Brewer's Droop #250
THE NAMELESS PHOBIA
I remember the day I developed a morbid fear of swimming in water with other people. It was at a hotel along the coast. We’d been driving most of the day with our two children in a car with no air conditioning and it was hot.
We checked into a hotel, I had a quick shower and then went down to the pool.
It was rather crowded and a little alarm bell began ringing in my head but, being brave and all, I took a running dive at the water.
That was the moment.
In that split second I caught the over-powering whiff of coconut suntan lotion mixed with strong body odours. At exactly the same moment I saw the purple-hued film covering the water. It looked oily. I saw there were more people in the pool than I’d thought and I was suddenly transported back to a seaside holiday at the age of about 6 when my Mum told me to go back into the sea because I needed to pee.
It was a ghastly moment, and then I hit the water.
I reached the other side without surfacing and, without breathing, immediately hauled myself out of the water and, resisting the urge to vomit, ran to a (mercifully provided) outside shower and scrubbed at myself as much as I could. Then I hurried back to our room and hit the shower again but this time I gave my entire body the full treatment of every shampoo, gel, soap and disinfectant I could find. All the while mumbling “ugh, ugh, urrrgh.”
And that was the last time I swam in a public pool.
My condition worsened and, quite quickly, I became nervous of swimming in the sea too. It brought back memories when, as a 17 year old, I went on a holiday to Rimini on the Italian Adriatic coast. One day I swam quite a long way out (I was always a strong swimmer) when I suddenly noticed I was more or less surrounded by human faecal matter. I struck out for shore as fast as possible but the little turds followed me! I later worked out that it must have been the furious wake I was creating.
I didn’t think too much about it again until one day I was diving off a friend’s yacht at 4th Beach Clifton and saw what detritus was lying on the ocean floor. It was quite disgusting and I thought that if humans are prepared to dump their chicken bones, empty beer tins and other unmentionable things (even a sewing machine – I mean, who goes to one of the prettiest beaches in the world to dump a sewing machine?) what else are they putting into the ocean?
All the memories of Rimini, the greasy swimming pool, and other incidents, including my neighbours in London discussing who’d like to re-use their filthy bathwater next, came flooding back and I climbed, shuddering, back onto the boat for the last time.
At various times I’ve been invited to join people in their jacuzzi or hot tub and, whilst my brain is screaming “WHAT? Share that disgusting, hairy, sweaty water with you!!!” I politely decline and say I have a mild skin infection I don’t wish to pass on to others.
That’s another thing about hot tubs. They’re exactly the right temperature for bacteria to open their own holiday camps and spread infection everywhere.
So I’m condemned to living an unsubmerged and lonely aquatic life – swimming only in deserted pools early in the morning after they’ve been thoroughly cleaned. And I will never, ever, ever share a jacuzzi with someone else.
Sadly there is no name I could find which describes my condition, and I think this is outrageously unfair. I mean, even a fear of doorknobs has one (it’s “Ostiumtractophobia” if you’re interested) and yet for people like me – and I suspect there may be millions of us, there is no hashtag, no support groups and no “phobia” to call our own.
It means that I, and my fellow squeamish swimming pool phobics, are doomed to spend all our holidays watching others frolicking in the surf or swimming pool whilst we idly sip on a drink with an umbrella in it, mentally checking we have sufficient Bactroban ointment with us and liberal amounts of Dettol in case an unfortunate splash of unspeakably foul water accidentally hits us.
But at least we’re clean and don’t have other people’s oily bodily fluids or pubic hairs sticking to us.
ANOTHER LIE UNCOVERED
Something else has been bothering me for a while now. I was in the shower when a song popped into my head and started singing it – then I realised that Gene Pitney has been lying to generations of people (since 1963 in fact).
He cannot possibly have been 24 hours from Tulsa.
If he had been driving from, say, New York he would have been 19 hours and 48 minutes away. I appreciate that that the lyric wouldn’t scan very well but there’s only so much poetic licence anyone can get away with isn’t there?
In fact, the only place he could have started his journey from in order to be 24 hours away would have been Seattle but who would want to go from there to Tulsa? If he’d left from Sacramento he would have been 25 hours away – but only at the start of his journey, so why would he have stopped to rest for the night after being on the road for only an hour?
This sort of thing worries me.
Perhaps I’m not well.