Tahlequah Daily Press

January 20, 2014

Useless resolutions and lane hogs at the pool

Managing Editor

TAHLEQUAH — “Huff (schoop-schoop-schoop) huff! (schoop-schoop-schoop) huff! (schoop-schoop-schoop).”

The rhythmic but labored noises were coming from a woman on an elliptical machine at the Muskogee Swim and Fitness Center. I’m there for the lap lanes, but my husband goes into the weight and equipment room. I poked my head in to see if he was there at the moment, but the lone soul sweating it out was the huffer, who sported a T-shirt that proclaimed: “Resolution revolution.”

As I backed out of the room, she dismounted and gasped, “Whooo-eee!” Her face was beet-red and her eyes were bulging, and as she stumbled toward the next apparatus on her itinerary, I wondered if I should alert someone at the front desk. The back of the T-shirt suggested she’d considered the possibility: “If I collapse on the treadmill, call 911.”

I don’t know why we bother concocting New Year’s resolutions. When we’re confronted by a set of barbells, a stationery bicycle or a sign-up sheet for the next Zumba class, our resolve dissolves. And when it’s a choice between a salad bereft of dressing or a doughnut from the bakery, our willpower evaporates.

We start out with the best intentions. Proof of that was evident the first few weeks of January at the fitness complex across the Arkansas. The first time we showed up after the year rolled over, all six lanes in the pool were occupied – and that was at 5:45 in the morning. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long: Two of the resolution-makers had already succumbed to sloth and given up their dreams of leaner, meaner selves. Both of them floundered around aimlessly for a few minutes before dog-paddling to the ladder, crawling out, and shuffling to the dressing room wearing looks of shame.

On our next visit, three young men – college or high school students – were occupying three lanes, though they were doing more joking than stroking. I was told by another annoyed patron they’d been in the pool about 10 minutes before I arrived, and had swum a total of two laps apiece.

I watched the trio of would-be Phelpses struggle one length, 25 meters, using a variation on the freestyle stroke that I find especially irritating – swinging their arms and turning their heads side to side, without ever dipping their faces into the water. This is a style also favored by college women who wear string bikinis and makeup into the pool and manage a few awkward laps, before parking at one end to begin squealing and pulling off one another’s tops in a desperate bid for attention.

The young men did pause at one end of the pool, exchange a few loud comments, and look around to see if they had caught the eye of any hot young chicks. Since the only women in the natatorium were myself and an 80-year-old woman wearing hand paddles, their efforts were for naught. I finally said, “Which one of you is going to share his lane with me?” They looked my way hopefully before disappointment registered on their mugs, discussed it briefly, and one of the three moved into the lane with a compatriot – which is what I really wanted, anyway.

I had a bad workout that day, not because of the gleesome threesome, but because of the lifeguard. Most of the lifeguards are accommodating, if not particularly alert. But one guy – like those folks who want to ram their own religions, lifestyles or politics down your throat – insists on playing his jam box at maximum volume.

Even if he chose better music – say, the Stones or the Eagles – I would still find it disconcerting, because of the reverb when you’re underwater. But have you ever tried swimming laps to Travis Tritt or Clint Black? It doesn’t wash.

I tried ratting the kid out to the front desk people, and they came in and asked him to turn it down. He did, but when they were out of earshot, he cranked it back up. I tattled again, and the response from a defiant young woman who claimed to be the “manager on duty” was that “people have demanded that we play music.”

Naturally I had to go about exposing her fib; I interviewed all 12 people who were in the natatorium at the time, and though two said the music didn’t bother them, the rest found it a nuisance. I thought about asking Jason Nichols to talk to the manager’s boss, mayor to mayor, but haven’t made that leap yet.

On Friday, we made our usual pre-crack-of-dawn trek, and very few people were in the building. All the resolutionaries have already given up and dropped off the map, or moved their workouts to a later time. I did see one rather unpleasant-looking fellow in a T-shirt that said “I’m here for the sauna.” My husband is, too, and he says there’s often a line.

As far as I’m concerned, every paying customer can kind of let their routines go by the wayside. I’d just as soon not have to fight for the handicap shower every time I want to shave my legs. There’s a line for that one, too.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.