Went down to get a Butterfinger from the vending machine the other, and it spawned a whole set of memories. The vending machine was one of those old spiral ones where you punch in codes, and it drops the candy bar in the tray.
When I was really little (maybe 4?) my dad used to take me to swim practice. We were in Sherbrook, I believe. I want to say it was the local YMCA, but Google Maps tells me there aren’t any in Sherbrook.
I don’t remember much about it… I remember there was this a pretty blond instructor who thought it was cute when I tried to speak French. She would put big black tire tubes around us and instruct us to kick with are hands against the drain. The pool was large one, with a stainless steel drain that ran all the way around the edge and a highdive diving board at one end.
At the end of evey class we would have free time, where we could cease the ordered calisthenics and do as we pleased. The shallow end was pretty shallow, and most kids were content to splashing one another or spinning in their tubes to make themselves dizzy.
I had my eyes on the deep end.
A number of spare tubes were drifting about, discarded by some girls who were clinging to the ladder off to one side.
When I was sure the instructor wasn’t looking, I slipped low in my tube so that only my nose was above water, and moved slowly toward the deep end. I looked like one of the spare tubes!
The pool was divided by a spare plastic Olympic lane divider, the kind that doesn’t use rope. Because of that, the water in the high dive area was sheltered from the rowdiness, and was glassy smooth. I slipped under the barrier and floated put into the middle with my tube.
It was magical. The tile of the pool was deep blue, and looking below me, it seemed to go on forever. The vaulted ceiling was criscrossed with corrugated tin and steel beams, with aluminium mercury vapour lamps dotting every 50 feet or so.
The water below me was so warm, clear and smooth, I felt like I was floating on nothing, suspended in the very center of this great expanse.
It was both thrilling and terrifying.
Eventually of the kids spied me and yelled, and the teacher fished me out with a long pole.
Afterwards, I would go to the locker room. They had a giant shower with dozens of nozzles. I would stay in the pool as long as possible. Partly because I loved the water, and partly because I was shy.
When I finally did get to the showers, it was usually empty.
I’d point a couple of the showerheads at one spot and sit on the floor in my swimtrunks, water coming at me from all sides. I would just stay there, crosslegged, feeling the water all around me.
One time a teenaged boy came by concerned and asked why I was crying. I explained that I was fine, and what looked like tears was just the water coming off my eyelashes.
When I got out, I would dry off with my sailboat beach towel and stand under the blowdryers.
My dad would be waiting out in the lobby, a large open space that reminded me of an airport. Though, I guess everything was really big at that age…
They had the spiral vending machines off to one end, and he’d always let me buy something. He’d let me hit the buttons, and I’d always be afraid I’d get the code wrong.
Usually got Bounty (it’s like Almond
Joy, but their whole thing is this island theme) or Rolo, my dads favourite.
So crazy. I hadn’t thought about it for years.