Readers-

Just over two years ago I was finalizing my decision to join a gym. I was approaching the big three-nine and I wasn’t getting any healthier. I scheduled my appointment with the national gym chain and everything. Then, March 12 hit and a certain someone (who’s still on the lam, as far as I can tell) rear-ended me and my trusty Subaru in a drunken pique.

The injuries I sustained from that car accident were unlike anything I had ever experienced. Sure, the mountain bike crash in southern Colorado was painful and my ability to walk without pain shooting through my hips only subsided after an intense three months in physical therapy, but being rear-ended by Drunky the Clown causes a whole new level of hurt.

To wit: I was back on the bike, full throttle (going after it at Silver City’s famed Enduro Burro) , a mere four months after the bike accident. But it took me seven months to get (gingerly) back in the saddle after the drunk driver hit me.

What’s a tomboy to do during recovery? A different sport, if she wants to remain somewhat healthy.

So I swam. I joined the Denver Recreation Center, and I swam. The crawl and the breaststroke were too difficult at first, and made the acute pain acuter, especially the part where buttocks meet lower back–ilial sacrum or something. That part had folded around the seat belt in a cruel twist of accident.

So I went with the side and backstroke and battled with some elders on who could swim the slowest pace. Some days I won. But I liked swimming so much (even though I’ve not got the breathing thing down, never mind wallkicks) that I swam outdoors all summer.

Problem is, so did the rest of NW Denver. From 12-1 everyday, my favorite outdoor pool provides lap swim for adults. This is an excellent time to soak up the sun, get some exercise in, and be glad once again I live in Colorado.

The problem is pool etiquette. I know how to share a lane with another person, although I can’t say I like it. I’m always worried about kicking a wall or a person. But three people in a lane? Someone help me with this.

Last week I was swimming at another one of the pools in northwest Denver just before the workday. There are only four lanes, and the yuppie entitlement factor at this particular site is very high.

I arrived at the pool around 7AM, and sharing a lane was inevitable. No problem. I waited until the young lady swam to my end of the pool, asked the necessary “Do you mind if we share?” and went at it. She left not five minutes later. My body screamed “freedom!” at the thought of having my own lane.

Alas, a young man appeared at the far end of the pool and splashed in. He did not have to ask my permission to share a lane, but I find it courteous and in good taste to wait for the other person to appear at your end of the pool and make the necessary gestures of sharing with some nodding and finger pointing.

Now, I’d put money on me to survive adrift in the ocean for a few days, but I’m not a pretty swimmer nor a fast one. No finesse, no swimming lessons. I just learned as I went on the shores of southern New England and at the YMCA. But this guy splashed around like a drowning victim.

Then guy number two shows up and inquires, ya know, if we can swim in circles, all three of us in a lane. I’ve done this a few times before and I know what’s coming. These two are going to out-testosterone one another to see who’s fastest and they’re both going to be passing me. A lot. I anxiously replied, “sure” and let him go ahead of me, warning him of my tortoise-inspired speed.

And then it happened. I got passed. Again. Again. And again. And then guy number one, the drowning victim, scratches me with his toenail in his spastic attempt to fluff his peacock feathers. On the next pass he kicks me. Now, I understand accidents (see above), but this guy is a colossal asshole. When you kick someone or scratch someone accidentally, you apologize. Every kindergartener knows that.

Not this guy. He is entitled to exactly the kind of workout he believes he deserves, and he’s going to kick that slow, stocky lady if she’s in his way.

So I fought back. Not with kicks and scratches (that’s sooooo elementary school), but with my wits. When approaching guy number two with guy number one right behind me, I would speed up so passing me without hitting oncoming traffic was impossible. Then, when the passing lane had disappeared, I would swim as slowly as I could.

Now I’ve got stamina. I can mountain bike, hike, or snowboard for hours and I can even run for a few minutes. I entered that pool just after 7AM and I was going to swim until that lifeguard lady kicked me out at 8AM. I was going to outlast both guys numbers one and two, even if I felt I was being both psychologically and physically edged out by the stronger sex.

And I did. So blah.

But I’m curious:

What is the etiquette for entering a pool lane with someone already in it?

What is proper etiquette for sharing a lane with two other people? Does the slowest swimmer have an obligation to move elsewhere?

Does the first person in the lane have any poolsteading rights?

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