NEARLY DROWNING SAVED MY LIFE
The Circumstances Of My Stupidity Couldn’t Have Been Any Different.
It happened twice.
Neither time was fun and the outcome the same.
A Hard ‘No’ And A Soft ‘Yes’.
Obviously, I survived, because its what I do best when the choices are limited.
I’ve done plenty of dumb things.
Further substantiating my thesis of …
“Unprovoked Idiocy Leads to Self-Humiliation.”
If not outright curable, is treatable, through resolve with Ego.
This is a good thing.
I need reminders.
About Fate and Faith.
RESCUED OR SAVED?
Either Way On Two Separate Occasions – Twenty Years Apart –
I’ve Learned I’m Learning My Lesson.
“Ego, you and I … we’re done for good this time, Bro.”
I’m never tempting fate with dumb male bravado, again.
Small promise I mean to keep.
FUN FACT CONFESSION
I Can Swim.
I love water.
About half as much as fish.
And, way more than cats.
WATER BE WET ME
Streams. Rivers. Ponds. Lakes. Oceans.
Fresh or salty?
Either will do.
Tears ain’t bad … Sad laughter.
AND MORE …
Flushing A Toilet.
In a glass – half full, half empty – all the same.
Water fairs well in my wet life.
Getting drenched to the bone.
Laying in the sun to dry.
Driving in hard rain.
Drizzling mist … less so. If mosquitoes were water, they’d be drizzle.
Skipping flat stones across a still pond.
Getting my ripple on …
“Shuffling-A-Shuffling in Big Puddles.”
I’m a splasher.
Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion.
Known locally as Sunnyside Pool, it sits ubiquitous along the waterfront on Toronto’s sprawling west end.
A welcomed relief anchored by the towering skyline of the city center and the corridor of high rise condos obliterating the shore where the Humber River spills into Lake Ontario.
Neighboring the Palais Royale Ballroom along the south shore and High Park to its north.
For Hogtowners – Torontonians – a lovely reprieve for three seasons.
Back in 1922, The Tank reigned reportedly as the world’s largest outdoor pool. With a capacity of three million liters of chlorinated water, it held 2,000 bathers.
So, its plenty big.
It was and always will be, a monstrous and imposing structure.
I SHOULD LOVE IT
As I Do Of Most Cool Places And Cherished Shrines In My City.
The Red Rocket Streetcars.
Exhibition Place … in the 1970s.
Chestnut Trees and Squirrels.
Every damned overpriced neighborhood from The Beaches to The Kingsway – Queen West, The Distillery District, The Junction – The Annex to Roncesvalles.
I don’t love it.
I Grew Up Close By.
Spent too many summer days there.
Unloving of the water – always frightfully cold – even on the most humid and unbearable hot days of July and August.
The air from Lake Ontario sweeps cool across its surface.
I DRIVE BY
The Tank A Couple Times Every Week.
Have the same thoughts … about a fateful day.
A few days ago, it was the scene of a large film production shooting in the Bathing Pavilion. A common sight.
Infinite wedding albums are filled with its vista as the backdrop.
The Tank’s presence is foreboding in the depth of winter.
Shielded by a truncated breakwall – a frozen catacomb of polished blue ice, stilling the lake water from the beach.
I Was A Skinny Kid.
Shy but determined, and something of a not quite so adorable Potty-Mouthed delinquent I’m reminded. Perhaps, the three most notable traits inherited from my late mother.
I’d walk the mile-and-a half with my two cousins to spend the day at Sunnyside.
A thin towel with my bathing suit (swim trunks) rolled neatly inside and bound by an elastic band I’d saved, whenever I didn’t wear it under my shorts.
On good days, a silver quarter tucked in my pocket to buy a bag of potato chips or a chocolate bar we’d share for lunch.
Drinking fountains hydrated us.
There was nothing better than filling a hungry little belly.
EASILY THE 3RD BEST SWIMMER
In Our Trifecta.
I lacked the skill to swim well enough to pass the lifeguard’s test and admittance into the deep end.
This mattered little to me – my Ego a couple months shy of its 9th birthday – until it did.
My courage, silent and unrelenting, went as far as my appetite to prove I belonged.
Worthy of big boy accolades.
CLOSE DOESN’T COUNT
Neither Does Trying.
When I tried to swim the width of the pool.
In water over my head.
Body and Pride.
Bobbed for air.
I wasn’t making it.
How I Remember His Name After Four Decades, I’m Not Sure.
If Barry Gibb was a Surfer Dude on Baywatch.
“A tanned Adonis in a red Speedo, he scooped me out of the water and held me over his head like a shrilling piglet saved from Porchetta fate.”
What I think of him.
Don’t believe I ever thanked him.
So, here goes.
Thank you, Lifeguard Steve.
EARLY SPRING 1991
Half My Life Ago.
I was 28 and living well enough to usurp the lengthy moniker of:
“Contented Bachelor. Done Right. Regrets, No.”
In the kind of immodest physical condition, a youngish man strives to achieve eating sensibly and committed to a nearly daily gym routine of Ego Sculpting.
End Nostalgic Digression of Disciplined Vanity By Design …
Its Sounds Pretty.
Stamped amongst tall coniferous pines where wild fiddleheads grow in the spring.
The lake is murky, brackish liquor, the color of blackened silt.
Shaped like a boot.
Where I joined a group of friends and a couple family members on a camping trip in Northern Ontario.
AND THIS …
After a mischievously, irresponsible night of campfire shenanigans.
Patented formula for bad decision making:
Beer drinking + Bonfire = Male Idiocy.
I accept an invitation to go fishing – I don’t like fishing – in a canoe.
Overfilled with a cooler packed with ice, fishing gear, and beverages of fermented hops and barley.
An absence of life jackets and deference of common sense is noticeable further on …
THE MORNING CHILL
The Ice Covering The Lake
Had dissolved – broken, melted, disappeared – a week before we were told.
The water was still.
A solitary cabin could be seen from across the lake.
Idyllic rustic charm.
It may have been my fault.
Sitting at the front.
Egregious with my strokes.
Leaning hard to the right.
How it happened.
Tipping the canoe.
HEAD OVER HEALS
But Not In Love …
Immersed in dark water barely above the freezing point.
Clinging to the underbelly of an overturned canoe.
He Had My Attention.
Up close and personal.
The first time I’d given my mortality any serious consideration.
In that nanosecond of frightful realization this was real.
THE FACTS ABOUT HYPOTHERMIA
At A Water Temperature Slightly Above The Point Of Freezing …
Say, an inconvenient 32.5C (0.3F) …
“You will die.”
Loss of Dexterity about 2 minutes.
Exhaustion or Unconsciousness under 15 minutes.
Expected Time of Survival … 15 to 45 minutes.
Long Enough To Qualify For The Above.
- Act of Supreme Stupidity.
- WTF Just Happened?
- This Hurts Like Unholy Hell.
- Scream For Help, Scream More, Again.
- Scream Fades To Dead Whisper …
- Silent Prayer …
- Why Am I Losing Grip?
- I Can’t Feel Anything Below My Chin And Not Much Above It.
- Is This My Last Thought?
- That You, Jesus?
ANSWER TO #6
Spiritual Tip: Heathens Pay Attention Here … In A Row Boat.
From the distance.
I saw the figure of a man.
Two wooden oars deep in.
A young man.
God is never late.
Divine Timing is Perfect.
ANSWER TO #10
What’s This Now?
I hear it.
Not Angels singing.
Or birds chirping.
Harps a harping.
Am I crying?
I don’t think so.
If tears of joy could be heard …
They’d sound like a motorboat.
“Where You Been?”
I want to ask.
“It’s been awhile. Not much. How about you?”
I don’t because I’m about to throw up in his boat.
After I’m pulled aboard.
ITS A CANADIAN TRADITION
Saving A Couple Knuckleheads From The Near Depths Of An Almost Frozen Lake.
Avoided being a Weekend Stat on Monday’s News.
Getting yanked aboard a boat by a couple Hosers.
I named them both Steve in honor of Lifeguard Steve though neither one was fit for a Speedo.
I’m capped by a toque.
And, polite, when Steve Number One hands me a warm beer.
“It’ll make you feel better.”
Because that’s exactly how it happened.
POSTSCRIPT TO HYPOTHERMIA
Burning. Cold. Hell.
Chilled for days.
And, the Three Steve’s.