Metro 106

Richard Herring: Learn the laws of the lanes

Friday 14 Mar 2014 
One of my most controversial Metro columns was about swimming pool lane etiquette. I hate it when people select the wrong lane to swim in. You must choose the slow, medium and fast lane based on the number and speed of the other swimmers already in the water. Some of you vehemently disagreed with me. You’re not going to like this column.
My new grievance is even more niche (and some would say pathetic). A system is put in place within each lane to keep as many people swimming unimpeded as possible. Arrows indicate which side of the lane you should swim up and which down. This is a good rule and it’s one I obey at all times, even if I am alone.
However, often when there are just two people in the lane, the other swimmer will decide they want to divide the lane into two lanes and ignore the arrow system. This is very dangerous. Not only does it cause momentary confusion as you turn to swim in the indicated direction and find someone swimming towards you but it can lead to potential disaster (using disaster in its loosest possible sense) if a third person then joins the lane.
What if the swimmer now swimming in the wrong direction is doing backstroke? They won’t see the new person and might collide with them.
Why buck these excellent rules at all? ‘But I like to divide the lane into two lanes if there are only two swimmers,’ I hear you whine. Well, in that case, I like to do widths when everyone else is doing lengths. Or I like to swim in diagonals from one corner of the pool to the other. Oh, sorry, you think that’s inconvenient for the other swimmers? Well, you’re right. That is why we can’t just do what we like in the swimming pool. You must obey the rules!
It’s less bad if the other swimmer at least asks to split the lane but I would still tend to say: ‘No, I don’t want to. There are rules in place for a reason. Would you decide to drive on the wrong side of the road because you’d cleared it with one other driver? No, you wouldn’t. What’s wrong with you?’
Recently I was sharing a lane with my wife and she suggested we split it. As this marriage goes on we are learning uncomfortable truths about each other. I had no idea she’d be a lane splitter. I told her I would not go along with her anarchic plan but I was so disgusted to be sharing a lane with someone with such a loose grip on ethics and morality that I switched to the centre lane as soon as it became free. Let her have the whole lane to herself if that’s her attitude.
Then another lady got into my lane and decided to split it without asking me (which is rude). I was too scared and shy to challenge a stranger, as it turned out, and even more worried my wife would spot what was going on and call me a hypocrite. But she turned a blind eye for the sake of our marriage.
I will make sure my second wife is the kind of person who obeys the arrows. I mean, if my current wife were to sadly die, maybe drowned by some masked swimming pool superhero vigilante. It will be my first question on all future first dates. Anyone who thinks it’s OK to disobey the arrows is not going to get a piece of this.