In preparation for my 20 year reunion, I’ve been trying to remember back to high school. None of these anecdotes were from my journals or on video, but came solely from my memories.
When I was a teenager, I started having trouble catching my breath sometimes. This ended up turning into asthma. While I had an inhaler, it didn’t help when I had to swim in the pool at school. The chlorine had a little water mixed in, but it wasn’t diluted enough to allow me to breathe easily. On top of that, I had gym first hour. I think – in theory – the pool was heated, but they didn’t start the heat up until school started. So, it was not warm when we’d have to jump in and do laps. That was a blessing in one way; our pool was co-ed and I was 14 swimming with a bunch of girls in swimsuits. But between the frigid water, my asthma and the fact that I hardly ever swam, I ended up in the low group of swimmers: group one, otherwise known as the “rocks”.
I remember trying to learn how to dive. I never did get the hang of it. I would tuck my chin and fall off the board and end up doing a belly flop. I think I ended up doing about fifteen belly flops in a row before the gym teacher finally took pity on me and said I didn’t have to do any more. I also remember having a big scab on my arm (I don’t remember how I got hurt, but I had this scab about the size of the palm of my hand). I got into the pool and – rip! One of the jets of water pulled it right off. With the 97% chlorine content in the pool, at least I didn’t have to worry about it getting infected, but – whoa! Did that sting! I sat out on the day we were supposed to learn how to tread water. To this day, I can’t tread water very well.
I did better with the survival float and – for some reason – the backstroke came easy to me. Our final test as a “rock” was to swim for five minutes straight. We weren’t allowed just to float, we actually had to swim or tread water or something. One kid jumped right in and started swimming laps as fast as he could. I lay back and slowly backstroked back and forth. I think I did three laps in five minutes. The kid in the lane next to me must have done ten or twelve. He splashed me every time he went past. However, after five minutes, I got up and passed the swimming test. He passed too, but got out of the pool and threw up all over the deck.