Monday, July 25, 2011

An ode to the pool

I would die without a pool in the summer.

Well, that's not exactly true because I didn't have access to a pool in 2008 or 2009 and I somehow survived. It wasn't that fun, and my tan lines were a real pain to deal with, but I handled it.

Last summer, I decided to bite the bullet and write a check so that I could join a pool within walking distance of my house.  It's nothing grand--one resident on the apartment complex's website describes it as "glorified bath tub" or something like that. (Me thinks this resident has other issues besides disliking the pool.)  It was the best thing I could've done for myself last summer.

For as absurdly horrendous as last summer was (it was do or die with the dissertation), it was also absurdly crazy wonderful.  My daily schedule would go something like this: wake up at 9am, sit on the back deck with the cats reading anything non-diss related for an hour, work out for an hour, leave for the pool at noon, get home at three, get cleaned up, and then plant my butt at my kitchen table and revise the previous day's writing until Ron came home (5 or 6). Then I would have dinner with Ron, hang out with him until 9pm, and then he would go to bed and I would stay up until 3am writing.

I really loved writing at night. There were few distractions and I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything since everyone else was asleep and every place was closed.  I never really felt tired or exhausted, and I somehow managed to crank the pages out.  I really liked what I produced for the most part. (Well, Chapter One--written over the previous winter--is still pretty embarrassing, but there's nothing more I can do with it.)  I hate complete silence (maddening! oh geez, silence is The Foundation for Writer's Block in my mind), so I would turn on ABC and keep it really low, and I would keep track of time by listening to the TV voices in the back of my mind: local news at 11pm meant I had barely started; Nightline meant "keep going"; Jimmy Kimmel meant that I just might make it; Oprah meant the finish line was in view.

When I went to bed, I could actually feel really at ease that something critical was accomplished and that I wasn't a complete failure at life.  And when I went to the pool the next day, I never really felt guilty (since the rest of the Real World was sitting in a cubical at work) because I knew I would be sitting in my own cubical 8 hours later (and no one was paying me to sit there).

The best part about the pool is the Pool Ladies.  There are two kinds of people at the pool: first, they're all women (men are rare, which is FINE with me), but everyone is either an undergrad at the local university or a very senior citizen.  (And then there's me somewhere in the middle ... I completely defy categorization at this place.)  The Pool Ladies are HILARIOUS.  They talk about EVERYTHING.  And they talk LOUDLY.  Every day that I'm there, I file away a new "Pool Lady Quote of the Day."  Today's, for example, was "Lucy: eat whatever you want because you're gonna be dead a long time, y'know?" followed by loud peals of laughter.

They have lots of opinions about everything, especially modern technology: for example, why would anybody want one of those book things?  (What book things?) You know: those BOOK THINGS.  (WHAT book things?) Those things called "Candies?" or, no: "Cindy's"?  no no no, "Kindy's"?  (Kindles?) KINDLES!!!  That's it!! WHY WOULD ANYBODY BUY A KINDLE WHEN THEY CAN BUY REAL BOOKS INSTEAD?  (Because books are heavy and you can put thousands of books on a Kindle and it weighs only a few ounces.) But WHO needs THOUSANDS of books? That's what LIBRARIES are for.  And who needs THOUSANDS of book all at the same TIME?

geez. Things really start to verge on the metaphysical sometimes.

And what about these other things.  (What other things?) These "i" things.  (Eye things?) NO.  "i" things.  You know: that all the kids have.  (You mean "iPods"?)  YES! and those other damn things!  ("iPads"?) YES!!! GOD FORBID WE DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET AT ALL TIMES!!! Remember when you needed something so you checked the yella pages??? What's wrong with the yella pages?? (Well, you can view the yellow and white pages online now.) I KNOW!!! THAT'S THE PROBLEM!!!

I won't go on.

Anyway, these ladies were my SANITY last year.  During a time when I was trying to coherently describe a possible answer to a huge global problem, I stayed sane by listening to this at the pool all summer. I never joined the conversation, but they all knew I was listening.  They knew everyone in our zip code was listening.

There were some nights where I plodded through my ideas at that kitchen table--it could be like wading through quick sand with 10lb weights in each hand.  And I would get myself through by thinking, "If tonight's a bad night and I don't get anything great done, it doesn't matter. Because fifty years from now, when I'm reflecting on turning 80 while floating around on a noodle with my friends at the pool, none of this is going to matter. At all. So just get it done."

This summer is different because I don't have any intellectual heavy-lifting going on. But last week, I finally had formal introductions with the Pool Ladies and I think I made it into the club.  Apparently, they had all speculated that I was a high school kid who lived with her parents nearby.  When I told them I was 27 year old professor, they all fell to the floor laughing and said, "It must be nice to be mistaken for a high schooler!  Does it feel good?!"

You know what? I think it does.


Erin S said...

Is it sad that I think I would fit right in with the Pool Ladies? I believe they would appreciate the library book I am reading and my flip phone with no texting plan...

Jo Harper said...

DON'T get them started on the texting!!! ; )