When I showed up for pool class this past Sunday I thought I got the time wrong because nobody was in the the classroom pool.
I stood still and looked for clues and saw familiar pool classmates moving their equipment to the lap pool, our temporary classroom for today.
This would've been a good time to pivot away and skip class.
The last time I was in a lap pool was in 1985 at the Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale. At the start of my race I slipped off a wet starting block (true rookie move) and started my race treading water.
It felt like minutes passed in the seconds it took to gain forward momentum without touching the nearby wall and disqualifying myself.
I plodded through the race, never even coming close to catching up, and upon finishing found myself the recipient of much clapping from other (faster, better) athletes.
If you've never been the recipient of the slow clap for good sportsmanship, I would describe it as a reverse cheer, the opposite of what you would get if you set a new world record.
My swimming career ended then and there. I retired my goggles, hung up my speedos and have steadfastly avoided lap pools since then.
But I guess today it was meant to be.
Why fight it?
The part of me that usually fought unexpected change is especially subdued now, having just last week had to practice peaceful silence when my happy quiet routine was interrupted, loudly, by roofers.
I really didn't mind the roofers banging and the clanging and the stomping.
What really bothered me was having to clear off my deck sanctuary, the place I retreated to every evening to witness the moment the very first solar light turned on.
Usually before it could change from blue to purple to red to yellow to green and back to blue again, three or four more lights would come on until all 24 bulbs across the deck lit up.
At that point, it would be rude to walk away from the lights since they'd just arrived to work, wouldn't you agree? So then I would linger awhile watching the sherbet colored light beams slice through the humid summer nights.
This was my normal happy until the whole "new roof" thing happened, causing me to divert my attention to other pursuits of happiness.
I fell back into digital archives, peering at documents created on the best and worst days of stranger's lives.
I emptied a closet and prepare it to become something else, something better.
I started writing again.
The roofers have now finished and a familiar peace returns to my deck.
I haven't put the solar lights back up.
Maybe I will later - maybe tomorrow? - definitely not until telling you what happened in the lap pool.
As I walked toward the lap pool, classmates greeted me from their positions on the entry stairs. It's cold, they warned. I nodded and proclaimed my determination to face it. I stepped quickly down the stairs and dunked right under water to just get it over with.
It felt fantastic. As other students were arranging themselves along the lap pool toward the shallow ends where they could stand, I picked the deep spot right in the middle of the pool and had the time of my life doing pilates while treading water.
Towards the middle of class, the instructor had us swim modified laps (hands only, feet only, backwards) and then we settled into a final intervals of kicking. Holding on to the wall, face up, we kick our legs from the bottom of the pool to the surface and back down.
For the final set we do intervals of fast and slow kicking right by the surface, facing upwards as if we were swimming backstroke. I dig deep in my soul and churn up white water for the entire fast interval, impressing myself if no one else.
On this unusual class in an unusual location, our instructor does an unusual thing and asks the class if they would like to have Gladiator Races.
Before many can respond she tells them to pick a teammate. The people around me slide toward the far end of the pool, away from the instructor's encouragement.
We chat until Joyce, our instructor, comes to our side of the pool and teams me up with Nancy. We twist two pool noodles together and sit back-to-back so that she looks like she is sitting in a chariot and I would say I am the horse but the horse would be in front and going forwards and I'm in back and going backwards.
Because we are on the opposite of the pool from the rest of the chariot teams, Joyce instructs us to cross the pool and demonstrate so that the other teams can see how this chariot thing works.
Nancy squares herself towards the other side of the pool and keeps us going straight as I turn my legs back into a turbo-kicking whitewater-splashing mermaid horse engine, crossing the pool quickly.
We stop before crashing into anyone, then turn ourselves around, ready to race.
Joyce then asked the class, "Who wants to race them?"
No one wanted to race us.
Each and every person left the pool instead of racing us.
In my little world, this a lifetime win -- big enough to cancel out the slow clap of shame and loud enough to lure me into future dates with the lap pool.