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The Pool Asi

Asi, my current favourite German slang, comes from the word Asozial, literally translating to “asocial.” A site named Fluentu (yes, that’s the name!) explains, “this is a word used to describe someone who is rude or annoying and doesn’t take into account the effects of their actions on other people”.

In other words, an asshole. Thus translated, it loses its pungency, so I am going to stick to Asi for this post. I’ve been reading this book called Assholes, which defines, categorises and then puts forward a theory of why assholes exist and supposedly tips on how to deal with them (I haven’t got that far yet). But I have realised that a very important category of assholes has been left out of the book – the swimming pool Asi.

The swimming pool Asi is unique in his infuriation value, since there’s generally no peaceful escape unless you chose to end your swim and leave. This special type of Asi is either unwilling or unable to utilise their sense of sight or decency to follow the basically universal swimming pool etiquette that has been in existence since time immemorial. Or since the invention of pools at the very least.

The Asi-ness starts even before this person enters the water. They will stand outside the pool, putting on their caps and goggles while staring right through you at the opposite end. They will lightly step over your water bottle and equipment, which is the pool version of a dog marking his territory, and get into your lane. No amount of intimidation tactics like frenzied splashing, active wing-span increase or aggressive glares deters this person from starting to swim exactly towards you. Now here is where things gets REALLY confusing. I fail to understand what these people expect will happen when they keep swimming towards you. Are you supposed to disappear into thin air? Are you expected to ruin your form to keep a lookout for them and avoid crashing into them? Are they simply oblivious to the presence of other human life? Do they have superpowers and can float through you like a ghost?

The worst type of Asi is the one who, after this battle to grab foreign territory, wanders about like a blind, drunk tyrant ruler, mowing down everything in their dull, slow, crooked path.  They are oblivious to the fact that they finish their trip about 2 lanes away from where they started, and to the hostile grunts of people around. Seriously, everyone doesn’t have to be a Phelps, but how about an embarrassed apology? This isn’t the adorable toddler in your way at the supermarket, it’s the cranky middle-aged lady who runs over your foot with her already overloaded cart at the diary counter, in her hurry to get to the bread.

Swimmers that are faster than me don’t bother me, except to puncture my ego. But they go their own way and I go mine, unless they start right behind me and then touch my feet while swimming. This practise for some reason has always riled me up so much, that I often slow down immensely or stop dead just to let them pass. Don’t touch my feet man! But this is quite rare unless it’s a competitive swim club practise, so I move on to the slow swimmers. Incidentally these are the same ones that decide it’s a good idea to swim backstroke in a crowded pool, start ahead of you in your lane and then only kick their legs at an infuriatingly leisurely pace, or the worst – suddenly change their stroke mid-lap. Recently someone crept up quietly just when I come to the edge and whispered into my ear as I came above water to take a breath. Yes, this has happened and I was so startled that I cursed right into this man’s face. This is the swimming pool version of waking up a total stranger from their sleep by blowing into their ear!

A newly emerging brand of Asis are the ones who come to the pool to relax. This isn’t the norm in my University’s 50m pool, where everyone comes to exercise. There are no kids bobbing around after balls, aunties in salwar-kameez clinging to the edge or fat men floating around, or this rant post would be much, much longer. I have nothing against people relaxing in the water, I certainly get the appeal. What I don’t understand is the total unwillingness of these relaxers to move out of the way of someone who already has a limited space to swim. Today I was tempted to take a turn ON the legs of the 3 guys who sat at the edge of the pool, and refused to move their legs momentarily out of my way even though I had nowhere else to turn. Its like setting up your picnic blanket in the middle of the jogging track!

I’ve never had much road rage, but it seems I do have pool rage. I will spend the next 10 minutes after one of these encounters passive-aggressively trying to regain my lost space, cursing you loudly and/or shooting daggers at you through my foggy goggles – although the effect surely loses its potency since its all underwater. Sadly, pool Assis have never even undergone the training that even the most terrible drivers are forced to go through. So I’m going to lay out 3 simple rules for the ones who might claim ignorance.

  • As a rule of thumb, if someone was there first, you are in their territory. That means you adapt to how (circle or lane system) and where (left or right side of the lane) they are swimming. Expect the same courtesy when you got to the lane first.
  • Open your potato eyes! I couldn’t resist this Indianism because seriously, use your eyes to see, they are not potatoes in your head. If you look at the wonderfully helpful lane markers on the floor, you can see if you are swimming straight. If you look ahead of you before you start your lap, you can see if you are going to cause a headlong collision in the next 30 seconds.
  • After following Rule 1 & 2, if you still swim like a blundering baboon, have the self-awareness to recognise it and the decency to apologise for your existence in the pool.

Here’s a 4th bonus rule:
  • Don’t be Asi.


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