Friday, June 26, 2015

When You're Old Enough It's Just Intimidation


I am a peaceful person. I never look for trouble. In fact I go out of my way to avoid things that could possibly, maybe, if things went wrong, become trouble. That includes drama. I can't imagine anyone liking it less that I do.

Even so, trouble and drama seem to enter into my life on a regular basis. They seem to be the uninvited guests of my life that I just cannot get to leave.

I can't even escape them at the YMCA ...

I go to the YMCA 3 times a week to swim. I've been doing so since the middle of January this year. If there was such a thing I would be a "legacy" member there. My parents joined this YMCA in the 1980s and have had a membership there ever since. That's somewhere close to 30 years.

They were members (as I am) for the use of the pool. They did (as I do) what you would expect someone that's using the pool would do. Showed up with their gym bag in hand, used the locker room to change in and out of their swimming suit; and swam in the pool.

Since they've been members they were able to enjoy the use of the YMCA without any issues of any kind, sans water temperature. I've been going for 6 months and already I'm embroiled in the middle of controversy.

It all started a couple months ago on a Saturday. I had gone in to swim laps at the pool during open swim time. This mean the pool has just one lane that is partitioned off for lap swimming. The rest of the pool is split in half at the start of the deep end. The rule is a simple one. You cannot use the "lap lane" unless you're swimming laps.

It seems simple enough, yet when I got to the pool that day there was a woman in the lane. She wasn't swimming laps, she was just ... meandering in the shallow end of the lane. Now it's not uncommon for someone to stay in the lane after they're done swimming for a minute or two of rest.

So I politely waited for her to exit the lane. After nearly 30 minutes of politely waiting I approached the lifeguard on duty. The lifeguard was a young girl that couldn't have been much more than 18 years old and she was of small stature. I asked if the rule was in fact that the "lap lane" was only for lap swimming. She replied it was. I then asked if this woman was breaking the rule. She confirmed my suspicion that she was. I then asked her if there was anything she could do about it. She shrugged her shoulders and said no, she had a history of being "difficult" and there was nothing she could do.

So I politely waited another 15 minutes and finally decided to ask this woman how much longer she was going to be using the lane. She told me to just jump in and use it, she was happy to share. At that time that didn't work for me. You see, I swim using a lap snorkel. I have a bad neck and it keeps me from being able to properly turn my head to breathe when I swim. So I swim with my face down the entire time. I don't see well in front of me and my concern was that I would run into her.

I explained all this to her and to my surprise she ducked under the lane markers and let me use the lane. At the time I thought it was a nice thing for her to do.

A couple weeks later was my next interaction with her. This time it was on a weekday and her husband was with her. They look Russian to me. I could best describe her by telling you to envision a Russian gymnast whose has gained 60lbs and made it her 60s. To describe him you have to have seen one of those old war movies. Think the HUGE old Russian General with the big head to match.

I have been calling them the "Gorbechav's".

Since I swim with my head down I had no idea that they had entered the pool. Even if I had known, I wouldn't have had any kind of concern, as my first interaction with her was amicable and she knew I had politely waited. So if she was there to "meander" in the lap lane, I would have expected her to wait. After all, I did the same for her.

Imagine my surprise when I almost hit her because she just came into the lap lane. So I stopped swimming and asked her why she was in the lane. I didn't get much of answer. The response I received was something close to "too bad".

I wasn't about to let her take the lane away from me. She had no intentions of swimming and even if she did, I was there first and on weekdays all the lanes are open for laps. She could have chosen any other lane. This was just her attempt to intimidate me.

That is never going to happen. Intimidation is nothing more that bullying for adults. When I was young I was a small in stature and I had my share of experiences with bullies. My growth spurt was a little late at 17 but once it happened I became a pretty big guy. Large enough that's it's rare for me to have issues with anyone.

In the past whenever an attempt has been made to bully me I have just ignored it and went about what I was doing. I will not tolerate that kind of behavior and certainly will not validate that kind of behavior by giving in.

That was what I did this time. I told her she was being rude and I went back to swimming in lane. She remained on one side of the lane, hanging on the lane marker while she spoke with her husband. On about my third lap with her in the lane I was passing her and she actually kicked me in the face.

I'll have to admit I was startled. Rather than saying anything more I stopped my swim. As I got the the edge of the pool I was approached my the lifeguard on duty and (fortunately for me) the pool manager. They had seen that something had happened and wanted to know what. I explained what happened and they believed me. Not just because they saw something happened, I had a nice large red mark on my face.

I was assured that they were going to deal with this issue. I was also told that this couple had been creating problems for some time. After hearing all this I assumed that they would be having their membership revoked. I assumed wrong. The following week they were back at the pool. Mrs. Gorbechav wasn't in the lap lane and Mr Gorbechav reminded me a lot of a hippopotamus. No matter where I was in the pool he was pointed towards me, the only thing I could see was his head. The look on his face could best be described as intimidating. Not to me, but I could see where it might work on some.

This behavior continued for a couple more weeks and then they just disappeared. I thought they had left the YMCA. So I thought the it was all done. Until this week.

This Tuesday while I'm swimming in the lap lane I almost hit someone again. Now you have to work at getting that close to being in my path. I don't swim that fast and there's no way you cannot see me in the pool. With the snorkel I use I am the equivalent of the old guy that rides a trike with the flag on the fiberglass pole.

She didn't stay in the lane so I figured that was just her way of telling me to go to hell. So I continued swimming and on the next lap  as I came up to the wall I see this huge body standing against the wall. When I bring my head up out of the water I find it is none other than Mr. Gorbechav himself, giving me an ugly look. I just turned around like I was doing a regular lap and ignored him.

I get to the deep end of the pool and as I turned around I could see he has decided to start swimming in the lane. Now I'm sure he's trying to intimidate me because there are 3 other lanes open. Even so he's swimming on one side of the lane but he's so large he's actually going over the center line.

Undaunted I continue to swim on the other side of the lane, squeezing past him. I was waiting for him to do something stupid. After 4 or 5 laps the lifeguard on duty who was another young gal came over to me and when I got to the wall told me that there was another lane open. I told her I wasn't moving because I wasn't going to give this guy the idea that he could interrupt my workout.

I continue to swim laps and at this point, I'm about 20 minutes into my regular 65 minute swim. Mr Gorbechav isn't in good enough shape to even float for 10 minutes and by the time I'm at lap 20; he has now stopped and is just taking up one side of the lane in the shallower end of the pool talking to Mrs. Gorbachev. He remained there until I finished my swim.

At the end of the swim as I take a minute to rest the manager of the pool approaches me. I explain to her what happened and she said she already knew, she was watching the whole thing and that he would the issue was being "dealt with". She proceeded to tell me that there had been an "incident" with these same people the previous Saturday. She didn't tell me what happened but made a comment at one point that the police should have been called.

At this point I don't know how they are going to "deal" with this. One of these 2 have already kicked me in the face. That in itself should have cost them their membership. Add to that it isn't just my word that they're being aggressive, the manager of the pool has witnessed both of these incidents.

I can only hope the YMCA actually does revoke these idiots' memberships. The next closest pool is at a YMCA in a slightly larger town about 20 miles away. I hope they enjoy the drive and think of me every time they make it.

If the YMCA lets them keep their membership, I'm going to ask them to take down that anti-bullying poster on display in the pool managers office.

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