I was recently asked what my most embarrassing moment had been in life. Initially I couldn't think of one. Sure, I had those moments where my fly was undone, or someone had stuck a "Kick Me" sign on my back, but surely there was something more unique than those common occurrences.
Having left the question at the back of my mind I suddenly realised what my most vivid embarrassing moment was when I drove past a swimming carvinal today. Here's the story...
It happened in the late spring of 1990...
I used to love swimming carnivals.
They were a chance to get out of school for a day, get wet and check out the "real estate". Yep, it didn't get any better than that at school.
During our time trials during the pre-carnival period I had made the cut to be in several individual races - one of which was the individual freestyle 50m sprint.
I always enjoyed swimming.
My father was a surfer in his younger years and used to always take us down south to his popular surf breaks. I always enjoyed surfing the waves, but hated the tricks my mind would play on whatever it was that could possibly have laid beneath the dark eerie surface. In fact there was one time I'll never forget paddling out on my board to where the waves were breaking and as I looked down I saw this large shadow on my left side. Initially I thought it was MY OWN shadow, but when it moved and drifted off underneath on my right side...
My mind immediately flicked to images of sharks, angry dolphins and other creepy things that go bump in the night... I quickly high-tailed it out of there and pretty much walked on water all the way back to shore!
But yes, I loved the water and the surf - swimming was nothing new to me.
However, when the swimming carnival came I decided to invest in a new trendy pair of boardies. I had now entered high school and wanted to blend in, and by doing so I had to make a statement with my clothing that I wasn't "unkewl".
After painstakingly choosing a new pair of boardies I finally had the chance to get them wet in my first heat of the day - the individual freestyle 50m sprint.
As I lined up at the furtherest right-side lane (lane 8) ready for my heat to start I began to shake and feel somewhat nervous. The adrenalin was pumping through my veins and I tried calming them by dipping my toe into the water...
IT WAS FRICKIN FREEZIN!!
Even the toe that I had dipped into the pool had shivelled up and gone numb!
Now I was shivering even more.
"Okay boys, take your mark," screamed our phys ed teacher.
I took a deep breath and stood on the platform along with 7 other colleagues.
I bent over ready to spring like a bat out of hell, I stared at the icy cold water and again took one last deep breath...
I dove into the water and immediately hypothermia began to set in... my mind screamed at the pain, and then my arms and legs began frantically kicking to try and keep warm - all the while trying to look as though I was doing "freestyle".
I didn't care how I looked. Heck, I couldn't feel anything but icy cold water all around me.
But I pressed on... it was ONLY a 50 meter sprint - it would be over in a minute.
As I lashed one stroke after another I wondered why everything was too cold... I mean my nuts had felt as though they had travelled so far up into my body that they were now cuddling my stomach, pancreas and liver for warmth.
But my mind didn't care. It wanted this race over... and over quickly. Stroke after stroke I kept going I even stole a glance to me left and couldn't see anyone within distance -
I'M COMING FIRST!
And then something bizarre happened: some debris was in the water. I couldn't believe that someone had left a rope in the water! Someone could get caught on that thing and drown! I quickly glided over it knowing that first place was still in my hot little hands.
Then I heard the roar of the crowd... I was nearing the grand stand end.
I heard faint screams of my name being screamed...
Was I breaking a record? I thought, I might win this thing and break a record!
I thrived on the uplifting noise of the crowd. Now the cold no longer seemed a barrier, adrenalin and pride were mixed in and they created the warmth and drive I needed to get to the end.
More yelling and screaming was heard... I was liking this... 10 meters remained and I was BLITZING the field.
9 meters... (more screaming)...
7 meters... (man the screaming was getting so loud it sounded as though someone was screaming from right above me)...
5 meters... (was that my phys ed teacher - is he rooting for me?)...
3 meters... (I'm nearly there, I can hear the crowd and the phys ed teacher all calling my name)...
As soon as I touched the end I looked to my left and saw nobody. I immediately raised both hands in a victorious claim.
But then everybody in the grand stand started laughing.
What? What's so funny? I thought, I won?
I heard the noise of my phys ed teacher from behind.
"Brett broke early," was all he said as he turned away and began walking back to the starting blocks at the opposite side of the pool.
It wasn't until I looked back that I saw the other 7 contestants standing on their blocks looking at me.
Now I was going to have to go again, and I was completely buggered.
I heaved a heavy sigh and began to exit the pool...
WAIT A MINUTE my mind screamed, LOOK DOWN!
A new tingling sensation went through my body as I looked down and saw that I was no longer wearing my cool boardies... the only thing covering this shriveled up body was a pair of Superman jocks!!
I looked frantically around for my boardies hoping that they had peeled off in the last 10 or so meters, but I couldn't see them.
I heard a yell from the phys ed teacher who pointed into the pool at the starting end. He then pointed to his own boardies indicating that mine were in the pool!
I wasn't going to swim the other length of the pool again, and besides the principal was hurrying me up to get out of the pool as I was holding up the next lot of races, so I had no choice but to exit and let my Superman jocks shine.
If the solo performance of watching me swim my own race wasn't funny enough for the crowd then my briefs were enough to send them into hysterics (Speedos weren't in fashion back in my day, especially in Australia - it was boardies ONLY).
So, after taking another 50 meter sprint from the end of the pool to the starting side I saw my boardies at the bottom and immediately dove in to retrieve them.
My second dive done similar damage to my first another piece article of clothing zipped off again - and now things were getting REALLY cold. Thankfully this time I wasn't speeding off like a dolphin on steroids, I quickly grabbed my now floating Superman jocks, ripped them back on and swam down to the depths of the pool where my water-logged boardies laid. In another swift motion I threw my legs through them and tied them back on again.
"Come on, Ryan," yelled Brett who had been the only other person who had entered the cold water and had waited for me to get back up on my starting block - he was shivering uncontrollably too.
I quickly jumped out of the pool and in my saturated state stood back on the starting block again.
"On your marks..." screamed the phys ed teacher again.
This time I waited that extra second ensuring that I wasn't going to be the fool, and this time there was no false start... now I was coming last and I hadn't even hit the pool yet!
On my dive in I kept one hand on my boardies and another out in front. I had never done a dive like that before and it ended up resulting in a painful slap on my head when I broke the water.
But thankfully the cold icy water numbed all sense of pain, and so I broke out into my frantic freestyle stroke.
It was definitely not as fast as my last lap. Every time I kicked my legs and pulled my arms through the water I would deliberately graze a hand past my legs just to make sure I could feel the texture of my boardies to confirm that they were still on.
Unfortunately when I felt confident that everything was okay I began catching up, but then, as fate would have it, my boardies began to slip...
I can't believe this! I screamed.
My freestyle stroke transformed into a stroke-with-one-arm-while-holding-my-boardies-with-the-other-and-keeping-my-legs-spreadlegged-and-trying-to-kick-at-the-same-time. I looked like a cane toad doing some ritualistic mating dance to impress the female cane toads!
I didn't know whether to stop and tighten my boardies, or keep doing what I was doing.
Heck, could the day get ANY worse, I thought, so I just kept doing the mating cane toad freestyle thing.
By the time I reached the end of the race I had finished dead last. I tightened my boardies and cursed the day I ever laid eyes on them.
Never again. And I also made sure that whatever pair of boardies I bought they had drawstrings that wrapped around the entire torso, not this front-tie crap.
So there you have it, yet another excruciating experience with the cold.
Now can you see why I enjoy the summer?
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