On my Fridays off I used to do an aqua fitness class at one of the base pools. A few of us Marine wives–and a couple of spunky elderly women–would meet in the mornings to do swimming and jogging laps and resistance exercises with water weight dumbbells. The routine wasn’t particularly strenuous and it served as a great warm-up for the noon spin class I never missed. Relaxing? YES!
The pool we used was also employed by the base for water survival training classes. Here’s the scene: A team of extremely fit, tattooed, macho as hell, and half-naked swim/drive instructors stand on diving boards and the edge of the pool yelling nonstop at a bunch of young Marines who can barely keep their heads above the water because they’re wearing full uniforms, sometimes even with boots. The Marines have to tread water then dive to the bottom of the pool, then tread more water, then collect brightly colored dive sticks from the bottom of the pool, then tread some more water. As soon as a Marine brings a dive stick to the surface then dives under to retrieve the next one, a cocky instructor chuckles and tosses the stick right back into the pool.
One day our instructor decided we needed to do some work in the deep end of the pool. Since it was large enough to have two roped-off deep areas we swam into the one next to where the early-morning-Marine-drownings took place and proceeded to go through our normal routine.
Near the end of the class I had relaxed into the routine a bit and was focused on slowly kicking through the water. I crossed the mid-point of the pool and started chugging toward the opposite wall. Suddenly I was flipped around (or over? not sure which) onto my back to find a sputtering and choking young Marine flailing in the water next to me, looking very stunned. He’d blindly surfaced, probably with his lungs so hungry for oxygen that he’d not paid attention as he swam upward. Somehow this led him into our half of the deep end of the pool and all the way over into my lane, where he’d managed to grab my ankle and carry it with him as he surfaced.
I hate to admit it, but when somebody surprises me like that while I’m in the water I tend to kind of freak out. My scream alerted the instructors, who promptly began shouting at the poor guy and ordering him back into his end of the pool to tread more water as punishment for his accident.
I haven’t been in a swimming pool again since. Don’t feel bad for me, though, because that poor young guy who grabbed my ankle might still be there in that pool, treading water and more water.