Anatomy of a Swim Meet….

We spent some time at two swim meets this past weekend, a pastime we are learning to enjoy and are now just calling our family vacations.

The swim meet weekends work best when you have kids who are actually swimming. When you have a child (age 5 or under) who does not swim but draws the lucky straw and is invited to tag along, you should probably consider divorcing, splitting your weekends with the kids and/or offering the 5 year old the equivalent of a candy store filled with treats and unlimited screen time to come along and “cheer” for his/her siblings.

The swim meet stands are pretty typical. Engineers spent years perfecting the most uncomfortable seating arrangements they could, trumped only by a couple of airlines who have figured out how to best wedge a person’s knees into the back of the person’s head in front of them.

The seats are sometimes a cold cement bench or a cold cement bench covered with bags, jackets and empty coffee cups. The international symbol for a) it’s hot in here and b) these seats are taken and someone will come to claim them within 24 hours but they’re not for you to even look at. I usually kick myself for not finding the Starbucks in the area that so many of these bench warmers obviously found and have used this opportunity to rub it in my face.

You spot some parents from your club that you know and ask yourself, “Do I REALLY like these people?” and “Will sitting in these hot conditions on this cement slab together for four hours ruin our budding friendship?”

The stands at a swim meet are where they pump in all of the heat. Watching kids shivering on the deck just a few feet in front of you makes you wonder if they are performing some kind of unscripted dramatic scene. How could they possibly be cold? A) They’re exercising, B) Someone just threw more water on the rocks up here in the sauna-stands and we are all getting ready to start a brawl.

Before you find a seat, set your 7-11 coffee cup (the only one of its kind) in the stands, attempt to wedge your “snack” bag (more candy and spare headphones for the little one) you are already doling out the first treat of the day.

Then a series of questions wave through your body. “Did I use any of that hair de-frizzer because things are about to go all Monica in here?” “Why did I even bother with mascara, it’s running down my calves?” “Why didn’t I pack myself any water?”(grumbling: I packed stuff for everyone else in this FAMILY!)

You hear whistles, kids yelling “Mom!” and waving to you wearing your team’s caps but when they’re all in their racing suits they look like identical sextuplets. You wave and blow kisses at kids that most certainly aren’t yours and dive into your knitting bag.

This past weekend, I saw something new. Something I haven’t yet seen at a swim meet.

I was watching the 12 and under session and noticed a room next to the balcony I was contemplating leaping from. It was a room for wayward teens, not unlike the youth hostels you would find all over Europe. There were kids lying on mats thrown all over the floor, a couple of kids were asleep as you might expect of these poor, weary travelers.

Some of kids appeared to be listening to ipods and/or watching videos. That’s not something I remember about my travels through Europe but I guess modern technology beats street-pretzel money.

Then I noticed someone’s jacket had a swim club logo on it. Oh dear, has someone stolen a jacket out of the change rooms?

As it turns out, this room filled with forgotten kids was actually a holding cell for the winners from the morning session. That’s right, the kids who earned themselves a spot in the evening’s finals are rewarded with the chance to lay on a linoleum rec centre floor for a minimum of five hours before diving back into the water for another warm-up and a second swim session. Huh.

I walked into the hall of the rec complex, my cheeks red like I had some communicable rash, a meet program I used only to create comical name combos tucked into the scouring pad I used to call hair, I noticed a group of hockey Moms in very stylish boots, colourful scarves, sipping their Starbucks, mittens wrapped cozily around the cups.

I hope that rink is freezing.

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