Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Everyone Has a Story

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

And Sometimes, They Tell It to You

This morning, I reach the pool later than I want to. One of the swimmers I usually see in the shower already is dressed and on her way out of the locker-room.

We greet each other and I ask, as usual, "How's it going?" I'm expecting her usual, breezy response.

This time though, she answers, "It's all right...except for something odd...."

I stop undressing and simply listen.

"It's just that I thought I heard water running in the kitchen this morning, and so I yelled to my son [-- she's a divorced mother with a 17-year-old boy --], 'Why did you stay out all night?'"

"Wow, all night," I marvel silently. Maybe boys are given more freedom, I figure.

"'Huh?' he says, walking out of his bedroom. It turns out that he did stay out for most of the night, but not all of it. I get the stick that I keep by the staircase and we walk downstairs. We reach the kitchen and a man is standing at my sink, washing his hands."


"Yes, and I say, 'What are you doing here?!'"

"'Who, me?' he says several times, 'Who, me?' He's so drugged out that we let him go. My son had left the back door open."

"My God! Your adrenalin's just going so hard at that point, I'm sure. Once, a man was trying to steal my sister Deb's car from in front of her house in Queens. She saw him and went running outside, yelling, 'How dare you? Get out of my car!' And he did, and ran away."

The swimmer's story touches me. This is a very compact -- tiny, really -- woman, who's a powerful athlete. That's the slice of her life I see whenever I'm swimming. I don't see the slice that lives alone with a wildly adolescent son and who's vulnerable.

I wish her well, and now, am even later, and feeling grateful that I'm not a single mother, and that Pat wouldn't leave a door open.

At the Pool, On Deck, and then in a Lane

The pool is packed. An older man in a Speedo, nylon swimsuit -- like was most popular in the '70s -- is waiting for a lane to open up. Remarkably generously, he offers, "You go ahead and take the next lane; I don't have to go to work."

Circle-swimming's a must...only neither of the other two swimmers are cooperating, even though the life-guard announces that they need to allow me to join them and circle-swim. They keep swimming down their same lanes, and so I swim through them. The guy is big and is trying to be menacing intentionally. He's swimming straight at me, and so I stop in front of him, so that he has to raise his head and regard me, and say, "Hi, we're circle-swimming," and make a circle sign with my left index finger.

A couple of laps later, he does a furious butterfly lap, which I pretend not to notice, and then exits the pool in a huff. I cannot help needing to share. In the summertime, the pool closes first thing in the morning for the day-camp. A bunch of us end up coming earlier as a result, to catch however many minutes during the three-hour window.

Afterwards, one of the daily swimmers, who's in her eighties, says likes my work-outfit and tells me to be sure to dry my hair thoroughly, as it's getting colder outside now. She was an Auschwitz survivor if I remember correctly...might not have been Auschwitz, but one of the other top two, or three most famous concentration camps. How can people go on?

How can they not?

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