I’ve started going to aqua-fit again and last week when I showed up at the pool, the instructor was an Asian man who looked like he could be a math teacher who had just popped over on his lunch break from the high school. I thought to myself, What’s his problem? Is he one of those super frugal teachers who’d found a really unique way to moonlight?
He was wearing dark blue walking shorts and he was shirtless on top. His skin seemed a fluorescent white in the reflection off the cool blue pool. He was very wiry, probably a vegan. His hair was a fine, longish fly-away salt and pepper gray, a little bit like Doc Brown, the professor who made the time capsule in that movie, Back to the Future. The large frames on his glasses looked as if he’d had them since 1973. I guesstimated that he might be around 50 to 55 years of age. Jesus. Put on a lab coat, I thought.
I spent the entire hour and 15 minutes with a bemused look on my face staring at him, splashing around in the pool trying not to bump into any of the others who were moving slower than patients recovering from hip replacement surgery. Being good at multi-tasking, I began to make up stories about what could have brought this guy to this place, on the side of a pool, in front of a bunch of aging women. What could possibly be the attraction for him to resort to this as a way to make a few bucks?
Had he made the choice out of economic desperation? Lost at Bingo last night? Just needs the money? Had he surveyed his options and finally cried “Uncle”. Hand out 24 hour newspapers at Skytrain stations or lead aqua-fit? Babysit or lead aqua-fit? Walmart greeter or aqua-fit? And, who am I to judge? Maybe aqua-fit is his true passion? Maybe he goes home and practices aqua-fit moves in the mirror the way some people practice ballroom dancing. Maybe he spends hours on iTunes hoping to find music that doesn’t exist, the kind that might appeal to women between the ages of 45 and 102. Sometimes, (perhaps you’ve experienced this as well, or maybe it really is just me), I start to have the weirdest thoughts about people when they present themselves in ways that, superficially at least, make no sense to me.
I started to have a really strange thought, just came to me out of the blue, that this guy had been born as one of those babies – sexually ambiguous – and that unfortunate DNA mishap had prevented him from reaching his full potential and that’s why, instead of the type of job that he looks like he’d be truly suited for, he’d just given up and decided to teach aqua-fit. Where did that weirdest of weird thoughts come from? Should I be worried? Should you? I have no idea except that I had felt a bit shell-shocked, (almost suffered a lesser form of PTSD), after seeing versions of the female human body courtesy of obese, aged, white exhibitionists in the change-room beforehand; a vision I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Put on your damn clothes and keep them on until I’m safely out of the room.
Or maybe, I surmised, he’s a genius, a mathematical idiot-savant, and he’s had a nervous breakdown in relation to not being able to crack some new algorithm so he purposely stayed away from any job that would intellectually distract him from his true focus.
I thought to myself, maybe I should teach aqua-fit. Not because I’m an Idiot-Savant or have sexually ambiguous genitals – far from it – but because it makes almost as much sense to put a fat lady in a bathing suit on the pool deck for inspiration as it does to have him up there.
Have you ever been in that situation? Not squeezed into a bathing suit, but the kind of situation that requires you to take a job that is so far removed from who you are that people can’t believe you actually work there? It’s as if the HR consultant was fired the day you were hired and that’s the only reason you’re there at all. It’s like the ridiculous suggestions that a stranger offered me when, just once, I made the mistake of telling her that I was looking for work. “My brother-in-law is an accountant,” she said. “He needs an assistant.” Money? Numbers? Keeping track of those? Me? He might as well hire Pamela Wallin or Mike Duffy. “No, I don’t think so,” I said, wanting to drive a spike through my head.
I don’t know what it is about aqua-fit. It just lends itself to opening the flood gates on the usual mental boundaries (water has always fueled my creativity) and suddenly, just like all around me in the pool, I never know what version of creepy weird I might find myself up against.