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SINK OR SWIM

This is the post excerpt.

Welcome to Sink or Swim!  This is dedicated to family, friends, former colleagues and especially all competitive swimmers, past and present.  My objective is to share my experiences and observations, and not to bore you non-swimmers too much with some of the swimming jargon used from time to time.  So scroll down and read below! Thank you for stopping by.

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Can We Please Chill over the Water Temperature?

The “happy” swim season has begun for many of us in the Northeast, where high school swim teams get ready for fall swim competition, thus, our area pool temperatures have dropped significantly.

LOVE-LOVE-LOVE IT!!!

So, I just had to share on social media just how ecstatic I was. There are several social media pages I could’ve posted my joy, but I stuck solely to those of us who enjoy swimming laps in a pool.

Unfortunately, this post about swimming in cooler water landed me in some rather hot water.

It created a firestorm between the competitive swimming purists who train and compete more efficiently in temperatures ranging from the mid/high 70s to 80 degrees, versus the folks who faithfully lap swim, but due to health conditions (i.e. arthritis), prefer water in the mid 80s – and above.

There were so many great points about the benefits to swimming in both cool and warm water. Yet, the debate raged on and on.

Another spark in my social media firestorm – let’s call it the true gasoline on the fire – was when I added an all- joking, yet snarky comment that read:

“Sorry, water aerobics ladies.” (complete with the smiling purple devil and laugh-out-loud emoji)

Is this an open-mouth, insert foot (or fin) moment?!!

While this drew many “thumbs up,” laughs, hearts and supportive comments, I also upset several people, who felt the term Water Aerobics Ladies was, well, offensive. I’m not sure why simply because the women at our pool call themselves Water Aerobics Ladies. Those who found it humorous added other nicknames, and some even poked fun at themselves with terms like “Noodle Ladies” and “Aqua Fitness Gals.” Sadly, we seem to be in an era where comedians get cancelled and hypersensitivity runs rampant. How many times have you heard a young person say, “That offends me” or “Why can’t you be more politically correct?” Goodness, gracious!

So I deleted the post, and re-posted a very heartfelt apology, complete with a peace sign. But – I did not apologize for my preference of cooler water while swimming. While it drew even more Thumbs Up, hearts and also Care emojis, the Cool v. Warm Prizefight continued, and does to this day.

My Saturday 9:15 a.m. group of women all have their preferences, and out of the 5 of us, 4 are Team Cool. The Team Warm soloist complains a bit, but she manages to get in but makes sure we don’t rest much or she will get chilled and will cut short her practice with us.

We competitive swimmers will always have to deal with a variety of water temperatures and conditions that we simply do not like.  I regret that I drew the ire of “People Who Do Not Swim Competitively” – or however you wish to classify them.  Maybe we shouldn’t even label ourselves as “Competitive Swimmers” in this highly sensitive world we now live in.  

Kumbaya, everyone, or as I wrote in my apology post, Peace out!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Safety First!

If you’ve ever gone “coastal,” you know that under the sunny skies and below the foamy waves, there are some natural dangers in the oceans and nearby waterways.  Take for example the recent killing of a young man in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina by an alligator. It’s a rare occurrence, but this victim made a very tragic choice to look for his frisbee in a pond, even though signs are always in these areas to keep out.  Forget the darn frisbee, avoid the gator-infested pond – and keep your small (or large) dog away from it – puh-lease!

Meet “Eddie” – a new neighbor of ours down South

With warmer water temperatures come those odd-looking sea creatures we know as jellyfish.  One jellyfish, which was actually a good size one, wrapped its tentacles around a young family member’s leg years ago.  She almost had to go to the hospital, but was treated quickly and was left with some nasty scars for a long time.  Some creatures just can’t be avoided.

(Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com)

Sharks are hunting and breeding closer to the shoreline, and everyone knows what happened in “Jaws.” Yikes!  A story by reporter Jennifer Waugh of WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida, suggested what colors to wear and not wear when in the ocean that will make one less “attractive” to sharks.

Wait, what?

Wetsuits have traditionally been black or dark gray, but maybe there’s some validity in this color choice story.  First of all, DO NOT WEAR YELLOW!  And no bright fingernail or toenail polish! And NO flashy jewelry (which you should not wear anyway because you’ll just lose it in the ocean).

(Photo by sergio souza on Pexels.com)

The color of choice to keep them away is Basic Black. The secret is out for Instant shark repellent (kind of)?

I was given the chance to take SCUBA lessons, and passed that opportunity for just a snorkel and fins when in The Cayman Islands.  Amazing sights, but going too deep for the best views never appealed to me.  I did play with the stingrays which was super fun, and would definitely do it again.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was a lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor for years. I  used to enjoy the ocean – all the time. Body surfing, exploring sandbars and minnows, boogie boarding, looking for dolphins frolicking behind a fishing boat, you name it, we spent hours with our kids in the Atlantic surf.  Still, I seem to be apprehensive lately about the ocean.  Nothing bad ever happened personally, but I feel my days in the ocean are sadly dwindling.  

Self-preservation? Nervousness? Just plain wimpy? Highly likely!

Call me an “old biddy,” (because I guess I am), but the sanctity and safety of a pool seems very attractive these days.  The dark stripe at the bottom of the pool gives me the guidance I need for staying straight in a lane. The flags near each end and crosses at each endwall provide that same stability.

My friend Kelly and I at the Empire Senior Games in 2021 at SUNY-Cortland, having a blast!

What was very impressive to witness at a recent coastal pool workout were the dozen-plus local firefighters who spent a hot Sunday morning, dressed in full rescue gear (boots, helmets and oxygen tanks too), and jumped in the pool for a full day of training. The combined weight of this attire, when wet, was well over 100 pounds.  Put that on a guy who is skin, bones, and muscle, thus, who likely doesn’t swim or float very well, and you’ve got a challenging situation. But  – they all climbed on a starting block, jumped in, and performed a grueling swim from the deep end to the shallow end. 

Repeatedly! 

Impressive, but necessary when you are a firefighter in a coastal community.  Kudos to these First Responders.

The guy on the upper right – with an extra 100 lbs, yikes!!

It saddens me to think there is a lifeguard shortage going on throughout the country.  But, I DO understand why.  A lifeguarding job was always thought of as a “glamorous” job – when it really isn’t (thanks to “Baywatch”, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, ugh!).  It’s a critical position where many of these recently trained teenagers are actual first responders, and in this day and age, many of our teenagers and young adults seem too vulnerable or nervous about anything, let alone saving a drowning victim, performing CPR, or simply having the maturity to tolerate children who won’t obey the rules.  Try rationalizing with a drunk adult at the beach when you’re 18. Not fun.

So, friends, be safe out there – no matter what you’re doing in or near the water. In the meantime, I’ll put on my brave face and work on not being too timid in my older age, and attempt to embrace all that nature’s lakes and oceans – and man-made pools – have to offer.

Feeling The Burn (out)

For the past 4 years, returning to the competition pool has been an amazing experience. Freestyling or “Flying,” blowing off Covid and work stress, feeling fit, forging new friendships, you name it, swimming has been the complete package of that term we now call Self-Care.

Workouts and tallied-up miles are in 2 of my IPhone apps, letting me know what strokes were done and even what my times were. Looking at it gives me a true sense of accomplishment, as at one point while training, I wasn’t too far off the distance I swam back in college. Hooray for me.

To think that Little Old CS would even consider swimming in a meet after 33 years was insane. But U.S. Masters Swimming and my Saturday 9:15 a.m. Crew embraced all of that. A New York State Championship meet record was broken after several years, and my Old Person Personal Best Times improved along the way. There is gratitude beyond words for what’s happened in these 4 years.

But, my shoulders and back hurt. More than ever. Remember, I am not 20 years old, I’m triple that, so with age, comes triple the aches and pains. Stretching is a daily occurrence, but twinges and the sounds of joints cracking are ever-present.

Excuse time: There are currently no meets, so why even train? The pool water has been really, really warm lately too. It’s kind of yucky, to be honest. And speaking of honest, well, honestly, my noggin isn’t on straight, either. A lot is currently happening with work, home, kids, and dogs, so lately, when I’ve gone to swim, I almost get out right after I warm up. Ugh!

Could this be…burnout? It’s not the burnout you may have experienced as a kid. Perhaps you had a son who hung up his hockey skates as a teenager, or a daughter who couldn’t handle the pressure with the high standards of playing piano. It’s the feeling that swimming has become more of a chore than enjoyment.

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

The remedy?

Time to take a breather. Not quit, but just reduce the time in the pool, and supplement with something else. A recent article in AARP magazine suggested that an hour of weight training can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, so maybe that’s the route. It’s also golf season, and more time spent at the range before the weekly 9 hole Twilight league could also reduce the embarrassment on the course with my friends. Cross training? Ah-ha…in fact, yesterday – as much as it hurt my posterior – I sat on a spin bike at the Y, and the “5 minute plan” turned to 10, then 15, then downstairs to change and a hop in the pool for a quick 1,000. Maybe that’s the way to go.

Time will tell whether I’ll start really missing the rather intense swims I’ve had with my friends. But feeling burned out has not been a picnic. Stay tuned, or better yet – look for me taking the dog for a walk, no cap or goggles required!

Sleep Injuries

In a recent issue of SWIMMER Magazine, writer Thomas Roddy Jr. shared that he stretches early, every morning, because he’s stiff from what his friend Bill refers to as “sleep injuries.”

Sleep Injuries? That is actually a brilliant term.

Most of us Baby Boomers can relate to Sleep Injuries, especially this boomer-slash-swimmer who recently had a big birthday. (WhooHoo for me).

Here’s how it works:

You get into bed, watch some Johnny Carson reruns (if you can stay up past 10 p.m.), finally fall asleep, and when you wake up, you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. A BIG truck. Alas, Sleep Injuries have struck! The aches and pains invaded the body once again. Great. It’s Groundhog Day.

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So you slowly rise, roll over, and rotate your neck, arms, ankles and legs.

Then you carefully slide off the bed, pause for a moment, stand up, and pray to The Good Lord Above you can properly walk to the bathroom to do whatever needs to be done. Ouch. Perhaps after brushing your teeth, taking your vitamins and all the other things you may need, you start walking normally.

Kind of.

Time for some coffee, and before you must start your day, you stretch for a good 5-10 minutes…just to function, like Thomas Roddy points out. Adding some strengthening exercises help, like some squats and sit-ups (although any goals I have to obtain a washboard stomach are more like a wash-TUB stomach, and washed-UP).

While doing that morning wake-up routine, one can’t help but wonder if those “things that go bump in the night” are really Sleep Injuries? If they really exist, what do they look like?

Photo by Ivan Babydov on Pexels.com

To combat the aches and pains of daily life, many people choose to take pain medications, yet many don’t – and for very good reasons. Too scary to mix with other meds, super dangerous and costly these days. Stretching is great, but swimming greatly helps reduce whatever seems to ail an older body. Why are the water exercise classes always so crowded? Those people know that’s one of the secrets to combating Sleep Injuries. For lap swimmers, the constant range of motion, strengthening drills and aerobic activity makes it easier to simply function. When it gets tiring, one of the best parts of swimming laps is when you are done with the workout and climb up the ladder to get out. Wait – a ladder? Yes – this Sleep Injury victim refuses to perform the “big pull up” at the end of the lane – just to get out!

That is when Awake Injuries happen. Be smart! And we, or should it be – I – have enough trouble just getting through the day without stubbing a toe or brushing into a wall.

So, sleep well, everyone…may Sleep Injuries never invade your body overnight like it does for so many of us. If they do cause you those morning ouchies, take it slow…stretch a lot, pray a lot (if you pray), swim if you can, and…just hang in there.

Namaste, Sleep Injuries!

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

The Name Game

While lying in bed at 4:30 this morning, my 2-year old invisible stepchild named Tinnitus was ringing in my ear. So rather than dwell on that constant whizzing sound, I got to thinking about my mother – and also about names…like people’s names and their history in my life. (Tinnitus is not one of those names…ugh)

Photo by Ivan Oboleninov on Pexels.com

I thought back to my youth, where some of my classmates didn’t really have names, just initials. There was C.R., and R.J., and J.D. I thought that was very cool, and other kids did too. I probably could’ve been C.R. (No, I’m not sharing my middle name), but since C.R. was already taken, I decided to cut my full name of Caroline short and have my friends call me “Carol.”

Just Carol…so back then, my name was Carol Coley. You could almost say it as one word. It gives me hives just to think of it. My mother had the foresight to tell me that one day I would go back to Caroline. She was a smart woman.

Caroline, however, is pronounced like Carolyn. So, people who know me pronounce it correctly. My mother was very Kennedy-esque, since her name was Jacqueline (and called Jackie later in her life), so I never asked her why it was spelled one way and pronounced the other. Since I changed it, waywayway back, like post-college, Caroline has been paired with practically a lifetime of pronunciation corrections. When you add either my maiden or married name to it, there have been some very creative, fun spellings and interpretations:

Cardine – when someone thought the “o” and the “l” was a “d.”

Carololine Cooley – Truth! Last name is a common misspelling. This was also a favorite on Junk Mail envelopes

Carly Stainstreet – Ha! Everyone likes to switch the “n” and the “i”

Many of my friends have – shall I call them – “normal” names? But – they too have returned to the Land of Formality. My friend Sue is back to Susan, which is what she was always called in her household. Becky is Rebecca, Cindy is Cynthia – and so on.

The names of my past were pretty easy – although my mother would often mention that people would change their children’s names to make them unique or in her descriptive word,”cutsie.” For example:

Adding “e”‘s at the end of names, like Anne and Lynne, or removing a letter, like Elliot instead of Elliott.

Kathy – would change to Kathi or Kathie (When growing up, there were lots of Kathys – I knew a Nice Kathy and a Mean Kathy, just as an aside). Debbie was Debby, Debbi or even Debi – my mother would deliberately pronounce the names ending in “i” like “eye” – resulting in “Deb-eye.” Also, my boss’ wife was named “Carole” so Mom would say, “I recently saw Ca-Role With An ‘E‘!”

Gosh, I truly miss her sense of humor.

There are so many nicknames for Elizabeth (sometimes spelled Elisabeth, or Lizbeth), like Liz, Eliza, Liza, Lisa, Beth, Ellie, and more non-traditional nicknames, including “Buffy” (remember the 1960’s TV show “Family Affair?”) and also Tibbi – a friend from high school. As for boys names, our son Sean has the traditional Gaelic spelling, but there is also Shawn and Shaun, and in the past couple of decades, letters have been added – like college football player Tashawn Manning, and NFL player Deshaun Watson, whose first name is really Derrick. As for my mom, well, she thought there was a place for certain nicknames, but wasn’t having any of that in our household.

Today’s names have fluctuated from trendy to traditional. During my twenties, no one in their right mind would have ever thought of naming their daughters Madison – but if you saw the 1984 movie “Splash,” you’ll know why (Tom Hanks jested, “Madison’s not a name!”). But it’s incredibly popular now. The traditional names are currently “hot” – with what my mom would also refer to as “biblical names” – Jonah, Elijah, Jacob, Mary, and names of our ancestors – Charles, Anthony, Olivia, Noah, Emily, Lucas, Melissa, Henry, and even Hazel (another 60’s TV show).

Darryl Hannah (Madison) and Tom Hanks (Allen Bauer) in 1984’s “Splash

If you had the chance to alter your name or re-name yourself, or your children, would you? Or do you perceive yourself just the way you were named? And here’s another question – do people “look” like a Kevin, a Kelly, or – dare I say it – a Karen?!! I always thought if I had taken the big leap to change from Caroline to Carolyn, my mother would’ve given me the dreaded “stink eye.”

I’m grateful that I’m here to even ponder these silly questions about names. But it’s kind of a fun thing to think about, especially when you miss your mom and you can’t sleep.

So sleep well, my friends, even if my mom would’ve thought you had a “cutsie” name.

🙂

New Year’s Workout Warriors

2022 is here, and as the late, great Karen Carpenter once sang, “we’ve only just begun!”

As a self-proclaimed pool regular, I know that the beginning of my annual “January Plan” remains the same, which involves swimming, cutting out alcohol (yes, and for a whole month!) and eliminating sugar – as best I can. 

It seems that every January brings some laughs for me while I’m at the pool, while I’m doing my thing.  

Doing my thing in Lane 3 at the Skaneateles Y

Perhaps the same thing happens at your gym or fitness club. 

So, what is the thing I’m referring to? Well, the “things” are actually people. And you know exactly who they are…..

“They” are….

The New Year’s Resolution Workout Warriors!! (Run – RUN for your lives!!)

Let’s call them WWs for short, kind of like how Oprah changed Weight Watchers.

You know them, they are the set of folks who join the gym (or pool) in an attempt to miraculously transform themselves from “fat to flat” in a short amount of time. They wear their brand new sneakers (I still cannot call them athletic shoes), and fancy, colorful attire (Lululemon comes to mind). The subset of WW swimmers have new suits and expensive swim goggles which they don’t know how to adjust (some are tricky, admittedly). They want to own the place with their 3-month memberships, yet they wreak havoc in the pool and with the fitness equipment.  

Wait a minute – am I being too snarky or harsh? 

They cram the pool lanes, refuse to share a lane, and if they do, they take their half out of the middle.  They won’t return a kick board to the rack, figuring it’s the lifeguard’s job to do.  Whatever they tried to do with the “white foam thingy,” (it’s called a pull buoy), there it is, untouched at the end of the lane, waiting to go back to the bin with the others.  Thanks, lifeguards, you get to put up with the WWs too.

Ugh!

If it’s a fitness center we are talking about, the WWs don’t exactly bring any etiquette there either. Or perhaps they just don’t know how to use the equipment (see below). If it’s a 20-minute walk on the treadmill, a 10-minute spin, or a “session” with the free weights, they don’t spray and wipe off the rails, bars, or seats.  YUCK!

So – what can be done? Just laugh. Then laugh some more. After all, the WW’s will quit in 3 weeks, or reduce their visits significantly, only to invade your space next year. 

Happy New Year to all – and watch out for the WWs!!

The Risky Business of Risk-Taking

“Who says you can’t go home?”

There’s a song with that line in it, so well sung by Jon Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles. Home is a source of comfort for all of us. Familiarity, routine and our own space is what home is all about.

With athletics, many of us still feel that same comfort zone in the pool, on the rink, or on the tennis court. Perhaps there is a familiar path or road to run or bike on, or a field where friends gather to play football over the holidays.

But many of us have chosen to move on.

“Been there, done that, I ain’t lookin’ back on the seeds I’ve sown…”

There are many people who, sadly, do not share that home-y feeling, likely due to burnout from the sport, an injury, aging, or maybe just a bad experience while participating.   If there was a way to let people know that going “home” to your past is really OK, I would shout it from the rooftops. There are both health and mental benefits to “going back” to a world where you scored that goal and crossed over the finish line.

That takes risk…but that is not for everyone, though.

During a visit to church awhile back, our Monsignor’s homily was all about taking a risk and stepping out of that “safe” zone. What the takeaway meant for this follower was do not be afraid to put on a swimsuit and dive back in the water again. Hop on your bike and pedal on a wide, level trail and take in all that nature offers.  Lace up your skates, carefully step out on the ice and take a counter-clockwise spin around the rink.  

That’s another aspect of home. The pool is my home since it’s a skill I can do fairly well. One must shield their eyes when watching me run, but others have the ability to effortlessly run like a gazelle.

I’ve competed in a few Masters swim meets, but after 2 years of not swimming the grueling 500-yard Freestyle (20 laps of pure joy, not!), I’m debating whether to give that particular event another whirl.  There is a meet in a few weeks in which I’ve logged into register, checked off the 500 Free box, unchecked it, checked it again and am poised to uncheck one more time.

Then I log out.  Wimpy me.

My back is already messed up from the 2,000,000+ flip turns I’ve done since I was a teenager.  My shoulders are beginning that “ouchy” phase from time to time, the classic sign of an aging swimmer.  However, my head is GOOD – I feel that mental toughness alive and well in me, which is the key factor in surviving, oops, swimming, the 500 Free.

So, stay tuned to see if I remain at “home” with the easier events, or take that risk and go for it!  

“If it’s a million miles away or just ten miles up the road”

It’s Time We MEET!!! (and not virtually…)

Our Saturday 9:15 group has been training at our pool for months…but for what, really?

A “virtual” swim meet? Ugh! We are so weary of that term! Sure, it’s been an incentive to train, but now that the pandemic is pretty much over, we are all just done with all the “pretend stuff.”

We’ve seen commercials and email blasts for this virtual 5K, and that virtual party for a local charity. It’s been a great way to continue fundraising events and connect with others over cyberspace, and heck, even my Book Club tried it last year. There I sat in my home office – alone – with a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, caught up with my friends, laughed and drank among my untouched paperwork. Nice, yet not enough. At least we continued our tradition of “hey, what was the name of that book were we supposed to read?” (Gulp)

(Generic Book Club drinking screenshot courtesy Rachel O’Connor)

A virtual swim meet is another situation entirely. Although you’re alone and your opponent is the clock, there is no shotgun start, no cheering, and absolutely no adrenaline rush when you hit the water and swim to the best of your ability. There are no white-clad officials telling you to get your fanny out of your lane quickly so they can start the next heat. It’s not much fun when there is no competitor in the next lane telling you “great swim” when you finish. As for your actual time, your Apple Watch or other similar device always seems to be “off.” When your race is done, there are no result sheets taped on the walls for you to view – while you’re still dripping wet. No, No, NO!!

Another drag about a virtual swim meet is that there’s noapresswim.” In our Masters Swimming Social World, the after-part of the meet is quite often the best part! It’s a special experience to rest and reflect over the day, and be thankful that we all healthy and strong enough to enjoy the common thread of competitive swimming….well…it’s kind of like that….

REALITY/CONFESSION: Apres-swim is re-hashing your events and times with your buddies and teammates, while hydrating a.k.a. tipping a few beers and eating whatever hot greasy food you think you truly deserve.

We are all hungry for a real swim meet after so, so many months of being starved for human contact, places to go, and events to look forward to.

Fortunately, a recent text message from my cousin provided some good news on the matter. The New York State Empire State Senior Games (yes, Senior) are taking place soon, and he thought since there are no Masters meets scheduled up here just yet, why not give it a whirl?

Cousin Mike and I had “big” plans to swim in some relays together at a few meets last year, which were sadly cancelled due to Covid. This New York State swim meet does not have relays, just individual events. No problem – I’m totally OK with that, and have rounded up a couple of my Saturday 9:15 group friends to swim. My cousin Mike is naturally “in” as well…and we agreed it will be a fantastic start to what we hope will be a real, back-to-normal competition swim experience, and not a virtual one!

Best of all – we plan to participate in “apres-swim” activities!!

Stay tuned for the post-race blog…

The Evolution of The 9:15 Group

It was about 2 years ago when I struck up a conversation with a woman who was a former Masters swimmer and a retired physical education teacher. It was because I noticed that her swim fins and her pull buoy had MY maiden name written on them.

It’s not like my maiden name is Smith, or Spitz, or Phelps. But like the old TV cop show “Dragnet” first stated, “the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” So, we will keep these friends on a first-name only basis.

“Dianne” is actually married into the family that shares my maiden name.  According to her husband, we may be cousins, but that is going to take some future research.  Whether we are related or not, Dianne and I immediately struck up a swimming sisterhood of sorts, and decided that when we could, we would swim together. We picked Saturday mornings at 9:15, and it’s been that way for quite a few months.

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Next joining the 9:15 group was “Shelly,” who is slightly younger than we are and a very competitive swimmer, whose family and my family have known one other for years.  Shelly swam in college and eventually became a police officer, complete with that tough-spirited exterior. If we ever went to war, we would all want Shelly on our side. And oh, the colorful nicknames she has given to Dianne and me!  She claims that I’m the competitive one of the group, but I’m just there to get in shape and have fun, since there are no meets to look forward to just yet.  Someday, we are hoping…

A woman seen quite consistently on Saturday mornings was already friends with Shelly, so we invited her to join us in the 9:15 group. In her youth, “Peggy Sue” was an incredible butterfly-er, and still is. She won’t agree with us when we tell her her stroke is amazing, yet Peggy Sue effortlessly performs “fly,” as the rest of us can only slog through it with swim fins, and, if we are lucky, one length of the 25-yard pool. She also swims at 6:45 a.m. a few days per week, which tells us that early to bed and early to rise makes a darn good flyer even better.

Last, but certainly not least, is “Elizabeth.” It turns out I knew her long before I had met Dianne and the others….like really, really long before…say, when I was about 11 years old and a camper at an overnight YMCA Camp in Northern New York.  There were several boys and girls who attended this particular camp while still swimming competitively over the summers, so Elizabeth created a unique camp session dedicated to kids like us.  She helped install a piece of sanded, painted plywood against the floating docks for practicing flip turns.  She helped us with our stroke and techniques while navigating through the dark northern lake water. I hadn’t seen Elizabeth since my late teens – yet she was one of the inspirations for me to become a camp counselor.  She swam age group for a good part of her childhood, then onto high school and a prestigious college team, and has fire in her belly still.

Butterfly2

Together, we all gather at 9:15 and do “our thing.”  A pre-written workout is essential, since we have only 45 minutes to swim. Unless the “nice” lifeguards let us sneak in a few minutes earlier, that precious 45 minutes is all we have to squeeze in about 2,000 yards.  

We don’t talk too much during the workout, since that wastes valuable time. With the lifting of the pool’s tight restrictions in the future, we are optimistic we can choose when we can swim and for how long.  Our group has even considered competing in the next available Masters meet…but then again, we are still waiting for any announcements of these meets, which would be something to finally train for.  We agreed we would have some kick-ass relays in our age groups, and look forward to keeping the 9:15 group – and the friendships we have forged – for a long time.

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It’s Just A Manner of Flying

We are seasoned travelers.  You name it, we’ve gone there – and in most ways possible. Over the years, one develops a certain travel etiquette which becomes habitual, especially when flying.

Sadly, not everyone knows travel etiquette, so we feel it is necessary to share some tips and tricks before, during and after travel!  Never mind the Covid situation, these ideas have applied long before, and will remain after – and hopefully forever.

Photo by Vitor Almeida on Pexels.com

Prepare, prepare, then prepare. You just never know if and when you’ll be delayed, or at the very worst, stuck at a bad airport. You know the ones…old bathrooms, gross, ripped up, wavy seats, and vending machines which line the aisles rather than actual restaurants. The so-called “restaurants” that are there serve only overpriced junk food. Remember to bring eye drops, a phone charger, earphones, gum, hand wipes, heathy snacks, and a perhaps a book you planned to read someday, but just haven’t had the time. 

When journeying through the never-enjoyable TSA security area, once again, be prepared. Take your stuff out of your pockets, put them where they belong, shoes off (unless you are TSA Pre-Check! Whoo-hoo!) and move along! Most of us know this and want to get past the friendly TSA people, so we can grab a coffee on the way to the gate.

Obey the rules of the road.  In this country, we stay to the right, which leads me to believe there are many, many international travelers who apparently stay to the left – or take their “half” out of the middle in the terminal.

On that note – Do not, do not, stand still in the middle of a busy corridor at the airport!  I’ve seen people literally trip and fall over while someone is at a standstill, staring down at his or her phone, oblivious to the world. 

This is related to the previous tip, but look ahead when you are the one walking – kindly do not stare down at your phone while walking, or you’ll bump into someone who is already freaked out by Covid, other people, or just flying.

Respecting “P & Q” – no one really cares about your cell phone conversation, so turn the darn phone speaker to “off” and go someplace else to talk. This includes at the airport bars and restaurants, which was the original inspiration for this list. And…like in elementary school, inside voices, please! 

Getting on the plane.  We will all get on board, just be patient. But again, have your boarding pass ready, get moving, and don’t try to shove your oversized carry-on into an overhead compartment that’s the size of a tuna can. 

If it’s a short flight and you’re in a plane where the leg room is likely minimal, for goodness sake, please don’t lean your seat back! The guy or gal behind you is making the best with his or her teeny-tiny personal space, so tilting back is just, well, rather rude. Longer flights, sure, as there is likely more room, but don’t lean so far back that you are practically in their lap, breathing in their air. Yuck.

If there are young children nearby, have that book, headset or earbuds at the ready. If you think little Johnny or Emily will not cry, whine, scream or kick your seat, they will. Period. If they happen to be your kids or grandchildren, well, good luck and Godspeed. Bring a ton of snacks for them, and plenty of Dramamine. 

Photo by Johannes Rapprich on Pexels.com

When you are at the baggage carousel, get your bag and please move out of the way quickly – so the very anxious person standing next to you can get their luggage – and not breathe down your neck.

If you’ve come this far, thanks for reading these tips – but you really allowed this weary traveler the forum to vent! If you have any other tips, please share. Safe travels to all of you in the future – and let’s hope those around you have the same common courtesy in the skies.