Pool Time

I stepped on a child at the pool the other day and I don’t feel even a little bad about it. Actually, it was pretty gratifying. Does that make me a bad person?
In an attempt to fight genetics, my metabolism, and a lusty affinity for the Larry’s Ice Cream and the new burger place on the beach—both a short walk from my apartment—I’ve added swimming to my workout. Several days a week I make my way down to the St. Pete Beach community pool and swim a mile plus whatever else I can eke out of an hour in the pool.
I love the pool but it’s made me realize I’m turning into a cranky old lady. If you’ve spent any time at a public pool you know exactly what cranky old lady I’m talking about, because you’ve seen her there, swimming laps and grimacing at the carefree little children frolicking about the pool, haplessly enjoying their last days of summer and annoying the hell out of her.
I wasn’t always this way. When I was 18 I started lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons for the YMCA. I used to watch these old ladies swimming laps; they came in two flavors: the serious swimmer and what I called the make-up swimmer.
The serious swimmer had not an ounce of discernible body fat on her anywhere and had a freakish leathery tan that almost matched her strappy no-nonsense Speedo. I never saw her hair because she always wore a blue rubber swim cap pulled so tight her eyes met her hairline. She walked with the swimmer’s slouch that ensured her shoulders would show up about 30 seconds before the rest of her body.
The make-up swimmer showed up in a bathing suit that epitomized fashion in the early 60s. She wore bright red lipstick that bled into the lines above her upper lip and she kept a visor on while she breaststroked up and down the lap lane. Her hair- frosted and rolled within an inch of its life- never got wet except for her neckline and under her ears.
These two swimmers had one thing in common: they hated children. God forbid an enthusiastic youngster should cross their lap lane—even while they were at the other end of the pool—and I, as the lifeguard, didn’t immediately wrench the child from the pool and threaten him with death or exile to a communist country. They would make an exaggerated point of stopping their workout and drawing this clear breach of the rules to my attention.
As a lifeguard it was my most solemn and irksome duty to prevent children from having any fun. I would dutifully tell the kids to stay out of the lap lanes, don’t touch the lane markers, and for god’s sake don’t splash near the swimmers. After all, who wants to get wet in a pool? And while I understood the logic behind the “only lap swimmers in the lap lanes” rule, I didn’t get the big deal. They weren’t hurting anyone. How old and cranky did you have to be to mind a few kids in the lap lanes?
So when I saw these boys swimming underwater through my lap lane over and over and over again, I didn’t get annoyed, right? I understood that they were kids who wanted to have a good time and play some fun pool games, right?
You would think I’d achieved that level of maturity, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t think that when another child swam through my lap lane and took his sweet time about it that I put my head down and added a little burst of speed, hoping to plow into him, would you?
So when I finished my mile and put my foot down not on a pool bottom but a sweaty pre-teen little boy back and I yelped, it came as a complete shock to me when the next words out of my life were directed at the lifeguard.
“Could you PLEASE ask them to stay out of the lap lanes?”
Apparently you can hit “old and cranky” ate age 36.
I did not ask politely. I did not ask quietly. When the lifeguard yanked not one but three boys out of the pool and made them sit in time out, it made me smile just a little bit. I’m pretty sure all the lifeguards refer to me as the cranky lady with the frog tattoo and sloppy breaststroke kick. The kids know to not make eye contact with me because legend has it I can turn them to stone with just one look. When they have sleepovers they scare each other not with stories of the guy with hook for a hand but the frog tattoo lady who sneaks up on them in the pool and holds them underwater, where no one can hear them scream.
I’m not sure when I transitioned to cranky old lady (and, yes, to a 12-year-old boy, 36 is no different than 72, especially not when she’s yelling at you like you drank her last can of Ensure) but I’m pretty sure it’s irreversible.
In my defense, that one hour is my time, damn it. I don’t have the luxury of lolling about summer camp all day, and some days carving out that hour means sacrificing something else. Today it means not editing this column so that it’s funnier.
Believe me, if I had a couple hours a day to spend at the pool I’d probably be screwing around, too. But the only time I feel right is when I’m in the water, and for that hour all the noise in my head quiets and I can just keep swimming.
Until some unsuspecting happy-go-lucky child swims across my lane. Then watch out, kiddies, because Frog Tattoo Lady is going to get you.

Published by


I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.