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The other party involved is of course, calling it an accident. But being as honest about the whole mess as I can be, I still conclude that I was intentionally punched in the face, even though I may have had it 20% coming.

As previous attempts at brevity have always failed, I won’t even say I’ll keep it brief this time.

I went to lap swim today. I’ve been quite regular this week. Saturdays, there is only one session, 11:30 am to 1pm. So I am in the Y at 11:20, ready to go as soon as swimming lessons end. I sign in. A very nice older man whom I see all the time is ahead of me, and goes across to the far lane. I see that more are coming in, so I settle in between his lane and the next one, anticipating the need to share space as usual. There’s a guy swimming between 2 and 3 that is a regular I see all the time, who almost always enters the pool from the deep end, instead of the shallow where all the rest come in. No big deal, I space accordingly. Everyone is doing their laps, everyone is swimming straight.

After about 1/2 an hour, around the time the guy in the middle usually leaves (on weekdays anyway) a couple new swimmers arrive. They look like they do this a lot. They get in the pool and it appears that they are talking to man in the middle to arrange lane sharing. Cool. I keep swimming. Then after one of them swims a couple laps, the three of them pause and begin talking. And talking. And talking and talking and talking. They are standing in the pool not moving. This is becoming annoying. I am doing my best to basically share a lane with nice old man, and we’re doing fine.

Another regular swimmer arrives. She is swimming in basically lane 2, also dodging the conversing when making turns. I do not know her well, but we have been at the pool at the same time when the lifeguard has had to tell people to get out of the way or swim laps, at LAP SWIM. I sense she may be annoyed here too, but I cannot speak for her.

Then I see a new swimmer come out of the locker rooms. Another regular I have talked to before. Very nice guy. At this point I have reached a mile. And I have reached a boiling point. And I do something I need to do, but I do not do it well.

I stop and I ask the trio (all of whom btw are 100times fitter than I am, and none of whom strike me as newbies to the pool) – if they are going to keep coffeeshopping all day or make room for swimmers. I am clearly agitated. My voice is, while not yelling, strong. Annoyed really. Now here’s where I wish I had just stopped. But I didn’t.

Agitated voice still going, I’m now ranting beyond the rules violation. “I am sure it’s very amusing to be chatting here while the fat guy struggles to make 90second laps, but not all of us are fit already and are here because we need it.”

Response from all 3: “hey, we’re not keeping you from doing your laps.” This is true.

Me: “no, I’ll get my laps in myself, but there are more people coming into the pool and we’re crowding together and you guys have been taking these lanes for a long time.” I am pretty sure I referenced that this would not be tolerated midweek when the lifeguard will move the bobbing ladies who aren’t doing laps.

At this point, now, I am of course, very keyed up. I have created conflict with three people I do not know. Two I have never seen before, one I see all the time but have never talked to.

I just give up on the conversation and start another lap. I am returning, halfway back, and like a 60s Batman TV show – BAM! – maybe it was POW! or possibly even an THWACK! – I am clocked right in the eye by someone in my lane. It’s the regular guy that had stopped to chat for the day, the one I see all the time.

He has come straight down the lane, and “accidentally” run into me. I stop dead, yell at the lifeguard for not handling this situation, swim to the shallow end and storm out of the pool.

On my way out, the new swimmer, the very nice guy, asks “hey man, you ok?” – and I say “no I am not, I just got punched in the face for asking people to follow the rules!”

As I’m getting out of the pool, the one who clocked me is finishing a lap, now in lane 4 because the super nice old man is now leaving. He says something to me that I couldn’t hear, and I don’t care what it is. I just shout “fine! Take it! I got the point!”

Now I’m storming out of the pool and people are all stopped. I take the time to actually put my lap count slip in the box, and meanwhile I let loose on the lifeguard again for not controlling this situation.

The only person I feel bad for in this situation is the lifeguard. Seemed like a sweet unassuming kid, but not capable of telling multiple adults how to follow rules. But here’s the thing: HE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO!

OK, so I leave, really angry. The guy who ran into me is a regular, accomplished swimmer. He swims between people in crowded pools all the time. There is no way that his collision was an accident. He swam out there to give me a message. The message was “ok you prick, you want us moving? I’m moving now!”

And I got the message loud and clear.

If I were the kind of person who solved problems with violence, I would have stood my ground. Or water. But I have too much going on in my life to end up entangled with the police at the Sunbury YMCA.

So I left. I go through the showers and get a quick one before I even get to the locker to grab a towel. Of course, it took me several tries to get my lock opened, since I was such a mess. Standing there naked and dripping wet, there’s a guy in the same set of lockers just ready to leave. I think it’s mysterious chatty swimmer #3, who simply gives me a dirty look and leaves.

As I’m dressing, a guy comes in the locker room from the front, and just casually asks “hey man, how you doing?” And I say “well honestly, not well. I just got punched in the face for telling people to follow the rules in the pool.” He advises me to talk to the front desk.

I dress and go out there, and this is where it melts down. The guy who came in the locker room was not random, he had been hanging out at the front desk and apparently there was some notice there. I should have just walked out the door, but no, I went to the desk and said that if they record the cameras, I want the last half hour saved and sent to the aquatics director. An assistant director/manager was standing there and wanted to know from me what was going on. I tried to be as honest as I could, admitting I started it with the confrontation, but that the collision was no accident and I would not be coming back. I just wanted to disappear.

The manager I was talking to was very appropriate, and called me by name which was weird, because I am not sure how she would know me. Anyway, I was extremely upset at this point, and went into this whole tirade part 3 about how I am very careful to respect people’s space, and this was a situation that I couldn’t handle anymore. But it was clear to me that this fat guy with only a couple months membership did not belong here and that would be that. Do not say anything further.

She was very appropriate, and listened well, and let me know that it didn’t matter how long I’d been a member. I said I wanted to apologize to the lifeguard, but I was not about to go back up to the pool area. I do not settle my problems with violence. I was not going to get into some macho crap at the gym with a guy older than me.

I left really a mess. I was meeting an old friend from college who was passing through the area, for lunch. Meg and the kids joined us, and I had some time to calm down. I went back to the Y to talk to that manager who had just left, but all the people at the desk assured me that this was a problem they were addressing, and the manager had gone to the pool after I left to talk to all involved.

So on one hand I am glad that the staff is aware and appropriate. But on the other hand, now I am just the big loud angry fat man who lost his temper in the pool and went crying to Mommy.

I still have some lengths to go before I complete my March goal, and I will be damned if I let this guy and this incident stop me. I pay my dues too. I ask no more than any other member. I shouldn’t worry about the new swimmers coming into the pool, that’s the guard’s job. And the guy coming in can handle himself.

I’m showing up, not talking to anyone, and doing my damn laps. I know I will see this guy again a couple times this week. He’s always there before laps open, standing in the showers. I will steer clear of him there and in the pool.

I go to March 31, then switch to bike for a while in April. There I have the real actual threat of death on the road. This pool thing is nothing. It’s just very frustrating to deal with grade school nonsense among adults. And I am mad at myself that all my insecurities got wrapped up in it. But I guess I just have to chalk it up to a day in a sea of testosterone. Guys who play pickup b-ball get elbowed in the face all the time. This is not a big deal.

But if that was an accident, I’m Miss Universe.

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3 thoughts on “I Think I Just Got Punched in the Face

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about this post since I read it. Your post & related FB comments come across angry, hurt and ashamed. I didn’t like that and have wanted to make you feel better. I want to tell you how much I agree with you. I want to share in your indignation. I want to call the SOB that hit you a F***ing SOB. Something really bothered me about all this and it wasn’t the punch. So, I pondered.

    Here’s what I didn’t like.

    You judged them. You judged them harshly. Then in your righteous indignation, you treated them not as fellow swimmers but as guilty people whom you clearly found wanting. And why? Because they were being social. Inappropriate place and time, but still just being social.

    Are you different than any of the rest of us? Heck, the other week I made a very rude and snarky comment to a county repair worker. He blocked the sidewalk with his truck (when he didn’t have to) and I had to drag the dog & the stroller around it. I didn’t end up in the street, but I did have to go through thick grass & gravel to continue. In my mind, he was guilty of being an inconsiderate prick. But maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was/is an overworked state employee trying to get by. Maybe he was in a hurry to talk to his coworker and simply didn’t move the truck up far enough. Here comes some wise-ass who’s home with his kid in the middle of a beautiful day giving him crap. Maybe he wishes he could be home with his kid. Maybe he wished I was also in a swimming pool so he could “accidentally” clock me one.

    Was this guy in the wrong? Yes. Were those other swimmers? Yes. Did you deserve to be hit? Well no, but dammit if I wouldn’t have wanted to smack you in that situation too. (I wouldn’t have, but that’s irrelevant.)

    We judge way too much. We incarcerate people (mostly black people) at an alarming rate. Not for justice & reform, but for punishment and wrath! We setup a society that encourages illegal immigration and then we call them the cause of all our woes. We judge women who have abortions. We judge people who believe abortions are wrong. I judge Republicans. Republicans judge me. We judge, judge, judge.

    Sometimes, I think about when Jesus says “I was in prison and you didn’t visit me” and then I make it harsher. “I was in prison because you put me there.”

    Are people more and more obviously inconsiderate and/or blind to the needs of those around them? I think so. Think about how many people just leave shopping carts EVERYWHERE. That doesn’t mean that we have the right to judge them or treat them like dirt. We shouldn’t be hit or attacked for our judgments, but we also shouldn’t be shocked when the fist starts flying.

    And it’s hard to not judge. I’m essentially judging you right now. I like that you took a stand. I like that you were being thoughtful about other swimmers. I like that you chose to stand up and challenged bad behavior. I wish more people did. I just wish we could all learn to do it without first judging.

    • Greg I want to thank you for your honest candor on this one. The whole purpose of this blog is to be as brutally honest about what’s going on as I continue to fight myself into health. And it is precisely that: an internal fight. I attempted to be as truthful as I could in describing what happened, including, and especially, my own behavior. I am not proud of it, nor would I want it to go down that way again. It’s definitely a learning experience. You identify these 3 emotions: angry, hurt and ashamed. I think you read closely and you nailed it.

      My only quibble with what I think is your main thesis, is the idea that we can never judge. Sometimes a clear violation has to be called out. When my wife’s department investigates child abuse, I am glad they do plenty of judging, for example. They go to an actual judge when evidence is collected, and the legal system sorts it out. In my insignificant experience, the legal authority was not consulted, I simply went around him. I definitely won’t do that again. But if I see a rules violation that is affecting others, I won’t refrain from judgment itself, but I will consider the best possible course of action in remedying the situation. The fact that I went beyond a simple “hey y’all, we’re going to need to make room for some people coming in….” evidences that I definitely had more going on mentally that had little to do with the people there.

  2. Your wife’s department withholds judgement, they try to act fairly and in the best interest of the children. That’s the difference between justice and lashing out. Lashing out gets us nowhere. (On which we both agree.) In fact, it’s usually a net loss. You judged harshly and were in turn judged even more harshly. That’s the twisted circle of which I speak.

    But you’re right, we’re forced to judge. Such is the human condition. My concern is that when we judge, we need to learn to do so fairly, justly and equitably. Which is, I think, also what you’re saying.

    I’m also struck by how much of this crap (and other crap I’ve been involved in lately) was covered by Jesus in various parables or random exchanges.

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