I was ploughing up and down the pool at the gym the other day when I noticed a guy get into the lane next to me. Nothing unusual about that, but this guy was wearing a swimming cap with an MP3 player attached to it, and he proceeded to carry out very elaborate series of stretching exercises for about 5 minutes before he began swimming. Each time I approached that end of the pool, I glanced at him: from the shape of him, he didn’t look much like a serious swimmer, so I couldn’t help but find all that stretching a bit ostentatious. Ah well, at least he wasn't in my lane, eh?
Eventually, he started swimming, but about ten minutes later, he was getting out of the pool… coincidentally at about the same time as I was finishing up. As he walked down the side of the pool towards the changing room, this guy suddenly burst into a trot and delivered an imaginary ball as though he was bowling in a cricket match. Okay then, I thought, clearly a bit of a twat. I walked a bit faster to make sure we didn’t arrive at the stairs down to the changing rooms at the same time and carried on with my day.
As I sometimes do, after my swim, I elected to spend five minutes or so baking myself in the sauna. Usually we’re all very British in there, and no one really makes small talk and we all sit in silence. Today, shortly after I sat down, an older guy - perhaps in his 60s - got in, turned the timer around and looked around, saying in a broad Mancunian accent:
“If any of you were waiting on that, you’re cooked. And I said cooked, not fucked…”
He then proceeded to engage anyone and everyone in chit-chat. I usually hate this kind of situation, but the guy was so amiable that it was impossible not to join in. He was great fun, and I ended up staying in the sauna about twice as long as normal as he told a story about how health and safety rules mean that a fireman of his acquaintance can’t use a three rung step ladder unless it has a hand-rail… even though they regularly use 150ft ladders without no handrails to get into burning buildings. Health and Safety gone mad, I tell you!
About halfway through our session in the sauna, this guy asked if anyone had been up in the pool today. I said I had.
“It’s a bit bloody busy up there, isn’t it? You’re really arse to tail in your lane”
Well, it was an open weekend, and the smaller pool was being used for some aqua aerobics, meaning that a lane in the larger pool had been roped off for families, squeezing all us exercisers into fewer lanes.
“Yeah, well I managed a few lengths, so the quack will be happy. I usually come during the week at about 3pm, so it’s normally a lot quieter than this zoo”
It turns out that this chap had suffered a series of mini-strokes and a heart attack, and under Doctor’s orders, he tried to swim 1000m a day, stretching his back out afterwards (two slipped discs!) in the sauna.
“It can be really boring though, so my wife’s given me this MP3 player to keep me busy. The only problem is that if a really good track comes on, I lose count of how many lengths I’ve done….”
It dawned on me that this entertaining guy in the sauna was, in fact, the same guy that I’d adjudged to be an idiot in the pool.
And I’ve always been so good about making snap judgements of people based upon the flimsiest of evidence too….. If I can’t trust in that, then what can I believe in?
What’s the world coming to? O tempora, O mores.