He was probably in his mid-50s, a perfectly ordinary looking sort, but he was getting a private swim lesson in the 1/2 hour before my daughter and her friend Sylvie had their lesson. And he was terrified. Allie, the instructor, had him in the twelve-foot section of the pool with two noodles supporting him, and he clutched the wall for all he was worth. He could chat about it — not quite the same as a scared child — but it was easy to see that he was really frightened.
I spoke with him during Olivia’s lesson & he said that when he was a kid someone had thrown him in the water (to “teach him to swim”) and he’d never gotten over the panic. This summer was the first time he’d tried lessons in his life. A very brave man.
Makes me rethink some stuff about the water – human relationship that I’ve been working on. Swimming is nearly universal now — I wonder what the statistics are, in the US and worldwide — but it hasn’t always been, at least not everywhere. I think the Polynesians have always been great swimmers, but in the 17c it was an exotic practice in England, even banned at Cambridge along with other Continental (ie, Italian) bad habits. The water looks quite different if you can’t swim.