Today at the pool — yes, I can swim now — there was a fracas. A backstroking man kept bumping into the young woman who was sharing his lane. When she asked him to watch out, he got angry. The lifeguard was summoned, but the poor lifeguard is the age of my students, and when he confronted the backstroker, the backstroker yelled that he was there first.
I missed all of this, but when I came up for air, the young woman had climbed into my lane and told me the whole saga. I watched the backstroker splash back and forth, taking up the entire lane, and was struck by how unguilty he was. He felt just fine hogging a lane and then being belligerent about it. What would it be to live like this — to feel that you deserve everything and anything?
I always swim right next to the marker, precisely so I don’t take up too much room. Not because I like sharing, but because I would feel guilty if I did not. And, besides, I know what it is like to arrive at the pool and see all the lanes occupied. It’s the social contract, I suppose: If I want people to leave room for me, I must leave room for others. This is civilization. But what are we to do with people like the backstroker?
This is why I like running. You don’t have to share lanes.