After swimming a few lengths of breast stroke in the medium speed lane of the outdoor public pool the other day I found myself out of breath and hemmed in by traffic. It was not a good place to be. The ladder to my left could be accessed only through the slow lane, which was blocked by a children’s swimming lesson that had just begun. A second ladder, underneath the life guard’s chair on the other side of the pool, might as well have been on the other side of the Pacific so remote did it seem—I was never getting there, and yet I had to get somewhere, and fast: my lane mate, an elderly man swimming twice my speed, was nearly upon me. My feet were on the bottom of the shallow end, and the edge of the pool was not quite shoulder height. I made a calculation; I felt sure I could make it. And so, I attempted to lift myself over the edge of the pool using nothing but my brute arm strength and lithe-like-a-jaguar physique.
My torso shot up triumphantly and I felt myself revel in a giddy sensation of pure animal power. The mind is a powerful thing—if you can just imagine it, you can do it! Oh God, it feels good to be alive! I am a mighty and sinewed machine! Then, my chest crashed against the edge of the pool so hard that it felt like my right nipple had just scraped itself off. I hung there like that—one leg over the edge, one leg still under water—as my lane mate navigated his way through my flailing limbs. Gasping for air, I dragged my chest the rest of the way up and out of the pool. I staggered and semi-rolled myself upright. My swimming goggles, which were still on, had fogged up which was good because if people were staring at me I couldn’t see. I felt to see if my nipple was still there and it was, which was also good. I took my goggles off, and then I stood there for a few seconds scowling at them and possibly muttering to myself and/or at them. I scrutinized them most intensely as I walked back to my towel. And that, my summer friends, is how you play it smooth.