true gripes : swimming pool fascists

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The Independent Online
There have been a lot of swimming pool fascists about during the recent spell of hot weather. Swimming pool fascists are the ones who crash into you all the time. If they did this because they were inept swimmers it would be forgiveable: nobody's perfect.

But swimming pool fascists are excellent swimmers. They swim in perfectly straight lines and do not care who gets in their way. However much space you give them, they always take more. If they collide with you going up the pool, and you get out of the way, they still manage to touch you on the way back. Nothing can disturb their stroke.

There's one woman at my local pool who seems to take up about half the room available. She always favours the back-stroke. Up and down she ploughs, very fast, and not worried about who gets in her way. And she always has a great big smile on her face. What's she smiling about? If I smile when I'm swimming I immediately start to sink.

The same thing happens if I'm touched by a swimming pool fascist. Alright, I admit it: I'm a poor swimmer. The problem is I can either swim or breathe: I don't seem to be able to do both things at the same time. The pool attendants must recognise this vital weakness in my technique. Whenever I enter the water one of them goes off and returns carrying a long pole with a hook on the end. He stands there holding it for the entire time I'm in the pool and only puts it away when I come out.

I discussed the problem with my friend Tony, and he said he would "have a look" at my swimming. Tony is an excellent swimmer, too: he swims fast and aggressively, but he never bashes into other people. He always respects their space. Obviously he was the person to put me right.

We went down to the pool one day and he watched as I thrashed back and forth. My arms went round and round, my legs thrashed wildly, but as usual I didn't get anywhere. He then pronounced that I was "ergonomically inefficient" (whatever that means) and went for a swim of his own. At that moment the woman with the big smile on her face swam past. What was she smiling about?