Do The Swim

July 18, 2003

When I was growing up (having now passed the peak I’m now on the rapid downhill slope to death), swimming was an essential part of summer. In fact I even spent one summer on a pool swim team, even though I was absolutely terrible at it. Oh, I can swim, but when it comes to doing the crawl competitively I’m the guy you’d rather have pushing the opposing team to stuff themselves with hot dogs less than an hour before their match.

I have no idea why I stuck it out, especially I hated getting up every morning at the crack of nine just so I could go to the pool, dive in to freezing water, and be verbally lashed by a displaced Scandinavian for developing hypothermia. Tennessee’s air is like a sauna in summer, and it usually rained overnight, so the water would be good and chilly, which made the mandatory dive-in exactly like that Finnish tradition of sitting in a hot steamy room for an hour then diving into the snow. This is an essential part of Scandinavian summers, where it’s referred to as "svjmmjng".

But I digress. The problem with going swimming was I never knew what to call those, well, shorts with the sewn-in mesh underwear. There’s a variety of terms: "swim trunks" was unattractive because wearing "trunks" suggests either that you’re carrying around a deformed elephant or that what you’re wearing is so huge you, like a humpback whale, have a thick layer of blubber, although this would have made diving into cold water a lot easier. And "swim suit" suggested that it was a suit, and it wasn’t enough fabric to make a suit even though what I wore was significantly larger than the strap the Scandinavian coach wore that was so tight around his waist it severely cut the blood flow to his brain. You might as well have called the things a "tuxedo", although that would have been appropriate those summers at Boy Scout camp when I and my fellow campers would gather at the edge of the pier out over the lake like a group of penguins.

Unlike a swimming pool you never automatically dive into a lake. Instead we did what penguins do: we edged closer and closer until somebody fell in, and if he wasn’t eaten by a sea lion or a giant squid or one of the cafeteria workers then we’d all gradually follow, even though the lake thermostat was always set to "Reykjavik". At least we did some fun things in the lake, like life saving class. We were too young, too small, and too affected by hypothermia to learn to save anyone else’s life so we learned to save ourselves. One class involved jumping into the water completely dressed in jeans, shoes, and a sweatshirt, just in case we ever found ourselves in a Rudyard Kipling novel, or some other circumstance in which we’d be likely to fall, fully dressed, off an ocean liner. Blowing bubbles into our shirts so they turned into life vests was not only fun, but we didn’t have to worry about what we were wearing.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

Some questions for the week

Why does a gynecologist leave the room when the woman gets undressed?

If a person owns a piece of land do they own it all the way down to the core of the earth?

Why can’t women put on mascara with their mouth closed?

Is it possible to brush your teeth without wiggling your behind?

Why are they called stairs inside but steps outside?

Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

Why does mineral water that ‘has trickled through mountains for centuries’ have a ‘use by’ date?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp no one would eat?

Why can you now buy peanut butter and jelly mixed together? Who thought it was too much trouble to have them in separate jars?

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, ‘I think I’ll squeeze these dangly things here and drink whatever comes out’?

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