“Ok, a little deeper, let’s see if I float”, I say.
“You should be getting there,” says Joe.
“I think it’ll work on my back,” I say. The cold water creeps up to my ears.
“How’s the water?” laughs Joe, no hint of sympathy in his voice.
“Friggin cold thank you very much” I say.
“This should work! We’ll use your manual chair and guide you in,” says Terry.
“One push and we’ll stand back, no need for a ramp, we’ll get you in there quick,” teases Joe.
“Ok, I want a life-jacket!” I say, remembering a failed kayak attempt. (a funny story in hindsight, a scary adventure at the time).
Earlier we had started the pool’s propane water-heater, totally unaware of just how much propane it takes to heat an outdoor pool. About $100 worth later, the pool is at 60 degrees F or so, yay.
“Good enough, let’s try!” I say, imagining $20 bills going up in smoke.
They put a lifejacket on me, snickering at the possibilities for the near future, do they know something? Terry and Joe slowly wheel me down into the water. My feet touch the water, I feel a bit of a tingling sensation up the back of my neck, hmmm. Tingling feelings are usually reserved for pain-indication, but not nice warm water, right? I go down farther, this’ll be awesome!
“How’s the water?” says Joe.
“Seems ok, let’s do it”, I reply.
“Too cold?” asks Terry.
“No,” bearing in mind I have no feeling below the chest.
The water now reaches my chest.
“Holy bleep!” I say, “This is cold!!” The water sucks my breath away. My body reacts, and any unessentials are retracted to warmer climes.
There’s no turning back now! Ok pride and ego, gonna need you’re A-game to get me through this! Us quads are notoriously cold almost all the time, even without Arctic waters! I start floating and get rolled onto my back. The lifejacket does its job, face-up is much preferable to face-down when in water it seems. It feels kind of creepy at first, lying on my back with my head half under. The cold is numbing, and I see the smirks being exchanged, but I’m not complaining and releasing the dreaded “I-told-you-so’s”. After a few minutes the situation seemed stable, which is more than can be said for a few of the participants. Sometimes I think they just like to see me screw up.
Next to try swimming. I get my bearings. I sure don’t want to zoom across and hit the other side of the pool. I try to move my arms out to the side, slowly and cautiously. In the weightlessness of water it is hard to straighten my arms. I try to throw them out to the side over and over. It doesn’t appear to be having the desired effect. I try harder, now I’m whipping up a pretty good froth on the pool, and looking around I see that there’s been no progress. Something must be impeding my progress. I check to see if my helpers are holding me back, nope. More thrashing ensues, and I do manage to do a pretty fair wounded-fish imitation. I’m grateful that there are no great white sharks in the pool. I’m pretty sure that I’m moving now, and look over the side to see. Out of the corner of my eye I see a dead bug floating by, pushed by a breeze, what a show-off. Well not to be out-swam by a dead bug, I pick up the pace. Evidently it must’ve been a water-bug as I was far out-classed, and it kept zooming on. I thrashed and flailed. Apparently producing equal amounts of forward and rearward thrust is counter-productive. I wouldn’t be surprised if rescuers from Greenpeace show up.
About 15 minutes of movement-free floating later, I’m seizing up from the cold. It’s time to call it quits.
“I’m done, getting cold” I say.
“Ok, let’s get you out,”
They drag me by the lifejacket over to the wheelchair, now this is moving! I’m pulled up the ramp, into the welcoming sun. My body starts to warm and un-seize. I’m disappointed by the results, but now know where I stand when it comes to swimming, so to speak (equally bad at both).
Life is all about learning. I learned that I can float with a lifejacket. I learned that I don’t swim like I used to. I learned that 60f water is way too cold for me!
I can now rest assured that if a I’m on a cruise ship that sinks 6 inches from shore, with the right wind I will be safe.