Metro 83

Richard Herring: Why I disdain the rules of the pool

Friday 27 Sep 2013 
Richard Herring goes to his local swiming pool and finds male posturing rearing its goggled head.
If you had any doubt that the human race is deluded, selfish and incapable of policing itself, then all you have to do is pop down to the local swimming baths.
Mine is divided into three lanes, based on self-assessed swimming ability: slow, medium or fast. This is a sensible policy as it means that when the pool is full, a fast swimmer will not be impeded by a slow one. Yet a certain amount of common sense is required.
First, the lane you choose is relative to the swimmers already in the pool. You might consider yourself a fast swimmer but if you arrived at the pool to find Rebecca Adlington and the Olympic squad were in the pool already, you would have to change accordingly.
Second, and more important, you want to try to keep the lanes balanced, so that roughly the same number of people is in each. And also keep aware of the changing pool population. So if suddenly three strong swimmers arrive in your lane, you should move to a slower one. Or if you’re lapping everyone, then maybe move to the faster one. But if the pool isn’t busy, you can play it by ear.
My wife and I went swimming last week. The slow and medium lanes were in use but the fast one was not being used. It seemed logical to swim in the empty lane, even though, despite being a Herring, I am sluggish in the water. I could always move if proper, fast swimmers arrived.
After a few minutes the medium lane became free and I switched so we both had a lane to ourselves. Then the slow swimmer left. Surely anyone coming into the pool now would use the unoccupied third.
However, I had forgotten about what dicks men are. The next man in the pool got into the fast lane. Which was fine: there was room for two. But I found it weird that he rejected an empty lane, presumably because he didn’t feel it was equal to his self-imposed swimming rank.
Then another man arrived. There were two people in the fast lane, one in the middle and none in the slow lane – guess where he went?
You got it. Now three people were sharing the same channel. Which is just stupid dick-waving. He was saying: ‘Now I am in here, one of you better move because I am the fastest. Yeah, I know the slow lane is empty but I can’t go in there because I am fast.’
My wife moved into the middle lane and, not having any insecurities about my masculinity or penis size, I moved to the empty slow lane. We both had lanes to ourselves. Just like either of those men could have had, if only their pride had allowed them.
Another swimmer entered the arena. He made a big show of dipping his goggles in the water, waiting to dive in at the deep end. His actions said: ‘That’s right, a proper swimmer has arrived. Look, I have all the kit. So obviouslyI am going in the fast lane, even though it’s the fullest one. You others shouldn’t be here. It’s pretty shameful that you didn’t keep this free for me, just in case I turned up.’
None of these men would back down. They found themselves in a ridiculous macho tussle, swimming as fast as possible in order to prove they had earned their place. Meanwhile the worst swimmer in the pool luxuriated in a lane to himself. Sometimes being a Beta male has its advantages.
Richard Herring embarks on a British tour with his brand new show, We’re All Going To Die! on October 8.