As many of you know, my dad passed away when I was six-years-old. By the time I reached the 6th grade, I had become a handful for my mother. I got in fights after school, couldn’t control talking in class, and had suffering grades. She got me involved as a little brother in the Catholic Big Brothers. That act changed my life in many ways, some I will definitely write about in coming articles. Today I am going to tell you about one of the most embarrassing things that ever happened to me.
My Big Brother, Mr. C, used to pick me up at my house on at least two Saturdays every month. We would go do a variety of activities – putt putt golf, tennis, and museums to name a few. But, by far, my favorite was a trip to the Central YMCA in downtown Cleveland. It was there that I learned to play racquetball, an activity I still enjoy when my knees allow me.
Another thing I learned at the Y was how to swim. I had never had swimming lessons, and actually was quite afraid of the water for a twelve-year-old. After one of our games of racquetball, Mr. C. asked me if I wanted to go to the pool and practice swimming.
“But, I don’t have my swimsuit.” Was my reply. But, he assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. This was 1974, and the YMCA was a place where there were only men. And, none of those men wore swimsuits to go in the pool. After all, who would see? Well, I really wanted to learn to swim, so off into the pool I went.
Over the course of the next few years I made many trips to that pool, and while I never became the next incarnation of Mark Spitz (look him up if you don’t know who that is), I could swim enough to keep myself from drowning.
As our years together went on, things changed. We continued to play a lot of racquetball, but we started playing in a suburban club, one without a pool. Then it happened. One Friday night he asked if we could play downtown instead of in the suburbs because he had something to drop off at an office. I was fine with that idea. We dropped off his document, then headed to the good, old, Central Y.
We played racquetball for a solid hour. I was, by then, about seventeen years old, and had built some skills in the game. Our hour was fun and competitive. At the end we headed to the showers.
As we showered, Mr. C. asked if I wanted to go to the steam room. I declined, but he said he was going there. I was left alone in the showers. Then I had a great idea. Why not jump in the pool for a couple of laps? So, I shut off my shower, and walked through the door to the pool area. Once there I dove into the deep end and started to swim. After about a half-length, I flipped onto my back to do some back stroke.
It was then that I heard her. “Sir! Sir! SIR! YOU HAVE TO WEAR A SWIMSUIT, SIR!!”
To my horror I found myself looking up at the life guard tower to see a girl. A fairly young, pretty cute girl, yelling at me as I showed all my goods with quite a nice backstroke. In that moment I became Mark Spitz. I am not sure if my body actually touched the water, or my hands touched the sides to get out of the pool, but in just a few seconds I was out of the pool and was entering the shower area.
Mr. C. was in the shower rinsing off from his trip to the steam room. When he saw me, his immediate question was “where were you?”
“In the pool.”
“You have to wear a swimsuit, this is a YM-YWCA now!”
“Yeah, I know that now.” In my blind slavery to habit, I walked right past a sign with six-inch letters telling us that SWIMSUITS REQUIRED BEYOND THIS POINT”
Thankfully the only thing that came of it was deep embarrassment. If that had happened today I would probably be on a registry somewhere.
I can only imagine. Is there a woman somewhere who is blogging about “some idiot guy who skinny dipped past my guard tower”?