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My Highly Exclusive Shark-Free Swim Club

by on July 08, 2020 5:00 AM

We had planned to spend the first chunk of the summer in Greece. When, in March, we succumbed to the popular delusion that it would be safer to ride out coronavirus in America, we came home. Our thought that a return to normalcy would allow us to visit our children out West this summer proved equally delusional. 

Thus thwarted at every turn, we decided to splurge on a membership in an exclusive swim club. How exclusive? Since we joined, we haven’t seen another soul. And the amenities are top-drawer: full bar, current issues of magazines, ready access to yummy snacks.

The best part, though, was the membership fee: $50. And I don’t mean, per day, per week, per month or per year. We’re talking lifetime, or until the pool pops, whichever comes first.

Yes, our swim club’s natatory facility is an inflatable pool, which may sound kind of rinky-dink, especially if there’s no pool boy to blow it up, which at our swim club there isn’t, on account of coronavirus. But it took us only about 10 minutes to fill its three rainbow-colored rings and floor with hot air and then only another 10 minutes to fill it with cold water. 

That’s because it’s about a foot high by five feet across. If that sounds a little snug, let me assure you that there’s ample room for two full-sized adults, their gin-and-tonics and their magazines. It’s true that we can’t do laps, unless we sit in each other’s, but let’s face it: On a hot summer afternoon, all you really care about is dipping your body in cool water. If I want exercise I’ll get up at 6 and go for a walk or a bike ride — bicycles are also available at our swim club.

In fact, one of the best things about our swim club is that it offers absolutely all the conveniences of home, on account of it’s located in our backyard, which means, no climbing into a hot car, no expansion of our carbon footprint, no traffic, no walking across a baking parking lot, no lifeguard bodies to unfavorably compare to my own sorry bag o’ bones. 

We had heard that during this stay-at-home summer, kiddie pools were almost as hot of a commodity as toilet paper, yeast, flour and anti-bacterial cleaning products were during the spring, but we found an impressive selection, including watermelon, cherry and grapefruit designs, pools with sunroofs, pools with sprinklers, pools shaped like flamingos, whales, goldfish, sharks, unicorns and frogs. 

We chose the rainbow design because – well, I don’t remember why we chose the rainbow design, maybe because you can only spend so much time shopping for kiddie pools online before you want to spend time looking at the latest footage of crazies who think being forced to wear a mask in public is a Nazi-Communist-Devil Worshipper’s-Black Lives Matter-Antifa-Bill Gates-inspired plot.

Really, I have only one bright-red, ping-pong-ball-sized complaint about my swim club membership so far. First time in the water, I settle in with my G&T and my magazine, when my pool buddy alerts me to the presence of a bee on my left thigh.

Now I am not usually apiphobic. Why just the other day I was listening admiringly to a radio report that described how a bee gets down into a flower and does the hootchy-cootchy in a way that causes the pollen to simply explode all over its busy body. 

When a bee enters my airspace, if I react at all it’s with a gentle wave – more of a move-along-now gesture than a “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” The bee usually takes the hint. 

To those who flee in terror, I want to explain that this is not a lion-and-antelope situation. The bee is not after you; the two of you are merely crossing paths.

This time, though, perhaps because of my vulnerable beached-whale position in the pool, perhaps because the very fact of being in a kiddie pool caused me to revert to my childhood apiphobia, I panicked and swatted, which caused the poor bee to panic in turn and leave me with a souvenir of his visit. 

I thought about complaining to swim club management until I remembered that I am swim club management, at which point the only remedy was another G&T, which helped me put my bee sting in proper perspective: If we were to go to Cape Cod, we’d have great white sharks to contend with. A fisheries scientist named Gregory B. Skomal just told the New York Times that more great whites visit the Cape each year.

“It’s kind of like when a new restaurant opens and people realize it’s a really good spot, and someone else discovers it and slowly the clientele builds,” he said.

The good thing about belonging to a really dinky swim club is that it attracts a really dinky clientele.



A collection of Russell Frank's columns, titled “Among the Woo People: A Survival Guide for Living in a College Town," is available from the Penn State University Press. His columns for won first place for commentary in the 2019 Society of Professional Journalists Keystone Chapter Best in Journalism contest. The winning columns: The Women’s March: Notes from New York, It’s Time to Change the Script and Mixed Messages at Bellefonte High. Frank is a member of the journalism faculty at Penn State. Before launching his academic career, he worked as a reporter, editor and columnist at newspapers in California and Pennsylvania. He is, by academic training, a folklorist (Ph.D., UPenn), which means, when you strip away the academic jargon, that he loves a good story. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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