Saturday, March 5, 2011

Drama at lap swim

Saturday: Swim 1,600, water run 40 minutes, bike 40 miles

This was the first of several scheduled "Saturday Triples" in which I'm supposed to swim, bike, and run. The run and bike went off without a hitch. The swim, on the other hand, nearly ended in fisticuffs.

No, seriously.

I showed up at the pool, on a bit of a schedule, and I was relieved to see that while there are a lot of swimmers, there was still a lane with only one guy in it. (Important note filled with ominous foreshadowing: I'm not one of those people who's fussy about sharing a lane. When I was on the swim team growing up, we routinely swam with nine or ten people to a lane, so having to divide one big, wide lane between two people is nothing. And when I see swimmers hanging around waiting for me to finish, I always encourage them to jump right in. Contrary to what some people seem to think, a swimming pool lap lane is not a treadmill where it's one person per.)


So I asked, "Mind if I jump in with you?" And the guy said, "Yes, actually, I do. I need this whole lane." Great. A jerk. I responded, "Well, it doesn't actually work that way," and proceeded to put on my cap and goggles. (I'm a jerk, too.) By the time he got back to my end, I was standing in the water, waiting for him to see me and move over. He was doing some ridiculously wide elementary backstroke every other 25 and was deliberately going right down the middle of the lane. He stopped and said, "What are you doing? I told you you couldn't get in this lane," so I repeated myself, told him the rest of the pool was full, and that he didn't get to claim an entire lane for just himself. He ignored me and kept swimming, so I went ahead and picked a side and started swimming, too.

I'd done almost a 50 when he actually grabbed my leg and pulled me backward and started screaming at me. I won't repeat all that was said, but he was seriously angry and called me a few choice names. I got out and called the front desk of the gym, fully expecting that they would send someone to come throw him out. Then I got back in the water. (I'm a persistent jerk.) The guy resumed yelling at me and threatened to pick me up and bodily remove me from "his" lane. I stayed calm in the things I said—not that I got a whole sentence out the entire time he was ranting at me—but I blatantly refused to get out of the lane. At that point, how could I? I was sort of more hoping he'd try to punch me in the face so the next call could be to the cops.

My son's swim coach, Lucy, happened to be there and came over to defend me, and he started yelling at her, too. Then the front desk person showed up, but unfortunately it was a rather meek younger woman who had no idea what to do with the raving lunatic. (Why couldn't they have sent that buff trainer with the 51-inch biceps?) She told me her biggest concern was just getting me away from the guy and asked if I would please go swim in the spot that Lucy had just vacated. I did it, because I really did need to get swimming, and the front desk girl looked like she was going to have a nervous breakdown.

But don't worry, the bad guys don't win, although they do have the temporary pleasure of hogging an entire lane to themselves for their whole workout while everyone else plays nice and shares.

I guess what happened afterward is that pretty much every single witness to the event went and complained to the owner, and when I got done water running, my husband (who I'm sure would have been happy to do some face-punching himself had he not been out on the treadmills at the time) insisted that we go talk to him, too. The owner was very helpful, and said it wasn't the first complaint against the guy and he was thinking of expelling him from the club. The phone was being dialed as we left.

I'm scheduled to swim again tomorrow morning. It would be nice if it doesn't become a war zone.


  1. Wow. But I have to say, part of my reaction here is that there needs to be a way to announce you are getting into a lane without asking permission. As in, "Shall we swim sides or circles?" instead of, "May I get in?" Because, clearly that does not always work as expected.

  2. Talk about a guy that not only needs to get thrown out of the club, but also could use a serious ass-kicking. The fact that he laid his hands on you and tried to intimidate you should have resulted in immediate expulsion. Kudos to you for standing your ground. I very much hope that you never see that guy's face again. Good luck on today's swim!

  3. C: No kidding. You try to be polite…

    C: I have to say, I struggle with whether I really did the right thing by being so confrontational. So it kind of makes my day to hear a church deacon call for a "serious ass-kicking."

  4. And oh yes, I totally think you did the right thing. Christian pointed out later that the gym needs some signage about how lap swim is supposed to work. That should also be part of the long-term jerk abatement program.

  5. Christian, "ass-kicking deacon"March 6, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Well, this deacon thinks that the situation called for a David and Goliath solution - stand up to unjust bullies! :)

    In all seriousness, we, as Christians, are called to speak the truth, be just, and stand up for righteousness. Being meek doesn't mean kowtowing to tyrants/bullies and their whims. I think what you did fits those parameters.

  6. Wow!! ... and on top of that, wow!!

    Guys can be real jerks - I have many issues with the breed I call gym rats, and this guy sounds like a bit more than the typical gym rat. You did do the right thing by trying to follow gym rules and etiquette - I'm glad he didn't really go mental on you or something.

    As a side note - I don't like sharing a lane because I am so slow and I become very self-conscious when the person I'm sharing with completes 2 laps and I'm still working on one length of the pool :-\

  7. I would have hurt him if he touched or yelled at me, probably in a very sensitive spot.

    Hope they send him on his way there are rules!

  8. I see I am in the minority and don't wish to disagree with any of the comments or your decisions. But I would say in general to give the jerk a wide berth. You risk "swim lane rage" or worse these days. People are tightly strung and under a lot of pressure. Maybe he had a pistol in his speedo? (haha AK.) I had an older female client once whose remark is apropos: "I was in the right, but I could have been dead right." I think the proper course of action is to have the management evict the miscreant. I also think you have a great claim for civil battery and can easily get a judgment against him in small claims court, which will change his behavior. I am glad it turned out the way it did. AK