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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Dragging A Drowning Man out of the Pool…

I had a bit of a disturbing experience today at my local pool. I go there frequently, usually five times a week (when I am not travelling), but this is the first time something like this has ever happened.


I am hyper vigilant when swimming, and very aware of other swimmer’s behaviour. This is largely due to repeated incidents of male swimmers grabbing my feet / legs or crashing into me at the end of a lane. There was also an incident of a male swimmer who stopped me to tell me that “your fitness levels are there, but if you improved your technique, you would be able to swim a lot faster” – I smiled and nodded, politely thanking him whilst inside my brain I screamed to myself, “Why are you watching me swim?! Why do you think you can mansplain swimming at me?! Would you stop a male swimmer and tell him to improve his technique?!" I could beat myself up about not calling him out on his sexist bullshit to his face, but it doesn’t feel safe to do that. Anyway, this is why I am always watching other swimmer’s behaviour closely…


I immediately knew something was wrong when I saw the man in the lane next to me had drifted into the rope which divides the lanes. I stopped swimming, the pool is not very deep, only up to waist height - I reached out to touch his shoulder. He didn’t respond and he was face down in the water. My instinct was to grab him and lift his head out of the water, but he was quite heavy. Fortunately another female swimmer had seen and came over to help me hold him upright. The lifeguard wasn’t paying attention, so she shouted at him for help – he pressed an alarm to notify other staff and jumped into the pool to help us.


By the time the lifeguard had got over to us, the man was coughing and spluttering – so, at least he was breathing. His face was ashen grey, his eyes sunken and I noticed how soft and weak he was to touch, despite his weight. The other swimmer and the lifeguard tried to speak to him to ask if he was okay and if he had hit his head, but he wasn’t responding. So, the lifeguard decided to guide him to the poolside - he wasn’t moving, so I took his other arm and walked with him, until a stronger bloke took over from me. They made it to the steps just as two other staff members showed up.


At this point, I was stood watching the scene, along with most of the other swimmers. I felt bad for gawping, but I also didn’t feel like it was appropriate to resume swimming – the man looked sick and I wondered if he had some health problems or had taken some drugs that had caused him to black out.


One of the other staff members said they needed to get him out of the pool – at which point he suddenly started to speak. I couldn’t hear exactly what was said but it was apparent that he didn’t want to get of the pool – he wanted to continue swimming. I was genuinely baffled that someone could be that obstinate, and despite nearly drowning - causing around ten people to come to his aid - he still wanted to swim. He clearly wasn’t physically capable, and the staff members insisted he got out - I watched as it took three large men to lift him out of the pool. He collapsed in a crumpled heap on the poolside, and they had to get a wheelchair to move him.


I continued swimming after this, but the memory of the man’s lifeless body floating in the water and then crumpled on the poolside clouded my mind. I thought about the power that water holds over us – both a source of life and death. With droughts and floods occurring across the globe, some continue to consume resources ignorant to the potentially irreparable damage being done. The vulnerability of mankind, coupled with our dogmatic arrogance - it will be our undoing.


I walked home from the pool in the sunshine, and as I unlocked my door, noticed that my flowerpots on the other side of the car park had flowered. Spring gives me hope that when humans have finally destroyed themselves, fatalities of our own egos, life will continue to exist on Earth in all its splendour.

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