Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Height of Mortification?

This August’s crazy weather, Scooter Follies, and some of my charmingly idiosyncratic mobility issues recently conspired to place me in a bemusedly uncomfortable position.  One evening I found myself being carried off the pool deck at the Mountainside Community Pool by two sturdy lifeguards.

Laura and I thoroughly enjoy our summer membership in the Mountainside Community Pool (MCP).  This excellently maintained facility features a fifty meter main pool with crystal clear water.  There is a wade-in baby pool and a diving tank with slides and diving boards.  Augmented by changing rooms with clean showers, a snack bar and a well-trained staff, the MCP rivals most of the area’s private clubs—at a fraction of the price.

Laura goes to the pool to swim laps after work every day.  The lane lines segregate two lap lanes on the far side of the pool at 5:00 PM.  This year I met her there two to three times a week.  She does 20 laps (1 kilometer) in a typical visit; I try to do half of that.  My kicking ability is no longer adequate to hold my legs up, so I use leg floats.  This works fairly well, but forces me out of the comfortable, streamlined position I cultivated in years of regular recreational swimming.  As Uncle Bill (William Kalt) used to say, “We manage.”

I usually walk with the aid of a walker, but use a travel scooter for longer jaunts or when I’m a bit weak (heat and exercise are the main culprits).  We keep the scooter in Laura’s car because the longer jaunts tend to be on weekends when we use her car almost exclusively.  The pool is one of those gray areas.  The walker is fine when we arrive, but the scooter offers more flexibility when we are at the pool and when we leave, depending on water temperature, air temperature, how long we stay and how I am shod (right shoe lift, left foot toe-up brace).  One evening this past August I met Laura at the pool.  I failed to notice that my scooter battery had been charging in the garage, so I had to use the walker at the pool—no problem.  The evening was lovely.  While the sky was not cloudless, there wasn’t the hint of rain in the air.  To the west, from where our weather usually arrives, nothing but blue sky.

Now when I use the scooter, I zip around to the far side of the pool by the swimming lanes.  When I use the walker, I enter the in the shallow end of pool on the near side, and walk/swim across to the lanes—anything to save steps.  The little children who hang around on the shallow-end steps where  I ease myself into the water are usually very good about giving me the space I need—even without parental admonition, which is usually quick in coming (nice people—another reason to like the MCP).  They are curious, but I don’t think they’re too badly traumatized by the sight of the fat old man with a walker holding onto the handrail and backing into the water.

Fast forward ten minutes.  Two laps into my swim, as I glide gracefully (in my mind anyhow) into the wall at the shallow end of the pool, a young lady in a lifeguard bathing suit directs me to get out of the pool.  The lightening warning has been triggered; thunder issues from the south through a still almost cloudless sky.  I tell her that I will traverse the shallow end of the pool to make my egress by the steps near the walker.  She offers to get the walker for me, but I demur.  It will overall be faster this way, and I certainly don’t want to take the time to explain why, even with the walker, I cannot really effectively walk without a five minute recuperation, drying my feet, and donning my orthopedic shoes with lift and brace, which are, of course, with the walker.  She is clearly nervous that I am now the last one in the water, but I fairly quickly wake my way to the steps and haul myself out of the water.

Is everything OK now?  Not really.  The assistant pool manager really wants us off the pool deck, NOW.  Our assistant pool manager is a very friendly, chatty physical education teacher.  He understands the danger of being out in the open whether the lightening in the area is coming from the west with rain, as it properly should, or it is atypically coming from the south with no accompanying precipitation at all.  He politely asks if they may carry me off the pool deck so I may complete my resting and dressing rituals in the relatively safer covered exit passageway that runs through the building housing the locker rooms/pool office.

I quickly agree.  After a brief remedial tutorial on the two-person arm carry, two strong young men safely lift and transport this slippery, wet, somewhat defective body the seventy five feet to a bench in the passageway.  While in transit I muse that this is really an appropriate time to be mortified at having to be toted like a sack of potatoes across the pool deck.  But I really wasn’t; this was just another event triggered by a disease that I didn’t ask for, and have no control over.  To be embarrassed by needing help politely offered and respectfully given would just be giving in to the MS.  That will never happen on my watch.  

Each incident is an adventure, both for me and for Laura following this parade with my walker and belongings in tow.  An adventure and a blog entry.