Hefty Dose Of Life Experience: (perspective # 0001)

 “Don’t say you know how to do something if you really don’t” 

   I was probably 10 or 11 when I first learned this valuable life lesson. My elementary school offered a free swimming course after school at our local YMCA. My Mother signed me up for this adventure. It was actually my first solo venture without my mothers watchfully eye. I was a little scared and intimidated especially seeing on how well the others on this trip seemed to be buddying up and having a good time. Most of the kids on the bus were from other schools and I was a little shy and felt like an outsider. None of my close friends signed up for the trip, and I really felt alone.

   When we arrived at the facility, we were given a quick tour and given swimsuits to change into and go out and line up next to the pool. For a second it felt like I was in some sort of military school. Everybody lined up next to the pool and this very intimidating tall mean looking man was standing on the opposite side of the pool with a whistle around his neck. He seemed like our Drill Sergeant. That fit in with the whole atmosphere.  He blew his whistle to squelch the chatter among the ranks and to demand our attention. He introduced himself as our swim instructor and he asked for a show of hands of how many of us know how to swim. Everyone slowly raised their hand and I noticed I was the only one that didn’t. So I slowly, stealthily raised my hand to join them. I thought to my self, “I have been in the water before, splashed around and we called it swimming.” This is probably what he meant. In fact we had our own little pool in our back yard, one of those 12 foot by 3 foot round pools. So technically in my own mind I knew how to swim. I soon learned my interpretation was wrong. He gave the command that starting at the end of the line towards the deep end of the pool, one by one we were going to enter the water and show him our ability. Wouldn’t you know it; I was third from the end.
   Up to this point I felt confident I could swim until I noticed the markings on the side of the pool of the depth of the water. “WOW! 12 feet!!” Suddenly I realized I was over my head. Rather than to raise my hand and concede to the Sergeant I didn’t know how to swim and possibly face some sort of court marshal, I kept saying to myself “I can do this, I can do this.” The whistle blew and the first kid hit the water. He took off like a shot. I said to myself “Dam he’s good! Wouldn’t’ you know it; the best swimmer in the class was the first in the water?” I felt a little nervous but still had some confidence I could do it. The whistle blew again. The second kid hit the water and also took off like a shot. I thought “Dam! What are the odds of that? Two kids in row that were excellent swimmers”.  Then it hit me. “Ho My God!!” I am probably the only kid in the group that doesn’t know how to swim. Terror swept through my body. I stood looking down at the abyss. It’s my turn. Before I had a chance to clear my thought of panic and raise my hand and admit my error, the whistle blew. The next thing I knew, bubbles were all around me and I saw what I thought were my arms passing franticly in front of me. “Ho My God”!! I realize I’m in the water, and I’m sinking like a rock. “This can’t be?” I said to myself. “Ho My God! I jumped in and I’m drowning.” I then noticed another arm that wasn’t mine come out of nowhere and I started to ascend to the surface. It was the Sergeant. When we broke the surface I spewed out a mouth full of water directly in his face. He looked at me with anger like he was going to explode, but he kept his composure. He pushed me up and out of the pool and asked me if I was okay? I nodded. He told me to go to the shallow end of the pool and wait there. He then hopped out of the pool, wet whistle and all, and casually walked back around to the other side of the pool opposite the group. He was silent for a minute then said “Okay then, how many others think they know how to swim?” To my surprise, I thought I was the only one in the group that grossly misinterpreted the definition of swimming. About half of the group raised their hands and soon joined me at the shallow end of the pool, the beginner’s end of the pool.
   I believe I learned a valuable lesson that day and I also believe the Sergeant also learned to better define swimming. The lesson I learned and carried with me through my life is:  “Don’t say you know how to do something if you really don’t” It could be detrimental to you health, and don’t be afraid to raise you hand if you don’t know how to do something. It is a must to get the training you need before you get over your head. 
1958cleaner 1958cleaner
51-55, M
1 Response Nov 14, 2010

Thank you,a very well written account of what must have been a terrifying experience for you.I always do with the motto "honesty is the best policy",it has served me well thus far!