Back in the Water

This week the local aquatics center opened for the first time since the COVID scare locked the state down back in late March.  I have already swum twice and have lanes reserved nearly every day of the week ahead.

I missed the pool terribly when it was closed.  The water has always been my buffer between the world and my home.  I finish a long shift at work, I stop at the pool and plunge into the cool water and all of the city comes off.  By the time I get home, I am relaxed, feel great and am totally into chilling with the family. 

With the pool closed, I suffered.  I suffered physically and mentally.  My physical conditioning declined.  I was irritable.  I slept poorly.  I felt older, stiff and slower moving.  I hurt my back a year ago and have occasional numbness in my legs that worsened.  My diet went out of whack.  I felt stressed all the time.

I used to walk over to the aquatics center and look in the center’s back windows where I would see the pool, still filled with water, but the lights darkened.  Why did they have to close it down? I asked the night sky? 

I support all the people who have taken the often unpopular decisions to shut down society while we tried to get a handle on the epidemic and keep people, particularly our elderly, safe. 

Still I railed at individual decisions that affected me.  Why take the hoops down from the basketball courts that my daughter and I used to shoot at when there was never anyone else playing?  Why shut down sixth grade basketball playoffs held in a giant gym attended by maybe thirty people in a space that could accommodate a couple thousand?  Why close my pool, my beloved pool, that when I went there at 8 at night, usually offered my choice of multiple empty lanes?  Some nights when the high school swimmers weren’t practicing I was the only one there in the 11 lane pool.

Couldn’t they have instituted the procedures they have now to keep it open?  Wear a mask into the building, maintain social distancing, you are required to reserve your lane.  Everyone leaves the pool at 50 minutes after the hour and the next group comes in at the top of the hour.  Twice a day the pool is closed briefly for cleaning.  Limited people in the building.  No showers.

When I swam last night, in the lane next to me was a man who I have seen there for years.  Instead of swimming he walks back and forth in the water.  He is a large man and moves slowly, but he rarely misses a night.  After his walk and my swim, we would often sit with others in the large spa (hot tub/Jacuzzi) and pass small talk or just nod good evening.  The spa is closed still for more obvious reasons.

I wonder what this man did all those nights when the pool was closed.  Another man who used to swim every night discovered walking and I would often see him out walking with his wife.  I hope it helped.  I wonder about all the others who used to swim as often I did.  How did they make out these past hard months?

I write all this not to whine about what has passed or to celebrate what has opened.  I write it to reflect on all the ways the epidemic has injured us.  Many have suffered grievous losses.  (Far more than my minor complaints). Some have lost lives, lost health, lost work, lost joy.  It isn’t over yet, and there will still likely be more hardships ahead, but we should be kind to each other, and we should all work for safe ways to find our way back to what we lost.  I am ever so thankful I can swim again.

Stay safe everyone.


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