Swimmingly Submerged

I went to a party the other night and a swim meet broke out. Those who have experience with children's swim teams will know exactly what I'm referring to. For those who, like me before last week, had been drydocked, let me explain. I have discovered the wet and wild civilization of aquatics. I've solved the mystery of what goes on at the pool once all the inflatable raft users go home.

This is a different world for me as the only speed and endurance factors I've experienced with water is knowing how long I can shower before the hot water runs out. The closest I ever came to competitive swimming was diving for coins at my grandmother's apartment complex pool. You had to swim real fast or some senior citizen practicing their snorkeling would gobble up all the loose change.

My pool time has drastically diminished as I've gotten older as it seems there's a direct correlation between one's age and the temperature the water needs to be before I'm getting in. The formula, applicable to all, is to multiply your age by two, add twenty, subtract one for every year you're under forty and add ten if you grew up in a city where it didn't snow. If the pool thermostat is below that number, don't get in. I don't swim in Canada because I still can't convert Celsius.

At my first meet I recognized that a children's swim team has a unique blend of camaraderie that begins with teammates writing enthusiastic words on each other's bodies. I've slowly discovered our team needs some non-permanent markers as my older son has taken eight showers since the last meet and his chest and belly still greet me with "Go Adam, go!" Someday he'll probably have to explain this insignia to his wife. Hopefully she'll have been on a swim team.

I next learned that no one will ever go hungry at a swim meet. The concession stand resembles a very upscale mini mart/restaurant. I'm pretty certain at one point I heard the announcer say "Paul Stewart is in lane 2, and Paul -- the portobello mushroom burger you ordered will be ready in three minutes."

The most impressive part of a meet is the organization. There's a constant voice calling the next event with a move 'em in, move 'em out cadence. Everyone around seemed to be participating in the meet and I was convinced an event for me was eventually going to be up. I kept waiting for them to call the 35-40 year old, haven't been in a pool for six and a half years, basketball is my true sport, made it to Minnow level at Camp Nahelu, hold your breath underwater event. Thankfully it didn't happen.

After completing my first meet as a spectator, I've discovered it's the endurance of the parents that is often tested. Oh sure, the kids have the stamina to swim the 100 yard individual medley in under a minute and a half. But what about the novice parent who watched every single event of this nice splash-a-thon because they didn't know they should bring reading material between their child's two events that were spaced three hours apart. The kids don't really care how long the meet lasts because, at times, the main event is having most of your friends together in the same location other than school.

The final beauty of a swim meet is that every single person gets a nice ribbon reflecting his or her time and placement. I was kind of hoping when we left the meet that maybe I'd have a little red ribbon attached to the front window of my car indicating first place for parallel parking of a four year old minivan with more than 60,000 miles. That'd impress them at work tomorrow. I checked the windshield but no award. Maybe next meet. I'll practice harder.

In truth, swim meets are a tremendous amount of fun. And where else could I be entertained at a pool, stay dry as well, and get a bag of chocolate-flavored animal crackers for a quarter?