Saturday, April 07, 2012

Taking candy from babies

I don't know if I was a bitch or not. You tell me. I am feeling a little bit guilty.

Last week, when I was swimming, a woman got into the lane next to me. When I stopped for one of my frequent breaks (because I am lazy and hate exercising and sometimes try to fool myself that being in an exercising place is the same thing as actually exercising), she tapped my shoulder.

"Excuse me," she said. "Would you tell me when you're done swimming?"

I thought it was a stupid thing to ask. So I did a stupid thing.

"Why?" I asked her.

"Because they put a rope up above that lane for me."

I looked up. There was indeed a clothesline-type rope running about six feet above the water, parallel to the lane.

I raised my eyebrows. "I'm blind," she said. "It's so I can stay in the lane."

I looked at her more closely. She couldn't have been completely blind or else the rope would have done her no good at all. It wasn't a rope for her to touch, after all. Not only that, but if she can see well enough to see a clothesline six feet in the air, she could surely see a 12" black line painted on the floor of the pool.

"The wall lane is empty," I pointed out.

"I can't see the rope from there," she said. "It isn't as good." She sighed. "Just tell me when you're done." Then she sighed again.

Which was true. There is a definite hierarchy of swimming lanes. The lane nearest the wall is usually the worst lane because the water is the most choppy there. (Remember high school physics and wave refraction?)

However, I would rather be alone in the wall lane than share one of the middle lanes. The Y ropes off the two far right lanes as single lanes, then leaves the middle two open as a big shared lane. There can be two swimmers on the lines (the line painted on the floor of the pool) and then one swimmer between the lines. The two lanes furthest to the left are where the old people have their water aerobics class. Lanes 1 and 2, old people. Lanes 3 and 4, combined for lap swimming. Lanes 5 and 6, single lanes for laps.

I hate swimming down the middle and I hate swimming on the painted line if someone else is swimming down the middle. Most of the swimmers at the Y know how to share a lane, but there are a few amateurs who splash about madly and flail and knock their arms into mine or force me to hit the lane ropes.

So if I can have lane 5, I'm going to take it. It's the best lane. If I have it, it's mine. Mine.

So the blind lady didn't want the wall lane, either. She stared at me with her "I'm a blind old lady" look. Except she's not completely blind.

I sighed. "Why don't I take that lane and you can have this one?"

She was happy to make the switch.

But when I got home, I complained to SH. "Why didn't she just ask me to switch lanes?" I asked. "Why did she go through all that passive-aggressive crap?"

Today, she showed up again. I was in lane 5 again. She was in the middle double lane. I watched her swim. She seemed to do just fine. Even when she was swimming backstroke, she didn't veer off the line, didn't knock into anyone.

After about ten minutes, as I returned to the end of the lane, I saw a hand stuck underwater in my lane, waving at me. I sighed. Well, not really, because you can't sigh underwater. But in my mind.

I stood. The blind lady asked, "Would you please tell me when you're done swimming?"

"Sure," I said politely. Then I dove right back in the water.

I swam another 400 yards, which takes me about 11 minutes - I am very, very slow, then stopped. She was waiting. "Are you still going?" she asked.

I looked at her. I looked at the water. I looked back at her again. "When I get out of the water, that's when I'll be done," I told her very politely.

She was almost motivating me to go for 3,000 yards, just out of spite. But I was too tired, so I did only 2,500. When I stopped, she was swimming away from me, about halfway to the other end.

I wasn't going to wait. She was even slower than I am.

I got out of the water, grabbed my stuff, and went into the hot tub next to the pool. As soon as I got out of the water, she slipped into my lane.

I stayed in the hot tub for five minutes, then got out and went back by the pool to get to the locker room. She got out of the water and stopped me.

"Perhaps I didn't make myself clear before," she said.

"What are you talking about?"

"I asked if you would tell me when you got out of the water."

"Yes, but you were halfway down the pool when I got out," I told her.

"But I'm blind."

My jaw dropped. Later, I thought I should have said, "But you moved right into my lane so what's the problem?" but I never think of these things in the moment. I also maybe should have said, "If you're blind, then how come you saw me get into the hot tub 15 yards away?"

But I didn't. I am usually not prepared with snappy comebacks for old blind ladies.

I just shook my head, shrugged, and said, "Oh well." I think she was ticked that I hadn't offered her my lane again but there was no need to do so. She reminded me a little bit of the people (very few of them) who get offended when people without handicaps use the handicapped stall in the ladies. I'm supposed to wait longer just on the off chance that someone with a handicap might come into the bathroom while I'm peeing? Yes, if there is a line and the handicapped stall becomes free, then sure, let the lady in the wheelchair cut in front. But otherwise, the rest of us are going to do what needs to be done.

What do I do next week when she pointedly asks me again to tell her when I'm done swimming?


deb said...

I would check with management about her. She says they put the rope up for her...they should know about her.

Other than a request from them to comply, I'd say swim in what ever lane you want. Let her arrive earlier to beat you to the lane if she's that needy.

(I'd also be curious how she gets you wondered, how blind is she?)

Anonymous said...

At one point I felt guilty for using handicap stalls in the ladies' rooms. Then I realized the sign doesn't indicate 'handicapped only'. It's available for the handicapped but anyone can use it. I agree with Deb, see what management has to say and go from there. Sorry I don't have better advice, not good at comebacks either.

webb said...

Deb's suggestion to ask for clarification from management is a good one, but stop kicking yourself around over this. You did the very nice thing the first time, but the second time reeked on "mine, mine, mine" to me. We all need to be compassionate to anyone who has a challenge of any sort (and you were!), but we do not have to be bullied by them (and I think you were.

I have a friend you is fairly blind, but like this lady she is able to navigate a lot of life with a little bit of help, but unlike this lady she does not push people around about it.

"You done* right", Girl!

*Emphasis only, Grammar Goddess.

Jen on the Edge said...

Check in with management about this one, but it also sounds like she's milking her handicap. Also, she can clearly see well enough to swim reasonably well and navigate around the building.

I *hate* passive aggressive behavior, so I tend to not want to reward it.

Class factotum said...

OK you guys - I asked a lifeguard about the clothesline that's strung above Lane 1. It's not even above the lane she wants to swim in! The lifeguard said that the line is just for anyone swimming backstroke, which makes perfect sense, because even sighted people go crooked when we are swimming backstroke.

She wasn't at the pool today, so I missed my chance to be chillingly polite to her when I was going to say, "I have another 2,000 yards to swim, so it will be about an hour."

G in Berlin said...

If she can see you 15 feet away, she's not even close to blind. I was legally blind (without glasses) for years and never asked anyone for a specific lane. And if I were blind, I would want to be next to the wall.
But I understand being thunderstruck by the gall.

Becky said...

Ugh. I wasn't going to say anything about this, but G has pushed me. Maybe the criteria in Germany is different, but in the US, there is no such thing as "legally blind without glasses". I hear this all the time as an optometrist & it makes my skin crawl with anger that somewhere along the way, someone has lied to these people... for what? To make them feel worse about their vision? Anyway, perhaps she is one of those "without my glasses" people (or maybe not). Sorry... my 2 cents on "blindness" misinformation.

Class factotum said...

G and Becky, yeah, maybe that's what she's been told, but even without her glasses, if she can see a thin clothesline 8 feet above her, she is nowhere near blind!

John0 Juanderlust said...

According to the lifeguard the clothesline is there for other reasons, not for the pushy, allegedly blind woman. So she lied. Therefore it is ok to simply flip her off next time. If she can't see, she won't know. If she can, she had it coming.

Class factotum said...

John, I like your idea.

pq said...

Geez, how nice that she lied. Jerk. I hate passive aggression. I would just take her 100% literally: you wanna know when I'm done? OK! I'll tell you an hour from now! You're blind? Oh no, how do you maneuver through the gym? I don't see a cane, do you need help finding the locker room? How did you know I was out of the pool that time, your heightened sense of hearing? Good gracious me!

Anonymous said...

pretend to be deaf

Class factotum said...

pq, I should kill her with kindness.

Anon, I love the deaf idea.

beyondbeige said...

Ignore. Swim in your lane unless there is signage at the pool that says save the best lane for the blind lady.

Class factotum said...

Beige, there are no signs. I shall swim with impunity.