I’m going to be 32 next March. In anyone’s eyes, even my own, I can no longer be considered a child. So I was rather surprised yesterday when I was scolded like one.
Yesterday afternoon Jessie (wife) and I decided to take the girls swimming. When I say decided, what I mean is: Jessie and the girls went on about me joining them on one of their swimming trips for three or four weeks until eventually I realised it would be easier, for me, if I just gave in.
Anyway, we went to a council-run pool and paid £6 to join one of the “open” swims. That seemed like quite a lot to me. I’m sure I can remember handing over 25p to go to the baths. That was probably back when I was a “child.”
For six quid I was expecting big things and I must say it was pretty nice: not too cold and with three friendly lifeguards on duty. It was also very quiet – just us and a couple of women doing laps – which is good when you’re shepherding the two squeakiest and splashiest water goers since little Bud got attacked by a shark and Flipper went mental.
The girls love it though and, to my surprise, we were all having a great time. After a little while we had the pool to ourselves, Jessie and I were able to take it in turns to swim a couple of lengths and everything was very relaxed.
Beatrice (youngest daughter) wears one of those buoyancy jackets – it’s good because it holds her up completely, there’s no way she can go under. I was looking after her and we had swum down to the deeper part of the pool. I’m a reasonably strong swimmer, I did it competitively when I was younger and have kept up with it over the years. The knowledge of that, combined with Bea’s flotation jacket, and the fact I could still touch the bottom meant I was feeling no concern for our safety. Neither, clearly, were the lifeguards who sat calmly looking on.
Then, from out of a little cupboard beside the pool scuttled a scowling woman. I watched her half run around the pool to the lifeguards – controversial because even I know you’re not supposed to run by the pool. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but she was clearly berating the youngsters and gesticulating in my direction.
I didn’t think much of it, I thought perhaps she was pointing at a poorly stacked shelve of floats or a Twix wrapper stuck to one of the kayaks. But, she then came back round in my direction and stood over me.
“Will you stay in the other half of the pool!” she semi-shouted, in an incredibly patronising tone.
I was so taken aback that I had to challenge her.
“Sorry, why? We’re the only people here.” I replied.
“Erm, because that one can’t swim!” If you can imagine her wagging her finger and moving her head side to side as she said this, you’ll get the gist.
“Yes, but I can and she’s wearing a lifejacket,” I continued calmly.
“I’m sorry, are you questioning me?” She blurted out incredulously.
“No, I just wasn’t aware of that rule, there’s no sign up about it.” I said, slightly apologetically.
“Well, I’ve made you aware now,” she said before scuttling back into here cupboard.
I suddenly felt very strange, like I was back at school. What sort of insane power trip would you have to be on to tell off a 31-year-old man taking his daughter swimming?
I can understand that the pool has a rule that non-swimmers aren’t allowed into the deep end – that makes sense. But, as there was nobody there apart from me, Bea and three, yes three, lifeguards, then perhaps the rule could have been overlooked. If she really felt the need to enforce the rule then couldn’t she have come and quietly, politely informed me of it? Perhaps even pointed out that it was a bit silly, but she was duty bound to let me know…
Yes, it made me feel like a naughty boy again, and that reminded me how badly young people are often spoken to. It’s little wonder they rebel when those in positions of authority make them feel like I did yesterday on a regular basis. I assume the lady at the pool has to deal with youngsters most days and her technique for keeping them in line is to patronise them in the way she did to me.
That might have the desired affect at the time, but it leaves the patronised party feeling belittled and subjugated. That makes them want to fight back. I’m doing it by writing about the experience here. I’ve decided that, for a 31-year-old, it’s a better tactic than throwing a bin through the window of Footlocker.