I arrived at the gym somewhat immodestly, wearing a swimsuit rather than a sports bra under my shirt and pants. My outfit served two purposes. While I planned to swim, I wanted to be ready to walk with Robena and Theresa, should they be planning to go outside — despite the potential for rain. I saw them when I arrived in the locker room; they weren’t going outside, and so I prepared for the pool. Thus began a typical morning at the gym for me.
Susan had just entered the locker room after her swim, and as she changed into clothes for the spin class she would attend, we discussed how many people were in the lanes this morning.
As it is most Tuesdays, the pool was hopping. Expecting limited lane availability, I saw my friend Jeremy and asked if I could share his lane — before I noticed that I had other options. A woman had Lane 2 to herself, and Craig, who is training for an upcoming Ironman competition, was in Lane 3. Either would have been a better choice for me.
I enjoy sharing a friendship but not a lane with Jeremy. If he were a motor boat, he would be the reason we see those “SLOW: NO WAKE ZONE” signs along certain intracoastal areas. He splashes like nobody’s business and moves the water so much he moves me. I have to fight being pushed into the lane rope; the wake resulting from his vigorous swim is rather like a wave crashing a body surfer onto the beach. But I had asked to share his lane, and I wasn’t about to offend him by moving elsewhere.
Rather quickly, the pool filled completely with other swimmers and I had no other lane option. I timed and planned my bilateral breathing to avoid gulping his waves instead of air and otherwise held my ground.
When Jeremy began to swim butterfly, however, I noticed the man in the lane beside me leave. Desperate to escape the tidal wave heading my way, I quickly slipped under the lane rope and swam unperturbed in that lane. But when I reached the wall, I saw the former swimmer standing at the pool’s edge. What? Had I imagined his absence and simply claimed the lane with him in it, forcing him to move?
Before I could question him, however, he jumped into another lane (not Jeremy’s, I noticed) and began to swim. It was then that I noticed the infamous Marty heading my way.
Marty is a notorious water walker who insists on taking a swim lane, though the walking lane is wide open and often empty. Signs in the pool area, ever increasing and specific, clearly state the rules: Walkers only get Lane 1. Her favorite lane is the very one I had slipped into just moments before, and I knew I would soon be sharing it with her.
Marty’s insistence on walking in the too popular swim lanes is a point of contention among the swimmers, although Marty seems quite unperturbed. If a swimmer sics a gym staff member on Marty to get her to move from the swim lane, Marty says no and stays put. She walks with water resistance gloves on her hand and moves her arms widely as she walks forward and backward in the lane, often encroaching on the space of the unfortunate swimmer beside her. Since she occasionally lifts her feet from the pool’s bottom, she claims she is a swimmer and entitled to the same rights and same lanes.
Ugh! I inwardly groaned as Marty headed toward me. I figured it was my due penalty for stealing another swimmer’s lane — or potentially the reason the previous swimmer exited the lane to share another.
However, I tried to be pleasant, greeting Marty with a warm smile and happy hello. She reciprocated, and we had a delightful exchange until I begin to swim and she began her swaying walk. She didn’t encroach on my space at all, and I surmised that, perhaps, the rumors were overstated. When I left a short time later, she gave me a bright smile as she said goodbye and that she would see me tomorrow.
(I got the opportunity to question the man whose lane I stole. He said he’d gotten out of the pool to get his cell phone. I apologized anyway.)
I managed a shower without waiting, and heard Connie’s “Hello, Sara!” as she entered the shower area. We chatted about her injured foot and her son’s upcoming wedding.
In the locker room, I grabbed my toiletries and made my way to an available counter space with a mirror. In the reflection, I saw a young woman who had confided recently that she was pregnant.
“I haven’t told anyone about the pregnancy yet,” she had told me then, “and now I find myself telling a perfect stranger all about it.”
(I clung to the descriptive word “perfect” and rejected the “stranger” title.)
“How are you doing?” I asked this morning. “Have you told your sister yet?”
She told me all was well and that the whole world would soon know about her pregnancy because her sister now knew.
Moments later, I saw a friend who had suffered breast cancer and then had reconstructive surgery. I hadn’t seen her in months. We hugged, she told me she was doing great and that she was back exercising.
Then another woman passed by — looking as if she were lost.
“Can I help you find something?” I asked.
“No, well, I didn’t set the combination before I turned the lock on my locker, and now I’m locked out.”
She was in a wet bathing suit; I was in a towel. But a woman fully dressed was about to leave — and she agreed to alert the front desk that help was needed.
I saw a red-faced Dixie, who was proclaiming the agonies of weight lifting, and asked her if she was attending our water class in the morning.
“I’ll be there!” she declared.
Our friend Ginger indicated she would be there, too.
Connie wondered aloud at Candy’s absence. I wondered silently where Tami had been the past two weeks. And where was Jenna?
I said goodbye to Margaret as she left, complimenting her outfit since she was not wearing her usual scrubs. I had conversations about lost items in the shower, helped another woman get staff to open her locked locker, and complimented a woman’s french braid.
“She’s here!” Phoebe exclaimed to me as she entered the locker room.
“Who, Marty?” (Phoebe is a swimmer, too, and always cognizant as to “How the Pool Turns,” the swimmers’ imaginary soap opera in which Marty plays the antagonist.)
“No, my granddaughter arrived as expected yesterday.”
Ah, Jessica Phoebe, Phoebe’s namesake, her third and newest grandchild.
And with that, I left for a full day of work — my body exercised and my heart full.
It was just a typical day at the health club — a snapshot of the workout world that encourages me to join it each day. See you there!
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