August 16, 2007

The Accessorizor

I have a new favorite swimmer. No, it's not you. Sorry.

It's not Michael Phelps, either, though I have to admit I think he looks a bit primatel with his long gorilla arms. My favorite swimmer isn't even Amanda Beard, though - [gulp] - she definitely holds a special place in my, uh, heart.

No, no, my new favorite swimmer is somebody more special. Somebody who can swim slower than a speeding kickboarder. More powerful than a three year old with floaties. Able to lap tall geriatrics in a single hour. Look! Down in the pool! It's a manatee! It's a submarine! It's... The Accessorizor!!

[insert timpani drum beats: ba-ba-ba-bummmmmm]

When you swim at my YMCA, it's tough to really choose one person that makes the forty-five dollars a month all worthwhile. There are so many options, so much to enjoy, I get all giddy at the thought of showing up in the morning and wondering what the day has in store.

When I first started swimming there, I thought the woman in the full scuba gear was a hoot. But after a few years of watching her scuba 25 yards at a time (with a weight belt on, might I add), it doesn't seem nearly as interesting anymore. There are so many people using snorkels in the pool, you'd think you were in a lost Hawaiian cove, but without the sea turtles, colorful fish or pretty much anything else that looks pretty.

As you know, the kicker was my favorite for awhile. After all, how can you not like somebody who swims like their auditioning for The Ministry Of Silly Walks? I smile when I see her approaching poolside. She warms my heart.

In the early days, far before The Kicker, there was Mrs. Cchhhat-Ptewie. An older Asian woman who always wore an American flag swim cap, she'd do the geriatric breaststroke for the 25 yards down the lane, then lean over the edge of the pool and - cccchat-ptewie!! - spit up a loogie. After the throat cleansing, she'd turn around, breaststroke her way back to the other end of the pool and - ccchat-ptewie! - spit up again. This would continue for the twenty-or so minutes she'd spend in the pool. It really balanced on the very thin line between fascinating and nauseating. Actually, it quickly plummeted onto the concrete sidewalk of nauseating.

I haven't seen Mrs. Cchhhat-Ptewie in awhile, but her husband, Mr. Cchhat-Ptewie, is still there fairly regularly. He used to wear the same American flag swim cap as his wife. In fact, he'd even wear the swim cap when he was taking a shower, post-workout. (They're just as cute as a button, those Ccchhat-Ptewies.) Recently, Mr. C-P has taken to wearing a fluorescent pink swim cap. Apparently he's not so hot on the United States anymore.

Unlike his dearly beloved wife, Mr. Cchhhat-Ptewie isn't much of a spitter, thank God. Instead, what jiggles my jollies is his blatant mis-use of the flippers. Mr. C-P has got a kick that he should really patent.

It seems like it would be almost natural when wearing flippers to straighten out your legs behind you and kick lightly so the flippers propel you forward. Not in this pool. Not at my YMCA. Instead of the standard flipper kick that you can see anywhere, Mr. Cchhat-Ptewie has kicked it up a notch.

You know that hamstring stretch where you lay on your back and pull your knee up to your chest? Well try doing that on your stomach, in a pool, with flippers on your feet. That's Mr. Cchhat-Ptewie. The crazy thing is that since he's kicking so inefficiently, the flippers actually slow him down, which forces him to stop and catch his breath for a couple of minutes after every single lap. I just want to give him a kickboard and about three seconds of pointers. I know it'll change his life.

But, alas, I am not one to give any swim lessons. And Mr. Cchhat-Ptewie, though no longer my pool favorite, still holds a special place in my heart.

Oh, and by the way, Corrado Soprano ain't my favorite either, but he should be a YMCA fashion model. Somehow, somewhere this nice old gentleman found a pair of goggles that look EXACTLY like Corrado's glasses. You know those oversized, outdated glasses that really old people seem to wear as they are driving twenty miles an hour down the highway? Well apparently whatever company sells those glasses just came out with a line of swim goggles.

But enough about others, let's talk about the Accessorizor.

I saw the Accessorizor for the first time last week. He is probably about my age, somewhere in the late 30s or early 40s. Like me, he doesn't look as if he's in amazing shape, but he clearly has a little athleticism locked deep inside there somewhere. He's not a bad swimmer - or at least I don't think he is, it's tough to tell. But the thing that sets him apart from the masses is of all the accessories he wears when he's in the pool. He's like Mr. T in a Speedo. It makes the Scuba Diver look like she's swimming naked.

The Accessorizor is sporting the Scuba mask, of course. That's practically a required accessory at the YMCA. He's also got that funky snorkel that comes right up in front of your face so it doesn't get clogged with water when you practice breathing. You can't pay enough for that technology.

Then there are the flippers. You've gotta have flippers. And the pull buoy. What's a swim without a pull buoy. Oh, and there are the weights on the hands, I suppose that helps build strength. And the swim paddles. I'm sure somebody somewhere told him you can't become a better swimmer without them.

Now I'm sure none of these accessories sound like they are out of the ordinary for a swimmer, and they're not. However, when you wear them all at once, all the time, it becomes a bit overwhelming. It's like trying to bench press, do squats and sit-ups all at the same time, while chewing gum and standing on one foot. With somebody tickling you.

Just getting all the accessories on is half the battle - and a battle that takes him a good five or ten minutes of poolside struggling. But the coup d'grace of all this is the final must-have swimming accessory. The one piece of equipment that will make us all jealous: It's the clock. But no, no... not just an ordinary clock. It's the LapTech Pro Pool Timer, to be exact.

I've never really seen a LapTech Pro up close and personal before, but it seems like a nifty idea. In fact, I could imagine it's a great tool if 1) you've got a really hard time counting laps or 2) you're curious to know what time it is every 45 seconds or so.

Here's the catch though - the Accessorizor always swims in a lane that is right next to the YMCA pool clock. Let me help you visualize this. The YMCA pool clock is about 5 feet in diameter. You can practically see the damn thing from space. In fact, in this one pool there are three different clocks on three different sides of the room. No matter which way you look, there's a second hand telling you you're not going fast enough. But that means nothing to The Accessorizor. Superheroes have no need for five foot clocks.

The LapTech Pro snakes out of it's nifty black carrying case on the edge of the pool and hangs right down into the water. The perfect location for the Accessorizor to time his swim. While he's heading down in the other direction, I sometimes duck my head under water, sashay under the lane line and get myself a close-up look at the LapTech Pro. You don't see them often - I don't want to miss the opportunity.

The Accessorizor checks the LapTech Pro every few laps. Maybe it's because he is wearing so much gear that he doesn't have the energy to actually lift his head up the three inches it would take to look at the 5-foot wall clock. Or perhaps wearing a watch would be the additional accessory - that extra ounce of weight - that would sink the poor fellow. I'm sure he has his reasons. But I can't help but smile when I realize how long it takes him to actually read what the LapTech is saying.

When The Accessorizor comes back to the end of the pool, he stops, balances himself on his flippered feet with pull-buoyed legs held tight and with his face still under water thanks to the snorkel. He reaches down with his weighted, paddled hands, lifts the LapTech closer to his face-masked eyes, checks the time then turns around and swims another hundy or so. The entire time checking process takes about 10 seconds which, may I add, is about 9.5 seconds longer than it takes to look at the monstrosity of a clock that hangs on the wall four feet in front of him.

Ya gotta love it. He's great.
I laugh. I cry. I feel like spitting on the side of the pool.

I love the Accessorizor. In this sport that requires so many pieces and parts; where we are always trying to go further, faster and stronger; where the person with the most toys is the envy of the most people; the Accessorizor wins.

He dares to bring it all together. In some ways he's a bit of a mirror of all of us. As we try every trick to beat the ticking of time, and as we incessantly lighten, strengthen and aerodynamic our way to slashing seconds off the clock, the Accessorizor is silently mocking us.

Yes, I laugh at him as he checks his LapTech Pro, but I only laugh for a brief moment because as I stare obsessively at the counting seconds of my multi-faceted watch, straighten my goggles and push the pull buoy up a little closer to my crotch, I have no more time to laugh. I must push off the wall yet again and test my abilities to forever beat the ticking of the clock.


Irongirl said...

This post made me laugh so much!
I love it!

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Major Minor said...

j.- Funny post. We've got a few characters here in Scottdale -
Iron Dude, Paranoid Lady, Pi$$ing Man, and a few others.

There have to be some Bud Light commercials in here somewhere!

CVSURF said...

Outstanding post!

No Wetsuit Girl... overseas! said...

I really, really hope that that last paragraph didn't mean that you were seriously comparing yourself to this clown. That's a bit over the top!

I'm surprised he doesn't use a kick board too, it would really round out his immobilized, finned legs and weighted, paddled arms well. But then, he probably couldn't get an accurate idea of how fast he was actually swimming if he used something like a kick board, so never mind. We have to mimic race conditions, you know.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god. I think we swim at the same pool. The other day I noticed one particular woman swim a lap, spit, swim a lap, spit. Are you sure you live in LA?

monica said...

what y do you go to that only costs 45 bucks?? mine is 60 bucks!!! it's the downtown y. i must pay extra for the bossy little korean lady who points at you and tells you to go back and take a shower if she can't tell that you have before you get in the pool. but my favorite are a collective group of dumbasses who just jump in a lane that already has two people in it with out assessing the paces and then force everyone to circle swim and then get all upset when you PASS THEM MIDLANE!!! and similar to "the kicker,' there's numerous pool studs i like to refer to as "windmills." they get in and think they're fast until you lap them a few times, and you can see the rage in their face that they're being lapped by a woman. then they purposely wait to start a lap right alongside you only to confirm once again that they can't keep up for shit. and then they give it one more go, gettin' all crazy with their arm strokes and still can't pass you with your 16 strokes. that one just makes me giggle inside every time.....

j. said...

it's the lovely santa monica YMCA, monica. though it sounds like you've definitely got your fair share of fun in downtown!