By Tim Hayes

As the water rose over my head for the third time, it finally hit me.  I need to write stuff down, so I don’t forget.

Swim class in college.  It sure sounded like the easiest way to satisfy the phys-ed requirement.  I knew how to swim.  I enjoyed swimming.  Swimming never felt like it was too much exertion.  It never struck me as exercise, certainly.

Little did I appreciate that, in the hands of a maniacal P.E. instructor, even an activity as innocuous, innocent, and inviting as swimming could lose its luster and turn into “Lord of the Flies – The Soggy Semester” so quickly.

That’s because my fellow students and I did very little swimming in swim class.  Or, at least, we didn’t swim the way I had always enjoyed in the 17 years before I jumped into the Zink Hall pool, anyway.

There she stood at poolside, our coach, blowing that damn whistle and screaming at us like we’d come in last at the U.S. Olympic time trials.  And as if learning to swim for speed weren’t bad enough, next came the stranded-in-the-ocean-survival-skills chapter.  A disaster in the making, and a disaster that came to pass.  For me, anyway.

The instructions stated that we were to report to the pool fully clothed, no shoes, but with our swimsuits worn underneath.  We would jump into the deep end, one at a time, and proceed to remove our pants, tie off each leg, and whip the pants over our head to fill them with air and create a life preserver.

Even now, that just sounds preposterous.  But you should have seen me in that pool.  Preposterous, ridiculous, outrageous – the list could go on and on.

First off, because I had neglected to write down when this special 60-minute date with torture and humiliation was to take place, I faced the proposition of having to carry it off while wearing a pair of jeans that fit a little snug – a product of the “Freshman 15” curse.

So I jumped into the pool and started wrestling these now wet, heavy – not to mention super tight – jeans off my legs, as I sank under the water for the first time.  I finally got them off, but the thickness of the denim made it very difficult to tie the leg endings.  Under I went for the second time.  The legs at last tied, I tried to whip the pants over my head, but they were so full of water that I couldn’t get them emptied without going under a third time.

It was at this point that I let the pants go, treading water, completely exhausted, and stared up at the coach glaring at me from the pool’s edge.  “Flunk me, I don’t care.  This isn’t worth drowning over,” I gasped, dragging myself up and out of that accursed pool.

I got away with a C, mostly for effort, I think.  If I ever find myself alone in the ocean, Titanic-style, there’s no way I’m trying to turn my pants into a life preserver.  Attention all sharks: You win.  Come on, have at it.  You got an all-you-can-handle chum buffet here, boys.

Maybe I would have done better that day in the Zink Hall Pool of Shame if I had written the assignment down ahead of time, prepared properly, and worn loose sweatpants that day, who knows.  Probably not.  But I feel the same way today.  No matter what, some things just aren’t worth drowning over.

Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Consulting