Come up for air
Wednesday September 30th 2020, 6:23 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

Mercifully, I no longer remember his name.

I woke up this morning with the thought that I now understood what last night’s debate reminded me of.

Back when my lupus was newly diagnosed, I was doing swim therapy at a pool where you had to have a doctor’s prescription to go there–so that everybody was dealing with something, everybody knew it, and people tended to look out for each other. At 31 when I showed up I was the baby of the morning group, which but for a few middle-aged car accident victims was all elderly. The pool was set up in a T shape for exercises on this side, with a wheelchair ramp going down into the water, and laps on that.

There was one notable exception to that camaraderie.

My hearing wasn’t as bad back then, but still, I left my hearing aids in my locker because you can’t get them wet so every conversation required my full attention on the person speaking to me from a near distance; having to put my glasses down next to the pool didn’t help. So I would be watching closely and hanging on every word.

There was this one guy old enough to be a WWII vet (he told me how sorry he was that he was too old to sign up for the Gulf War going on at the time, he liked being one of the boys) who really got off on that attention, and probably my relative youth. I couldn’t just catch a few words from a distance and brush him off and he caught me off guard the first time. The second time conveyed that that hadn’t been a one-off, it was the pattern: he was a full-on dirty old man who enjoyed making you squirm and when he tried the third time and it was more of the same I wasn’t going to be subjected to any more of that. We’re done here.

He took exception to that.

I was doing laps, wrapped in my own thoughts, and was just coming up for the next breath when I suddenly found myself grabbed by the arm hard and held underwater. I couldn’t believe that old man had that much strength. I tried to fight him off but was totally overpowered. He held, and held, and the lifeguard was derelict and oblivious just then. (It was not Jonathan. Just wanted to add that. And I did reconnect with him after I wrote that post, which he got to read.)

Finally, at the desperate moment when I was sure I was going to drown the guy let go and I came up spluttering and furious and he finally got the attention he’d been craving.

He wasn’t the one I had words to say to though because I wasn’t going to give him that satisfaction–although I’m rather sorry I didn’t scream for the benefit of everybody there. But I was just working too hard on gasping in the blessed air to be able to.

The lifeguard’s boss apologized over the incident and told me they’d pulled the guy aside after my complaint and told him that if he ever touched anyone there again he would be banned for life.

Word didn’t need to get around–the old ladies all already knew about him.

Then management told me that I didn’t have to do laps in a lane next to him anymore–which started out sounding good, till they added, if there’s an empty lane next to you when he wants one you’re the one who’ll have to come out. Or you can stay. If he’s already swimming laps and a lane opens up next to him you can wait till there’s another one but we’re not going to make him get out.

But he nearly killed me!

No consequences. I could not believe my ears. They said, Well, we didn’t witness it happening.

I debated calling the cops and saying I’d been assaulted but a friend who had been a cop told me that without the pool backing me up it would go nowhere. The Me, Too era was a long way off. It wasn’t till years later that I wondered if he was part of the non-profit’s funding.

Meantime, the guy complained to me in the whine of bullies everywhere, “Can’t you take a joke!?”

I moved over to the Y after that and never came back.

A few years later one of my old swim friends let me know that Dirty Old Man had moved away and I never had to worry about running into him in the grocery store again. It was an intense, immense relief.

And that’s how we’re going to feel when those votes are counted and in January if we do our part. Let’s be done with this ugly dirty cheating controlling hateful old man. We don’t have to drown our democracy in his lies anymore.

And on a completely different note, since we could all use a bit of relief after that, it’s Fat Bear week at Katmai National Park in Alaska. Vote for the biggest bruin!

5 Comments so far
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Even that many years ago I can’t believe that nobody warned you and that nobody else had complained.
There are too many men like that still in the world. They need to be stopped in their tracks.
I’m sorry you had to go through that and sorry you had no good support.
I hope in early Nov that another one gets stopped in his tracks.
Chris S

Comment by Chris S in Canada 09.30.20 @ 8:06 pm

Oh how horrible! I’m so sorry you had to go through that! I just hope he didn’t actually hurt anyone, after the staff refused to take action. It sounds like he was the sort who might have escalated his behavior over time. Kind of like the buffoon in the WH now.

We all need to vote. Starting with the fattest bear. Thanks for that!

Comment by Pegi F 10.01.20 @ 2:36 am

Oh, that is an outrage. I am so sorry. Thanks for sharing your story and making me that much more committed to calling this sort of person out loudly and publicly should I cross paths with one of them.

Comment by twinsetellen 10.01.20 @ 10:30 am

I think (and have told a few people at this point) that the interruptions, talking over, ignoring time limits, etc was the equivalent to pacing the stage, looming over and in her space that he did to Clinton four years ago. If he had been aloud out of his physical distancing box, he may well have done at least some of that again this time.

Comment by Barbara Solbrig 10.01.20 @ 12:30 pm

How terrible! I’ll bet he did have something on someone. I’m glad you got away from dealing with them.

Comment by ccr in MA 10.01.20 @ 5:13 pm

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