To the Giant Purple Asshole at Lap Swim

I swim at the Y near my house, and I mostly hate it. It’s kind of expensive for how ghetto it is, they keep the pool temperature at an uncomfortable 85 degrees (sometimes 86, while occasionally they “treat” us with a refreshing 84), the pool tiles are jagged and broken and collecting more sketchy-looking black grime each week, the locker room is nasty despite the heavily advertised 20 minute daily cleaning it receives (wow, a whole 20 minutes! Too bad that’s apparently not enough time to clean the tumbleweed of body [probably pube] hair clogging up the shower drains), and the hot water is nonexistent on a regular basis (probably because it’s all pumped into that hot spring they call a pool). But I put up with it because it’s a couple blocks from where I live, and because their lap swim times are pretty decent. But let’s face it, it’s the Central District YMCA so I’m not exactly working out in the lap of luxury or expecting greatness here, which I fully understand.

I also understand that since it’s the Y, there’s an eclectic group of people who work out there. You’ve got your lower income families, your skinny, tatted up hipsters who exercise in skinny jeans and Converse, retirees who aquacize during lap swim, huge, menacing dudes who look like extras from The Wire, student athletes from nearby schools–it’s a ridiculously random bunch, but everyone is mostly polite and does their own thing without incident.

Until recently, of course.

I showed up to lap swim yesterday to get in a workout during my lunch break. Judging from how loud the pool sounded from the locker room, I could tell it was going to be a crowded day, and when I emerged from the showers my suspicions were correct.

There are four lanes in the pool, and they were situated like this:

  • The slow lane (typically reserved for people who tread water, float around, or are doing some sort of water therapy) had two people in it
  • Medium Lane #1 had two people in it
  • The fast lane had two people in it
  • Medium Lane #2 inexplicably had four people in it

In the context of my triathlon team, races, and most of mankind, I am a slow swimmer; however, by the Y’s incredibly low standards, I’m more of a “medium speed” person so I walked over to Medium Lane #1, which had a woman and a man splitting the lane. The man had taken off down the pool but the woman (who I shall henceforth refer to as “Grimace” due to her garishly bright purple swimsuit and her top-heavy stature) was on her way back, so I waved to get her attention.

Me: “Can we circle swim? Sorry, I know it’s crowded.”

She nodded and took off. When she caught up to the guy she explained the change, and we all settled into a circle swim.

Typically, when the pool is crowded and you’re forced to circle swim with other swimmers, it can be difficult to follow your original workout. I know this from having done enough circle swims and from reading various swim forums where the consensus is that some sort of compromise is required in order for everyone to successfully share the lane. Today I had planned to do a speed workout, but I knew that I was going to end up taking a few extra seconds here and there waiting at the end of the pool to create gaps between me and the next swimmer, or that I’d have to time my sets so that everyone was spaced out accordingly. It’s not ideal but oh well, sometimes you have to make do.

Unless you’re Grimace, of course. As soon as I started swimming, it became abundantly clear that she was going to do the workout she had planned, crowded pool be damned. Grimace frequently veered into the opposite side of the lane to pass either me or the guy, going back and forth with her fins and her dolphin kicks. I was fine with being passed like that so long as the coast was clear on both sides of the lane, but she made a few really close calls. At one point I reached the wall and had turned around to swim back but saw Grimace on my side of the lane trying to pass the guy at the last second instead of holding off and just doing it at the wall. As a result, I had to sit there to avoid a head-on collision and wait for her to pass the guy, swim two strokes, reach the wall, turn around, cut me off, and swim back. Grimace wasn’t about being polite today. Grimace was about Grimace and only Grimace.

Eventually the guy let us know that he only had a couple more laps before he was finished, which was a relief because then Grimace the Type A Swimmer and I could revert to splitting a lane instead of circling. She had since ceased her seemingly never-ending set of fins and dolphin kicks and had been stopping at the wall in between her new sets. I was in the middle of a recovery 100 when I reached the wall and noticed her a few strokes behind me. Figuring that she was going to stop at the wall again, I took off to finish my 100. I had gone a few strokes when I felt a hard tug on my left ankle, which jolted me into stopping and standing up.

My first thought that popped into my mind: “Did this bitch just yank on my ankle?!”

I turned around and Grimace was right behind me. She sneered, “You can’t cut me off like that!”, then swam around me. What the hell? You want to pass me so instead of tapping my foot like a normal, courteous swimmer, you yank my ankle? We weren’t in Thunderdome, for fuck’s sake. Hell, this wasn’t even a race, where one expects to get jostled and man-handled a bit amid the churn and chop and flailing arms and legs. This was a goddamn lap swim at the fucking YMCA. You don’t lay your hands on me unless it’s an accident.

The last time someone maliciously grabbed me at the gym, I punched her in the mouth and she learned not to bother me any more. Granted, that was 16 years ago during middle school P.E. when I had an altercation with a mouthy classmate during a game of basketball, so I figured that my schoolyard tussles were long behind me. On the other hand, I didn’t expect a grown woman to act like a fucking bully during a swim workout, so you never know what kind of immaturity life will throw at you even when you figure you’ve outgrown this bullshit.

I finished my set and met up with Grimace at the wall to exchange some words.

Grimace: “You can’t cut people off like that!”

100% accurate depiction of this woman

Me: “That doesn’t mean you can yank my ankle.”

Seriously, what the fuck. I could have been recovering from an ankle or foot injury or experiencing some tightness or weakness on that side. Why the hell would she tug on a stranger like that other than to be a complete and utter dick? She could have injured me or made an existing injury worse.

Grimace: “You saw me coming and you cut me off.”

Me: “I thought you were stopping at the wall, it was a misunderstanding.”

Grimace, exasperated: “I just can’t believe how some people don’t understand proper pool etiquette.”

Are you fucking kidding me? You’re at the Y, not a master’s swim class. The level of mediocrity in this place is sky high, so don’t act like you’re some elite athlete amongst a sea of mentally challenged dog paddlers. Look around, lady. To your left you’ve got two old people in the slow lane, one treading water with a flotation device around his waists and the other one aquacizing with water weights, and to your right you’ve got a kid in the other medium lane giggling and occasionally swimming a lap while horsing around with her friends. I’m one of three people in this goddamn pool who’s actually doing a swim workout during lap swim, and now you’re telling me I don’t know the rules?

Me: “I know the etiquette. You’re the one who kept cutting into the other side of the lane a while ago to pass him and cut me off.”

Grimace: “That’s because we’re all swimming at different speeds!”

Throughout our argument she kept bringing up how much faster she was than me and the other guy, as if I was supposed to humbly bow down to this lightning quick she-dolphin who was swimming with zoomers and let her do whatever she wanted while basking in her mighty Poseidon wake. If she didn’t want to bother swimming with us “slow” peons, she should have taken her bright purple ass to the fast lane.

Despite my increasingly overwhelming urge to deck this woman in her intolerable fucking face, I kept my rage at a simmer and tried to keep the discourse at a reasonable tone.

Me: “I know that, but when the pool is this crowded we have to make some compromises. I’m trying to do a speed workout too, but I’ve had to wait at the wall to give space to you guys, adding a few seconds here and there.”

Grimace, accusatory: “You saw me coming and you took off. You can’t do that.”

Me, sighing: “I thought you were stopping! I didn’t do it on purpose.”

I felt like I was talking to a broken record here.

Grimace: “You have to wait if you see someone coming. You have to let me pass.”

Rage. Rising.

Me: “And you can’t just yank on someone’s ankle because that’s incredibly rude.”

Grimace: “Well, you cut me off.”

At this point I was approaching The Room levels of anger.

"You're tearing me APAHHHHHHHT, lap swim!"

I weighed my options:

  1. Let it go, be the adult in this situation, and finish my workout, making it back to my house in time for a conference call scheduled for later in the afternoon.
  2. Cuss her out, further drawing out the altercation, which would in turn lengthen my workout time and cause me to miss my conference call.
  3. Unleash the kraken and go Detroit on her ass, ultimately using my one free phone call to get in touch with Jas so he can bail me out of jail.
  4. Drown her. Just fucking drown her. The world would be a better place.

Knowing I had a limited amount of time to finish my workout and opting for the sensible, mature human being route, I sighed, gritted my teeth, and said, “Look, let’s just split the lane and finish our workouts. You stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine.”

Grimace: “Fine…[under her breath] I just can’t believe how some people don’t know proper pool etiquette.”


I'm starting to relate to Patrick Bateman

I resumed my swim. The upside to the altercation was that I handily hit all of my fast effort swim times, having been fueled by intense hatred. If only this had happened before the start of Ironman Canada–I’d have PR’d like a mofo.

Grimace eventually finished her workout and left the pool, leaving me with 400 yards of bitch-free bliss. As much as I’d have loved to continue our sparring session in the locker room, I didn’t run into her; besides, I had a conference call to get to.

So to the rude asshole at lap swim today: I may be slow, and I may not know how to flip turn without partially drowning, and I may not be able to backstroke without zigzagging all over the place, and I may loathe swimming three out of four times I do it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know the basic tenets of swim etiquette. If you want to pass me, pass me. I don’t give a shit, my feelings aren’t gonna get hurt, it’s nothing I haven’t experienced countless times at countless workouts and races.

But how about you act like a decent fucking human being about it and tap me instead of yanking on my ankle like I’m some dumb dog on a leash? I know your type: you’re someone who expects the world to bend over backwards for you and accommodate your self-entitled, bratty ways. Everyone owes you a favor and you give nothing in return. You’re a shitty tipper, you never hold the door open for people, you’re condescending, you complain about everything, and nothing is ever your fault. These are the traits of an asshole, and you firmly belong in that classification of people. You, Grimace, are an asshole, and you can go fuck yourself.

Also, keep in mind that not everyone would have been as level-headed about what you did as I was, so consider yourself lucky that I tried to stay mature about the situation. That being said, if I run into you at the pool again, the next time you touch me it better be from accidental contact, because if it isn’t you will most definitely regret it. I already redeemed my “act like a grown up” card so next time I won’t be so nice. And this isn’t Internet tough guy posturing–if you lay another hand on me in a malicious manner, I will engage in self-defense, and I’ll make sure it fucking hurts.

Lastly, regarding whichever poor sap has the misfortune of being married to or is otherwise dating you (whom I’m hoping doesn’t exist, because nobody deserves that kind of torture), I’m guessing he gets the worst handjobs because I’ve felt how aggressively you tug and I’m guessing you’re a real shaft chafer. Maybe that’s why you’re such a fucking bitch–ease up on the grip and he’ll be happy, which will make you happy, which will result in less cunty behavior at the pool. Just a suggestion.

19 Responses to “ “To the Giant Purple Asshole at Lap Swim”

  1. George in Canada says:

    LOL, I WILL WEAR YOUR EARS AS A NECKLACE , will we see you with this at IMC this year?

  2. Amy Richards says:

    At least she knew what circle swimming was… I went to my gym once where a woman wearing an Ironman Florida cap said she didn’t know what I was talking about and proceeded to continue swimming down her half.

  3. Cookie says:

    Grimace’s twin sister swims at the Eastern Athletic Club in Brooklyn. This self-centered, demented old lady is the most inefficient swimmer I’ve ever seen — her scrawny arms flail around super-fast, like she’s a goddamned pinwheel, but she goes so slow she’s practically swimming in reverse. If I have to circle swim with her, it means standing at the end of a lane for a whole minute to get enough space between us. However, the other week, she hopped into my lane, turned to me and snarled: “I’m going to go ahead of you, because I’m much faster.” Oh, how I wish she would just drown.
    Second only to pinwheel arms: the bitch who insists on swimming butterfly when the lane has four people in it.

  4. Maggie says:

    You say medium lane #2 “inexplicably” had 4 people in it. I think you got your explanation. I predict with a giant purple suit she is easy to spot and others have tangled with her before. Great job – love your blog.

  5. Cathleen says:

    Yikes! Our group must have seemed like angels this morning in comparison. By the way, GFY is one of my favorite acronyms and sayings.

  6. Travis G. says:

    High road may be the better path, but just isn’t the same as going Detroit on her ass. Awesome!

  7. Colleen says:

    Dude, someone grabbed my ankle my first instinct would be to kick them in the face with my free foot. She is lucky it wasn’t me, gut reaction kick whatever is touching me off…

  8. Laura A. says:

    You had me laughing out loud. You are just too funny. What I was most curious about is who you decked in middle school though? Do tell!

  9. Tony C says:

    This was the most accurate and funniest account of Y lane swimming I have ever come across, and being not the fastest I can certainly understand the frustrations, have you ever run into the large woman who likes to shoot off the wall in a flip turn on the WRONG side and then after running into you, gives you the dirty look. Last time I straight armed her, it was the last time….

  10. Ahhhhh I feel so much better now! I almost straight up MURDERED three children who were intentionally swimming into my lane to be little tiny jerks. No parents were there supervising and after I warned them the third time and this little pea-brained moron swam directly AT me in my lane I lost it. There were security cameras so I couldn’t have gotten away with it… but I definitely can relate to the little teeth windchime making desires….

  11. Matt Dalton says:

    I just want to thank you for every word of this. Thank you for being so upset and thank you for writing about it. I have pool rage all the time. thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

  12. Trudy says:

    Okay swimmers…..I am about to try swimmming at my local pool but I am new at this. What is circle swimming? I am REALLY slow so should I be in the first lane? I can usually only do the front crawl (if you can call it that) for about 6 lengths. What if there are no lanes marked for speed?

    I don’t want to look like a total idiot and tick people off. I know I will get faster with practice but for now I need to be in the granny lane 🙂

    • Rebecca says:

      Circle swimming is when you share the lane with two or more other swimmers and you can’t split the lane because there are too many people sharing. So what you end up doing is swimming in a circle (usually counter-clockwise) and spacing each other apart so everyone has some space to swim. If you’re slow, you’ll probably want to go in the slower lane with folks who are your speed; otherwise, you’ll end up getting lapped by speedy people and both of you will feel miserable.

  13. Bill says:

    Gudschtuf! We all know a Grimace. Thanks for the laughs, Rebecca.

  14. adeger says:

    Loved the post and am now worried something like this is soon to occur since I haven’t experienced anything like this (yet). Besides hanging on a wall to let someone pass (when I’m obviously slower) another method that seems ok (when I’m obviously faster and coming up to someone’s feet) is to just reverse direction and switch to the other side of the lane if it’s clear. Sure you might have to throw in another lap or two, is tough with more than three in a lane and probably not advised when the passee is nearing the wall–but can still make things smoother. Doubt your grimace bitch would ever consider this though.

  15. Lisa says:

    Read this on my way to do laps at the YMCA in my area, and laughed out loud, and then worried I’d meet a similar swimmer. Great article!

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