It’s my own fault. I should never have started. I always suspected swimmers were a bunch of self-satisfied wankers, and I was right.

Since I fell in a canal as a boy I’ve not been the best swimmer. I keep my head so far out of the water that I swim like a giraffe. I was once considered for a lifeguard job at the local swimming pools, until they realised I would be safe only with at least 2 competent swimmers already in the pool. Instead I served the lifeguards in the café, who leaned on the counter thinking they were in Baywatch; giving high–fives every time they passed each other, as though in constant thrall of being able to swim. Wankers.

Despite this I recently started lane-swimming as an alternative to running, which looks so bad for the knees that runners actually wince with each step. Lane swimming is doing lengths until you die of boredom. It’s hard work, but feels good afterwards- basically the opposite of wanking. There are 3 lanes – a fast one for show offs, one for humble types, and one for those who are effectively crap.

Of course for some swimmers this intricate ranking system is too complicated. Some fast swimmers like to harass those in the medium lane. So, as you pootle down the medium lane, someone crawls past like they’re escaping the suction of a sinking ship leaving you looking to lifeguards with the desperation of a penalty appeal, while calling him a wanker. I’ve quickly discovered that swearing angrily at someone while swallowing gallons of water and disappearing below the surface isn’t the most threatening of looks. You are left floundering, wondering why the hell they’re not in the fast lane, but their head isn’t above water for long enough to see you glaring at them.

The more worrying development is that I’ve been swimming for a while now, and I’ve become a better swimmer. I no longer knock my head on the diving boards in the deep end, and I’ve started tutting at slow people in the medium lane, at this rate I’ll be bearing down on the humble types doing the most anti-social of strokes, the butterfly, but suspect it’ll be a while yet.

A version of this post was previously published on LifeAssistanceAgency and is republished here with permission from the author.


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