar paces. The least favorable scenarios are any in which the lane is narrow and the swimmers swim at different paces. And the more swimmers in the lane, the crappier it is if you’re amateurs.
I slipped into the bath-temperature water, waited for the other swimmer to get to the other end of the lane, pushed off, and started swimming. I hugged the lane line as close as I could to give space, and each time I passed her, whether oncoming, side by side, or at the wall, I felt like a jerk. It was my fault I was there at the wrong time and barged in on her lane. I was the one who had disrupted what was probably a normally pleasant, peaceful meditative workout for her.
Physically, it felt good to swim, and I didn’t want to stop, but mentally it was stressful. All of my concentration was on taking up as little space as possible. I kept scraping my shoulder on the lane line, and when our hands hit as we passed each other on one lap, I decided to just make both our lives better and get out. I had swum for 10 minutes.
After I showered, I double checked my Wednesday reservation at the front desk to make sure I don’t make the same mistake again. I’ve reread my reminder email at least four times to confirm that my reservation, my calendar, and my brain are all aligned. Hopefully on Wednesday, at 8am, both of me and my Tuesday lane partner will have a better swim.