Category Archives: swimming

I’m quite sure I would rule hammer-throwing. Who wants to be the target?

The Summer Olympics are coming up. I had no idea they were so soon. This probably means I’m broken, right? People get VERY EXCITED about the Olympics. Like, VERY excited. People plan their days around the viewing of the Olympics. 

This is a messy logo. I don’t care for it at all. I feel someone wasn’t trying hard enough.

I’m going to tell you something very, very shocking. Ready? Ready for the shocking? I don’t care even one teeny tiny little bit about the Olympics.

BUT AMY! GO MERKA! 

I mean, come on. These are the mascots. They are named Wenlock and Mandeville. I don’t – what are these even supposed to BE? Oh, “two drops of steel from the steelworks in Bolton?” Huh. That’s…hard to cuddle.

Yes. Yes, I know. I am not a complete jerk; I know that these athletes train their whole lives for this, and that they perform some pretty stunning feats of stamina and endurance and whatnot. Of course I appreciate that. I’m not denigrating the athletes. Go, athletes! You are very impressive. 

I just do not care. Because the Olympics is sports. Are sports? I can make a valid case for either tense of that verb, I really can. 

I don’t watch regular sports on television, and I really don’t care about these sports, either. I kind of was all “go Michael Phelps” when he was winning last time around, because he was a little adorable and you wanted him to win, you know? But I didn’t WATCH him swim. Because I didn’t CARE to watch it. Don’t care about it. Because it is SPORTS.

It didn’t hurt that he was kind of pretty in a goofy way, and WHOO those abs.

 I know, you all think I’m a hooligan or something and I’m broken, but whatever, I just don’t care. Listen, we even had the Olympics a little over an hour from my home when I was a wee Amy – in Lake Placid, does anyone remember that? – and I was a little KID and didn’t care about those Olympics. I think the only thing I cared about during those Olympics was that you could collect stickers on bananas of the different events, and then stick the stickers on this plastic vest on this collectible Olympic raccoon doll, so I was all into collecting my raccoon banana stickers. As for the events themselves – well, I was too little to know what malaise was, but I was certainly good at experiencing it. DID NOT CARE. 

It was totally this very raccoon! Only it came with a plastic vest you could stick banana-stickers on. We were easily amused in the 80s.

(Side note: I do like Olympics in films, like The Cutting Edge. SHUT UP THAT IS A GOOD MOVIE. TOE PICK!) 

*sigh*

In order to find out when the Olympics were this time around (in all seriousness, I didn’t even know if they were winter or summer Olympics, that’s how out of the Olympic loop I am) I went to my old friend Google, who was very helpful in informing me that they were summer Olympics and would be starting in a couple of weeks. Huh. I had no idea. I knew they were in London, though. That’s impressive, right? Go, me, with my knowledge of foreign affairs! 

Then on the same site that was all “YOU DUMMY THEY’RE IN TWO WEEKS,” it had a schedule of when the different events would appear, and when the medals would be awarded, and it was in pretty colors and such. Very helpful, website! So, so helpful. 

But also confusing, because some of these things I had NO IDEA were actually events. It’s like when you’re reading the Guinness Book of World Records and you’re all, “What? There’s a record for widest tie? Who thought THAT was a good idea?” (I made that up. That’s totally not a record. OR IS IT, I don’t know, I don’t read that book.) 

Like, sure, I knew a lot of there were events. Things like archery and swimming and tennis. Fine. Acceptable. People get medals in such things. Even synchronized swimming, even though it makes me laugh until I snort because I always think of that Saturday Night Live skit with Martin Short and his floaties. “I’m not that strong a swimmer.” Right? You think of that when you think of synchronized swimming, too, right? If you don’t, you might be broken, because it is kick-ass hilarious. But I’m not putting down the synchronized swimmers. If that’s their thing, good for them. I can’t even swim, what do I care? I’d drown just getting in the pool, let alone trying to do the same things someone else is doing, good grief. Unless what that other person is doing is drowning. Then I’d be VERY good at that. Very very good. 

Also, they always have to make exaggerated faces. Which…oh, shit, let’s face it, I’m VERY good at those. Just not while attempting not to drown.

Let’s look at some of the weird things. Also, I ran this post by my dad, so you get to see what he thinks about what I think is weird.

One: “Athletics.” That’s actually on this schedule. I was all, “What the hell kind of competition is athletics? That’s a total catch-all title. Could you just show up and do anything athletic you wanted to? Like, flex? Or throw paper airplanes really really well? Or jog in place?” Then I had the giggles for about twenty minutes. But I realized if you hovered over the timeline of “athletics” you’d see that there was actually a schedule for them and mostly it was stuff we’d have called “track and field” when I was in high school, like shot-put and javelin-throwing and such. Why the hell don’t you just call it track and field, then? Weird. 

(SIDE NOTE: one of the “athletic” events? Is “hammer throwing.” Hee! I want to throw hammers. I’d feel like one of the Mario Brothers. Also, can I pick who’s standing in the way when it lands? I feel like, as a champion hammer-thrower, I should get to choose who I’m throwing the hammer AT. Another event? “Race Walking.” Isn’t that what old people do at the mall? That’s an event? Well, sign up the old people at the mall, then, they could totally win this!) 

It isn’t even a HAMMER. This is totally misleading, yo.

Amy’s Dad’s take on this: “Amy, it’s not even a hammer. You take things way too seriously. Also, they don’t get to throw them AT anyone.”

Two: “Badminton.” This is an Olympic event? I’ve totally missed my calling. I used to be VERY good at badminton when we played it at my camp when I was a kid. Except our rackets were really jacked-up and the birdie would often get stuck in the racket. When that happened, we would laugh and laugh and sometimes throw the racket at the other player. It was kind of badminton to the death at my camp. So I think I’ve had my badminton trial-by-fire, and so therefore would be very qualified to win the badminton Olympic gold. Also, I totally took a joint badminton/archery gym class in college. Shut up, it totally counted for my gym class requirement. My other gym class (we had to take two) was YOGA. I know! I might have taken the two classes that made me exert the least energy ever. Gym class got its revenge on me, however, because in my yoga class was my ex, and therefore I had to see him being all bendy twice a week and flirting with someone else, and that was awkward because the breaking off of the whole thing had been full of hatred and glaring. Wait, I don’t know if you can call someone your ex if they were never officially your boyfriend and they were just the guy you were hooking  up with in the hope they would become your boyfriend until the day you walked in on them getting gay with a guy and you thought to yourself, “MAN I wish I’d knocked.” I mean. Hypothetically. Heh. Heh heh. Oh. We were talking about badminton, weren’t we? I wasn’t very good at it in college. It was a lot harder, because in college there were these things called “rules” and also certain places you had to stand on the floor and such and the birdie NEVER got stuck in the racket, not ever, so you never got to throw your racket. Also, probably if you did, you’d have failed gym. 

Um. Look how seriously these people are taking badminton. This would make me laugh and laugh if I saw this in real life, I’m not even kidding. IT IS BADMINTON.

Amy’s Dad’s take on this: “I knew someone at work who used to play badminton competitively. We used to ask him if he had a purse. You know. Like he was a LADY. I think this is a lady-sport.” My response: “That’s kind of sexist, Dad.” Dad’s response: “Yes.”

Three: two, count ‘em, TWO, canoe events! “Canoe slalom” and “Canoe sprint.” Isn’t slalom when you go back and forth? In a CANOE? That’d be all sloshy and there’d be a lot of potential to crash into things, I don’t know about that. Also, “sprint?” I don’t know that you sprint in a canoe. Canoe RACING, I can see, but “sprint” seems an odd way to phrase something, right? Hmm. 

This looks like the Raging River ride we used to go on at the amusement park when I was a kiddo. Whee!

Amy’s Dad’s take on this: “They’re not really canoes. They’re kayaks. This is named confusingly.”

Four: “BMX Cycling.” Listen, my brother used to BMX cycle, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an Olympic sport. Mostly he just rode up to the neighbors’ house and they played kickball and then he came home. What’s involved in this? Like, is it off-roading? Are there ramps? Younger Brother used to set up ramps made out of chipboard and those things you use in a garage to drive a car up on to check the underparts of the car and then he’d ride over them and my mom would be all “YOU’RE GOING TO BREAK YOUR BONES.” Is that what “BMX Cycling” is? I think it’d be awesome if they had to build their own ramps out of things they found lying around the area, like trash and tourists. 

Heh! You go, future Olympian. YOU GO.

Amy’s Dad’s take on this: “They’re always adding crap to the Olympics so kids will watch it instead of putting graffiti on office buildings. Like this event, and also snowboarding.”

Five: “Table Tennis.” Really? That’s what Forrest Gump did, isn’t it? Isn’t this just a fancy way of saying ping pong? I didn’t know you could get a gold in something that people do in their basements when they’re stoned and drinking PBR and listening to old-school Pink Floyd. What’s next, gold medals in air hockey? ZOMG HOW MUCH DO I WANT A GOLD MEDAL IN AIR HOCKEY. Or Skee-Ball! YES YES YES. When’s the next Olympics? At the next Olympics, I will be winning the gold medal for SKEE-BALL. Think of all the tickets I could get THEN that I could trade in for valuable prizes like large stuffed animals or velvet Elvises! 

I WILL RULE YOU, SKEE-BALL.

Amy’s Dad’s take on this: “Amy, you KNOW that table tennis is an Olympic Sport. Don’t you remember the whole uproar about the Chinese that time? I think it was in the 50s?” Me: “Dad, how old do you think I AM?” Dad: “Oh. Heh. Yeah. Good point. ANYWAY, moving ON, if they could get someone to sponsor Skee-Ball, it would totally be a sport in the Olympics. You wouldn’t win it, though. You don’t have very good hand-eye coordination, and you’d probably hit a judge in the neck with the ball.”

Six: “Trampoline.” I have a STORY! About a TRAMPOLINE! Not that long ago, like a little over ten years or so, back when I wasn’t so socially awkward, I went to a theater party. And people got drunk drunk DRUNK. It was at a house – if I’m remembering correctly? – that one of the cast members was housesitting for? Something along those lines. Either way, it wasn’t any of our homes. It was FANCY. Anyway, I didn’t get drunk, because I was driving home. But there were some younger cast members there, and they got WASTED. And there was a trampoline in the backyard. And it (for some reason) had like a shower curtain around it. (It wasn’t a shower curtain. I have no idea how to describe it. It was like it was a contained unit of trampoline. So no one could see you jumping? I don’t know.)

Like this! What’s the net for? Is it a safety thing? So you don’t go flinging all off across the lawn and whatnot?

So a few of the younger cast members decided to go in there and smoke. I’m pretty sure it was just cigarettes but I’m not ruling out other substances. It was a crazy night. And – AND – they were SO DRUNK that they butted their cigarettes (or whatever they were smoking) out ON THE TRAMPOLINE. Which burned a HOLE in the trampoline. MULTIPLE HOLES. So the following week when we got back to the theater we were ALL informed we owed like $100 each for trampoline repair. I was all, “SO SORRY CHARLIE, I’m not paying for drunken stupidity, no no not me.” (Also, I didn’t have $100 to spend on trampoline repair. I couldn’t even buy food. I’m not even kidding. I was surviving on whatever people didn’t finish and said I could have at rehearsals, and 99 cent bean burritos at Taco Bell. Oh, and water. It was a dark time in Amy-land. $100 might as well have been a MILLION dollars to me at that time. Still kind of is now, to be honest.) Anyway, I have no idea what happened there. But, let this serve as a cautionary tale, on a lot of levels. A., don’t let theater people get drunk at the house you’re housesitting at; B., don’t butt burning things out on trampolines, C., don’t ask me for $100 for repair of something I didn’t ruin, because DAMN, son, the only thing I did at that party was pine over the southern redhead I was in love with at the time but if I remember correctly he was pissed at me for something that night even though I looked AMAZING and was so, so dressed up and wore heels that gave me blisters for like a MONTH. 

Oh, that really wasn’t at all on-topic. What would trampolining have to do with the Olympics? Would you…bounce and then flip? Put cigarettes out on the trampoline and then catch them in your mouth on the way down? It’s all very confusing. Also, trampolines are dangerous and you could break your neck on there. 

Amy’s Dad’s take on this: “I think this is just gymnastics on a trampoline for people that don’t like to do gymnastics on the ground like normal people.”

The rest of the things are things I’ve heard of so I guess I’m down with them. I mean, “handball” and “artistic gymnastics” are a little suspect, but mostly because handball seems like a made-up thing for people who can’t afford rackets (am I spelling rackets wrong? Should that be racquets? That looks fancy, so I’m going to guess “rackets” is how we spell it here in MERKA and “racquets” is how they spell it in EUROPE. Oh, wait, one time Ken called Europe something funny like MERKA and now I have forgotten it. Um. Um. Um. I REMEMBER! It was YERP and I LOVE that. So in YERP they are racquets and in MERKA they are rackets. Or if they’re not, that’s what I’ve decided, anyway, so that’s the NEW rule.) Oh, and “artistic gymnastics” reminds me of the time in Old School that Will Ferrell was doing that floor routine with that ribbon in honor of his dead friend Blue and that made me laugh until I almost peed. 

 

Yes, yes. I have the sense of humor of either a five-year-old or a frat boy. I know. I KNOW. It’s a thing. I deal with it. Moving on. 

Anyway, I hope you all have fun watching the Olympics, and best of luck to all of the competitors, and I hope you don’t fall off the trampolines or get a ping-pong ball to the eyehole. I will be watching programs from almost a year ago, because I am THAT FAR BEHIND on my television viewing. Soon I hope to be caught up enough that I know what you’re all talking about when you make pop-culture references, won’t that be the best? Yes! YES IT WILL!


Fifty-five percent

Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,  
The lady of situations.

Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,  
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,  
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,  
Which I am forbidden to see.  I do not find  
The Hanged Man.  Fear death by water.
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

One of the great ironies in my life is how much I love water, and, yet, how very afraid I am of it. I can’t swim, you see. I can float on my back, if I concentrate very, very hard. I can also do a very flailing doggy paddle that sort of gets me from one place to another. I can also do the survival float, which is something you learn in case you are ever dropped out a boat and are unable to swim yourself to safety. I put everything I had into that task because I can’t swim, and I knew, I just knew, that someday this would happen to me and the difference between me pulling an Ophelia and lasting long enough to be pulled from the water would be my ability to survival float until help came. 

(Slightly off-topic, but that movie Open Water? KILLED ME. Not so much for the sharks. I mean, yeah, the sharks were bad. But the water! All that water! And having to stay afloat in it for all of that time! I started hyperventilating about half an hour in and didn’t stop until it was over. And it wasn’t a happy ending, either. THANKS, MOVIE.) 

They say the average adult human female is 55% water. That’s more than half. So a person, you’d think, would float, on their own, wouldn’t they? I mean, that’s just science, right? 

In third grade, we started swimming classes. Our school was one of the lucky ones with a pool, and they started us early. Once a week, instead of gym class, you had swimming class. Now, this is not a problem, when you are in third grade. However, once puberty hits (and is kinder to some than others), imagine having to be in your swimming gear in front of your peers. You have no baggy clothes to hide behind. Your perfectly poufed 80’s Aqua-Net helmet of hair is ruined for the day. You stink of chlorine (and your eyes burn, because the levels of chlorine were off-the-charts in that goddamn thing.) And, if you’re me, you can’t see anything, because you have the vision, without your glasses, of a 90-year-old, pre-cataract surgery. 

It didn’t take the gym teacher long to realize I was not going to be a star student. She gave us all swimming aptitude tests, and, based on how well you did, you were sorted into groups – Beginners, Advanced Beginners, Intermediates, and Advanced. I could not make it across the pool, short-ways, with a kickboard. I was put in the Beginners group. The Beginners group was, at first, a decent-sized one. We stayed in the shallow end, and, basically, our tasks involved learning to swim without the kickboard. 

This wasn’t really an option for me, because I refused to take my hands off the edge of the pool. It was only four feet deep, but I knew about riptides. I just knew if I took one single step away from the edge, I would get sucked into the deep end, and that would be the end for me. I also refused to get my face wet, because every time I did, I ended up inhaling water and coughing like a patient in the lung cancer ward.  

Now, as an adult, I can look back on this in two ways: one, I was being a gigantic baby, and two, I think I was having a panic attack. The baby thing – yeah, I was. I totally was. I was scared, I refused to try anything new, even when the teacher promised me I’d be safe, and I just stood there and dug my feet in at the edge and wouldn’t move. The other kids just hated me. I held up lessons with my tantrums. So yeah, I was a little douche. But two – I was genuinely petrified. To the point of vomiting before swimming class, it scared me so badly. I would shake the minute I walked into the pool hallway. My stomach still clenches up now when I smell chlorine in an enclosed space. So I’m going to say it was about 60/40 – 60% genuine, balls-to-the-wall panic-induced stress disorder of some sort, and 40% general childhood douchery. 

(Also, it bears noting that I am stubborn. Insanely so. If I don’t want to do something, and I can find a way to NOT do the something, I will not do it. I just grit my teeth and refuse. I am a two-year-old having a hissy fit, even now, when I am not wanting to do something. So getting me to let go of the tiled edge of that pool of death was not happening.) 

The gym teacher – it was a small school, and she was our teacher from elementary school to senior year – never 100% gave up on me, although she did, after a while, realize I wasn’t ever going to win any swimming competitions. There was a day when we all had to jump in the deep end. Just jump in. We didn’t have to swim anywhere. I don’t know what this was supposed to teach us, or prove. But when it got to my turn, I just stood there, frozen, until she finally told me, gently, I could sit this one out. I gave her a bit of a hard time, back in the day, but all in all, she wasn’t a bad person. And, as mentioned, I was guilty of douchery. I can’t deny that. 

By freshman year of high school, the Beginners class was down to me, a transfer student who probably weighed 90 pounds soaking wet (no pun intended) and was also as blind as I was without his glasses, and one of the special-needs students who came to class with us. No one else even used the shallow end. They were my brethren, those two. We would grip the wall and hold on for dear life and watch the clock tick off the minutes until we could get out of the water and have another six days until we had to do it all over again. I don’t think we talked much. Once and a while, one of us would halfheartedly try something with the kickboard, then look sadly at one another, sigh, and go back to gripping the wall. 

One day, the gym teacher was absent, and we had a substitute. She was robust. She was young, energetic, and she took no guff. She told us, immediately upon entering the pool, that we’d be diving off the diving board that day. My two comrades-at-arms and I went to the shallow end to hang out while everyone did this and she screamed, “Where are YOU THREE GOING?” 

By “we’ll be diving off the diving board today,” she meant we would ALL be jumping off the diving board today. Not just the Advanced Beginners on up; all of us. Including myself and the other two guys who couldn’t swim. 

Kids started diving, having the time of their lives, because we weren’t ALLOWED to use the board. That board was for the SWIM TEAM. This was exciting! And forbidden! I kept moving to the back of the line. Maybe we’d run out of time before it got to my turn. Maybe something would happen. Someone could drown; it happened all the time on the nightly news. Maybe there would be a fire drill. Something could happen. The powers that be intervened, sometimes, right? That happened, right? 

Then, my turn. No one left but me. Somehow, the other two kids in the Beginners had already gone (or maybe passed out and been carted off; I wasn’t paying much attention to anything but my own over-loud heartbeat at that point.) The other students, standing around the edge of the pool, all leggy and lovely, started talking amongst themselves in hushed tones. They didn’t like me much, but they were well aware that I DID NOT SWIM. I mean, how could they not be? We’d been in the same swimming classes for almost a decade. 

“Well?” Sub said, bright eyed and avid. 

“I don’t swim,” I said. I was starting to shake. I couldn’t even get myself to climb the ladder. 

“Everyone swims. Get up there.” I didn’t move. “Class, look at this! She’s too scared to climb the ladder! Come on, baby, everyone can swim!” 

I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I stood at the base of the ladder, petrified, frozen, my eyes closed, wishing for the earth to open up, for something to happen. The regular gym teacher would not have allowed this. This was – this had to be illegal, right? For an adult to do this? In front of everyone? To not only force me to jump to my death, but to mock me? 

One of the popular kids piped up. “Um, she doesn’t? Swim, I mean? She can’t. She can’t even swim without a kickboard. She doesn’t even go in the deep end.” 

Sub rolled her eyes. “Fine.  Jump in from the edge, then.” 

I moved the few steps to the edge, but couldn’t make myself jump. I couldn’t. The water was too deep. I would sink. I would sink and drown. In this stinking, chlorinated, peer-pressure hell. 

She walked over, briskly. “You won’t jump in?” 

I shook my head no. The other children were, at this point, embarrassed for me. Which is possibly worse than being made fun of. 

“This is nonsense. You can swim. Everyone else jumped in. A big girl like you, acting like a baby.” 

Sub then, cocking her arms back, planted them in the center of my shoulderblades and shoved me into the deep end of the pool. 

I sank. Like a stone. When I finally bobbed to the surface, I could hear screaming, the other kids around the edge of the pool. I gasped for breath and went back under almost immediately. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to fix this. I was flailing and splashing and aware enough to be thinking, rationally, so this, this is what it’s like to drown. I didn’t think it would be so bright. I didn’t think it would be so loud.

The next time I surfaced, something smashed me where my neck meets my shoulder. Bright electric pain shot up into my head and down my arm. I grabbed at whatever it was. They say people who are drowning will pull you down; they will. I can attest to that. Because I pulled Sub, who was attempting to save me with the aluminum pole used for that purpose (and doing a bang-up job of almost knocking me unconscious with it) right into the pool with me. I bear-hugged her. I wrapped myself around her like an anaconda. If I was going down, goddammit, this bitch was going down with me. 

She somehow managed to haul me to the edge and get me out, where I sat, dripping, gasping, crying. She shook water off of herself, glaring at me, at her ruined clothing. 

“You should have told me you couldn’t swim,” she hissed. “Get up and get changed. You’re done here.” 

She didn’t come back. That was the last time she subbed for us. I don’t know if she was fired, or if she quit. I didn’t report her. The grapevine in a school is vicious; I’m sure the word got around what she’d done. Times were different then. Now she’d probably end up in jail on assault charges. Then, teachers were afforded a little more leeway. I just know she didn’t come back, and that our regular teacher never made me go in the deep end again. And that, surprisingly, to their credit, the other students didn’t mock me. I guess my near-death experience had saved me from that. 
I think back about this sometimes. I think, this couldn’t have happened like this. I do tend to put a spin on events; maybe I made it up and it didn’t happen at all? Maybe I fell in? Maybe she bumped me by accident? Memory is a funny thing, and I’ll never be accused of being a completely reliable narrator. All I can say is, this is how I remember it went down. This is what I remember happened to me. If it didn’t happen this way, blame my brain; lack of oxygen can play funny tricks, sometimes. If my body is 55% water, is my memory only 55% accurate?

I still don’t swim. I love the water, though. I love the ocean; I love lakes, rivers, mud puddles.  I’ll even get into the water, sometimes, but I won’t go over my head. Why court disaster? I walked away from it once. I can’t imagine I’ll be as lucky the second time.

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