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For a family that doesn’t take kindly to rules in general, we spend a lot of time moaning about other people who don’t follow them — especially when it comes to plain, everyday ‘etiquette’. Now I’m not talking which fork to eat salad with or whether one should wear white after labor day, I’m talking about practical things.

In Gill’s case, it comes down to swimming etiquette in the pool. If you’re out at sea or in a lake, it’s not much of a problem. The only thing you have to compete with or bump into is boats, the odd huge boulder, perhaps a large shark or slimy things and possibly plastic garbage.  But pools are different and, if one doesn’t follow the rules, it creates havoc for everyone.

I’ll bet many people who swim on a casual basis don’t realize that there is such a thing as ‘pool etiquette’. But in pools, there are lanes with markers. One is meant to stay within those markers. It’s just like driving a car, really. If you veer into another lane or let your mind (or legs) drift as though you’re texting and driving, you’ll come to no good end. The shrill whistle of the lifeguard will be the equivalent of the cop pulling you over to issue a stern warning or a ticket. Or it could be compared to the car driver who opens his door into a cyclist, possibly doing a great deal of damage to the unsuspecting victim. Cyclists are always railing against inconsiderate drivers , the ones refusing to acknowledge that cyclists have lanes and deserve respect too.

Gill tries to swim most days to relieve her arthritis pain and is a good and a relatively fast swimmer. Thus, as is proper, she swims in the Fast Lane — not unlike the passing lane on the freeway. Unfortunately, there are some , uh, plodders that don’t realize there IS a fast lane and don’t recognize that they are, mistakenly, in it. Although you’d think they might notice when Gill (and others) swim right over them. They are left spluttering, flapping, splashing, blissfully unaware of the heinous crime they have just committed. They should have had enough self-awareness to know their level of swimming expertise and shuffle over to where the ‘barely staying above the water line people’ are. At the very least, they should move aside so the real swimmers can swim.

As one who has always struggled with sports, I have known since a young age that I will always be the one taken aside at the skating rink and ushered into the middle where the ‘barely upright’ skaters can practice falling without harming anyone else. I was also always the last one in the lineup chosen for a team — didn’t matter which kind of team –baseball, volleyball, running…I couldn’t do anything other than embarrass myself. But I was self-aware. I didn’t have to be told to stay out of the way…I just did!

One of Gill’s pet peeves is the people doing backstroke in the fast lane who, by the time they reach the other end of the pool, are at the opposite corner. I know it’s hard to see where you’re going when you’re on your back, but surely there’s an app for that? Or an alarm bell to warn of the collision you’re about to have. Something.

Good swimmers often do flip turns at the end of the pool, going underwater, turning direction and then resurfacing to swim back the other way. Pool etiquette says that, when you’ve reached the end of a lap, you move away so you don’t block the flippers. Some people think the end of the lap means chat time. It’s not unlike a coffee or tea break — a chance to chat with their friends and share the latest gossip. Also, NOT DONE!

I know Gill berates my funny swimming ‘stroke’, but, although my form sucks, I do manage to stay in one lane, avoid collisions, and don’t impede other swimmers — most of the time. If I get in her way, she’s not above swimming over me. Fine. I know I deserve it. And if we happen to be swimming in the same lane, I let (perhaps ‘let’ is inaccurate — I have little choice in the matter) her take the lead and am always aware of where she is. This means I’m always in her wake and sputtering as I try to avoid taking on water, but I do what is expected of myself. In turn, if we’re swimming in my pool here, I agree to yell at her if a thunderstorm blows in and she can’t hear it. (She’s almost totally deaf with her earplugs and cap on.) And she has the good grace to know that she is, in essence, a guest in MY pool (the community pool where I basically have reserved the far left lane– a fact every new set of lifeguards quickly learns at the beginning of each summer. That is part of MY particular pool etiquette. Swimmers know, when I appear on deck, to vacate that lane.)

With swimming, it is pretty easy to tell, even before they enter the water, who is a decent swimmer, who is a flapper, who is slow, who is fast, and who is simply out to be seen. The swim suits give them away. For the real, serious swimmers, it’s Speedos all the way. The plainer, the better. Gill always refers to her basic black Speedos as her ‘narc’ suits. Not suitable for a Caribbean resort vacation, since you’ll get funny looks and stick out like a cop at a pot convention, but great for getting the business of swimming done.

Women with flappy, colorful suits are most often middle-aged or older and should be avoided at all costs. I fit into this category.

Women or girls with skimpy bikinis are just out for show, to attract guys, and may or may not know how to swim. They will be found clustered at the shallow end, chatting, primping, and otherwise cluttering the water, waiting for that cute guy to approach them or, better yet, save them when they pretend to swim and end up staging a drowning.

Now that you know the ‘rules of the road’, as it were, be careful out there! And, Gill, you’re welcome for my attempt to clarify.