Family Lines

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Tag: swimming

Swimming again

Mist rises in the cold air at the Queen Elizabeth outdoor pool.

Mist rises in the cold air at the Queen Elizabeth outdoor pool.

I used to be a competitive swimmer for Ryerson University. Swimming is great exercise and the water always feels like home to me. It’s because no matter where I am, pool water never changes. It’s always wet in South Korea, The Gambia, Fort Smith and Calgary. Since I just moved to Edmonton, I thought I’d head to something familiar in this unfamiliar place.

I decided to go to an outdoor pool. Even though it hasn’t been that warm here, the pool remained open up until yesterday. I walked to the pool in the cold rain and cursed myself for not wearing mittens (it really was that cold) or bringing a tuque for the stroll home. I started hemming and hawing about continuing.

“It’s raining and it’s cold,” I said to myself, “why are you doing this to yourself?”

Really, there was no argument. I knew why I was going. I wanted some exercise and I wanted to do something regular – routine, in a day that had started differently from the last seven years in Calgary. I wanted to focus on my breathing and stroke count and seeing if I could beat my 100 freestyle (four laps of a 25 metre pool) time from last month. I didn’t want to think about unpacking and what went where and what didn’t fit there. I wanted a break from new spaces and spots and streets with strange numbers.

Despite the icy rain, the gate to the pool was wide open. As I walked onto the deck, the chlorine struck my nostrils. I took a deep breath in. Ahhhh! (I liked it.) That strong chemical smell of the water never changes either. The wisps of fog swimming over the pool didn’t make it look inviting. I shivered in the mist and then picked up a flutter board.

I headed to the edge of the pool. There was someone in the lane already splashing up and down the 25 metres. I jumped in beside him and said hello when he surfaced for air at the end of the lane.

“Hi,” he said before disappearing under a wave.

I pulled on my googles. The water was warm on my skin. Not at all cold, like the air around me. I pushed off the wall and struck out for the other side. Something I’ve done over and over again in a few different places.

Shark bait

lake.

Lumsden Dam: inviting or scary?

Family Lines is my second business. My first business was teaching swimming lessons one summer. That was in 1992 and I had a tough time finding a student job. So I made my own.

I lived near a lake, Lumsden Dam, and I was already a lifeguard and a swim instructor. All I needed were swimmers. Nowadays one would put an ad on Kijiji but I didn’t have that option. Off to the family computer I went. (We only had one in those days.) I found some clipart of a man diving in to a puddle and added some wording around him about lesson costs and who to contact: me.

Next I had to print off the posters and pin them up somewhere. But where? I lived in the country and my clients were going to be from this area. There were no shops or cafes or even a gas station nearby. That’s when my mom told me I had to hand-deliver my marketing message. These weren’t posters, they were brochures.

That’s my worst nightmare. Knock on peoples’ doors and try to sell them stuff? Only weird people do that. Me? I’m not doing that. No way. Nooooooooo way.

“Yes way.”

With my mother behind the wheel of the SUV, we drove all around the neighbourhood, which was about an 8km radius. At every house where we knew there were kids, mom would park and watch me as I knocked on doors and handed out brochures. Where she couldn’t see me, I didn’t knock on the doors. I just left my pamphlet in the mailbox.

No matter how not-so-hard I worked on my grassroots marketing, I did end up with customers. The month of July, I spent at the beach instructing kids how to float and do the front crawl and the back crawl too. It was all going swimmingly except for one guy. Seth was probably around 12 and wouldn’t venture too far out into the lake. Why? He was afraid of the sharks.

Seth was a voracious reader and of course had a read a fact book about some sharks being able to live in fresh water. It made him wary of every shadow and flicker in the deeper water. It kept him close to shore.

Seth could already swim but I needed to evaluate a particular stroke, which meant he had to go further into the lake than his knees. Even though his three buddies weren’t being attacked in the open water, a few metres away, it didn’t matter. He was staying put.

Great White shark.

Great White Shark. New Zealand. Photo credit: Sorozatgyilkos fehér cápa / http://bit.ly/1IlVun1

Then a couple days later, I was watching a show on sharks. One of the experts on the documentary made a fascinating point: He said more people in Canada and the U.S. are killed each year by pigs – six times more than by sharks worldwide. (I just googled this old piece of trivia and it’s true. Click here for the Shark Foundation.) This was perfect timing. With this information, I could get Seth to start swimming in the lake.

At Seth’s next swim lesson, I told him the good news: pigs bite more than sharks.

“Oh great,” he said. “Now I have to watch out for floating pigs too.”

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