At the Los Altos Mountain View Aquatic Club, a kid in the pool yells at the coach, traipsing alongside the water, "Everybody else bumped into the wall but me!" Another kid says, "Oh, my ear!" It's not clear to me whether that's a comment on his ear or the first kid. The coach is one of those California stereotypes -- long haired, long-legged blonde. She jumps, swivels around mid-air and punches behind her. "You have to do the drop punch flip when you get to the wall, guys!" she calls. "Like this." And she does that peculiar little jig again.
Then she says, "OK, let's do the butterfly this time?" She demonstrates by crouching and jumping like a butterfly, though I'm damned if I've ever seen a butterfly do that. Six kids look up at her, then down into the water and head off across the pool, bouncing up and down with varying degrees of success in moving forward. One is jumping more or less in place. But hey, his coach is doing the same, poolside.
Somewhere in the distance, someone's playing a tabla-like drum, clearly, rhythmically, steadily.
The next pool has many expert butterflies. They move smoothly through the water, their bodies curling and uncurling rather like ... caterpillars, am I right? Why isn't this stroke called the caterpillar stroke? One of those imponderables, I suppose. In any case, their coach -- another blonde, not quite as long-legged, but with a voice pitched high enough to rival Lata Mangeshkar -- also leaps about, also demonstrating the butterfly.
The first coach is now windmilling her arms violently. "Bacckstroke, guys! Backstroke!" Then she does the old jump-swivel-punch again, landing so close to the edge that surely she's got to fall in? But no, she's dainty and sure-footed.
The second coach strolls over to me, and in that high-pitched voice tells me that parents are not allowed poolside. I'm tempted to say I'm not a parent, but wait ... I'm unaccountably struck by the realization that here and now, I am simultaneously a parent and not a parent. Ha. Hmm.
The Lata-clone strolls back to the other side of the pools, and she immediately begins contorting herself again. Knees slightly bent, she thrusts first her chest out, then her behind, again and again like clockwork.
"Don't do this, guys!" she screams. "Not what I'm doing, OK?" The voice, it's higher and more piercing than ever.