Swimming Rules

I swim in a community pool during a time of day that is dominated by the retired subculture* of a wealthy northern California suburb. Though I haven’t been swimming for long, I’ve come to realize that swimming is an extremely social activity in this suburb for these folks. There are regulars who know each others’ names and life histories. There is actual locker-room gossip. There are rules, some unspoken.

Here’s one of the rules that’s spoken:



If people pass you, move to a slower lane.
If you pass people, move to a faster lane.
If you are a jogger or walker, use the area scheduled for this activity.
The lifeguard will assist in finding the best lane for you.
The lifeguard will move swimmers into appropriate lanes, when necessary.
Do not assume you can use the same lane every visit.

Note that “the lifeguard” is in charge of dictating who is in what lane, not “the swimmers.”

Enter…Gloved Woman (known for her trademark backstroke, accent, and dark gloves). Gloved Woman (GW) practically lives at the pool between 6-9am every M-W-F. She takes frequent breaks to gossip about the other swimmers to the lifeguard, in a clear attempt to sway him. The lifeguard humors her. Last Wednesday, I was swimming in the slow lane and taking frequent breaks. During one of my breaks, GW (who was taking a gossip break) hollered over to another prospective swimmer:

“She’s leaving! You can split the lane with me.”

Me: “No, I’m taking a break.”

GW: “Oh, my mistake.”

GW then proceeded to glare at me.

Me: “I’m new to swimming.”

GW: “No you’re not. I’ve seen you here before.”

GW then tossed her hair back (or she would have, had she not been wearing a swim cap), and proceeded to continue swimming. On my next break, I overheard her talking to the lifeguard about how she tried to let that other poor swimmer in with us, but I wouldn’t allow it.

20 minutes later, I was ready to get out, and saw another woman approaching the lane.

Me: “It’s yours.”

GW overheard me and quickly swam up to the top of the lane.

GW: “Good.” Directing the new swimmer to my lane, she said: “Now, you take this side of the lane.”

The next time I went swimming, GW was thankfully in the “Medium” lane. I doubt this will be my last encounter with her, however.

*Yes, I said “subculture.” I have my anthropology prof from my D.C. internship to thank for that! It implies exclusivity.



I am a creature of habit. When I form a habit, it’s really hard for me to break it, be it getting up at the crack of dawn to run…or eating a certain sweet something at 3pm. I’m obviously not a slave to habit, otherwise I would never have moved in my life, nor would I have picked up new hobbies at any given point in time. But my habits ground me. And I guess, when you’ve moved four times in four years, you need something to ground you.

Running was not a habit I wanted to give up, for any period of time. But I had to push it off to the side for my poor little injured second metatarsal. Not only have I pushed aside running, I put a hold on my climbing gym membership (which, incidentally, was how I spent 2-3 evenings a week, for upwards of 4 hours each evening). It’s now been 3 weeks since my podiatrist’s stress fracture semi-diagnosis, and finally…I’ve broken the habits I so adored. In their place, I have new habits, and even though it was painful to give up the old habits, I’m starting to like the new ones.

Take swimming, for instance. I know how to swim, I enjoy it, and I recognize it is such a good workout. I was resistant to get back in the swimming game at first because it meant I’d have to learn where the pools were, what their schedule was, and how to make it there on time. It’s taken me three weeks, but I’ve finally figured it out, and it’s not that hard to make it to where I need to be. Moving through the water yesterday morning, I realized I’m finally getting the hang of things. I can go for two laps without stopping instead of one. I know that I have a lot to work on with swimming to get to the point where I could go continuously for 30 minutes or so, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling completely relaxed and fundamentally happy after a session. I don’t know if this is because I like swimming or if it is because it is the best exercise available for me right now…but I’ll take it.

I may be a habit-forming person, but habit breaking is just as much fun. I need to remember this when I get stuck in my ways. Life is just too short to schedule in so much and leave no room for discovering (or rediscovering) new things.

This is Pi.

Pi in the Sky art installation over the bay area today.

Did you see this? Did you know it was happening? I happened to be walking back from lunch and looked up to see five planes in perfect synchronization creating this beautiful series of numbers. Immediately, my first thought was: “I’m sure this means something,” followed by: “Is this a geek’s proposal?” and then finally: “This is clearly an expensive ad.” None of the above! Turns out it is an art installation. Which makes me wonder…if this was a rorschach ink blot type of test, what does that say about me? What did you think it was?

Freezing my shoes

View of SF from a boat on the bay.

I’ve been horribly remiss about posting photos of new outfits lately. I feel a little shy asking random colleagues to take photos of me, and my fashion photographer (aka, the woman who introduced me to Raja), is out of town for work. I have been mostly wearing more stylish/flattering outfits, though, and finding it easier to do so. I even bought an accessory (a turquoise necklace). I will say the following about the long weekend, and my 21 Day Challenge:

  • I wore dry-clean-only pants on a sailboat (rocky waters = salty pants. lesson learned!).
  • I missed an opportunity to wear a new outfit on a day when I was only planning on swimming (as it turns out, I ended up spending way more time walking around in Berkeley than originally planned) — and I missed an opportunity to show off Raja’s talents. Le sigh!
  • I am getting better at advertising Raja’s services, but not better at judging who wants them. I went to a Labor Day party a friend of mine was hosting and her husband’s mother sounded really interested. As it turns out, she was just making small talk, because when I offered to give her Raja’s info, she poo-pooed it. Oh well!
  • I froze my shoes. Apparently, this is a tried-and-true method for breaking them in. You fill up two hole-free, fully sealable ziploc bags with water, and stick them in your shoes, making sure to cover the toe to the heel. Then, you stick the shoes in the freezer overnight. My shoes are not 100% broken in yet, but they’re definitely closer!
  • I won’t give up my Patagonia down jacket when standing outside for hours. Freezing in SF is just not worth it.