It’s a Friday morning in January.
It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s been a long week at work, and an even longer 4 block week at practice. I’m tired, I’m fatigued, and I don’t really feel like swimming this morning. Coach Kerry probably has some nightmare lined up for us like ‘5 on 5’ or monthly ‘200’s’ (Some of the practices are named, one of them is literally called “Nightmare on Creek Street’) . It would be so easy to sit inside, drink coffee, and read the paper instead…
Yet I find myself in the car heading to Master’s practice anyway. As I come over the hill, I can see the lights and the mists rising from the pool. The scene, and my mood, match pretty well with a passage I remember in a book from my teenage years, written over 40 years ago: The 50 Meter Jungle by Sherm Chavoor. An unnamed reporter describes the scene at another pool perhaps 70 miles from where I am now:
“It looked like something out of Dante’s Inferno, or maybe a witch-and-wizard’s convention in Yellowstone Park. The temperature of the air was thirty five degrees; so, with the three swimming pools heated to about eighty, they were generating mists swirling up about forty feet. The only illumination came from below, from the underwater lights of the pools, and through the mists, it looked something like hell. The swimmers, struggling back and forth, two in each lane of each pool, were barely visible and gave me the impression of tortured souls in purgatory. Flitting about from one group of tortured souls to another in each of the pools was a medium-sized, gray-haired, pot-bellied creature who was snarling at the tortured souls and yet flattering them in the same breath. Through the mists he looked like Mephistopheles himself, or maybe some sort of statanic first sergeant – except for an incongruous green-and-white striped umbrella he was carrying to shelter him from the rain.”
I pull the car into the lot. I hesitate again. I so much want to kick my feet up and put my feet on the proverbial dash board. The trouble is, once your feet are up on the dash it’s all too easy to leave them up there. And soon enough, you are no longer living the life of a swimmer.
“Do the thing, and you will have the power.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I grab my gear and head into the locker room…