On Saturday we went to the older Secret’s swim meet, at a mysterious high school a long, long way from home. In fact, I’m not even sure we were still in Pennsylvania, we might’ve been in “Hampshire.”
Before leaving we told the GPS unit where we wanted to go, and she said, “You’re joking, right?” Not really, of course, but it would’ve been justified.
We drove for almost two hours, and finally arrived. It was one of those deals where the elementary school, middle school, and high school are all on the same sprawling plot of land. Like a mediocre education superstore.
One of the arrows near the entrance said “Natatorium,” and Toney told me it’s where we wanted to go.
“To the natatorium?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she answered.
“I thought we were going to a swimming pool?”
The meet was scheduled to start at 3:00, and the swimmers were supposed to report at least 30 minutes early. It was only 2:10, but Toney wanted to go inside anyway. I asked if there was any reason I had to go into that sweltering ballsweat heat box so far in advance, and she said I could wait until about 2:50, if I wanted.
“I’m staying with Dad!” the younger boy shouted eagerly, and the two of us sat in the parking lot and listened to The Kinks.
“They’re pretty good, aren’t they?” said Secret 2.
“Oh, you got that right,” I agreed.
Finally it was time for us to go inside, and both of us needed to locate a pee-catcher. We walked up and down several hallways, and saw nothing but classrooms. What the heck, man?! It was starting to turn into an emergency. If we didn’t find relief soon, I might have to sneak into the music room and urinate into a trombone.
Then I saw a sign for the faculty men’s room. “We can’t go in there,” the Secret whispered. “That’s for teachers.” I didn’t even answer, and almost tore the door off its hinges.
After tending to the task at hand, I took a look around. So this is what a teachers’ bathroom is like? Huh. Nothing special. Maybe it was a little cleaner than average, but that’s all. I always imagined they’d be extra-posh, with recliner toilets and mink-lined urinals, or something. What a letdown.
As we exited, a man rode by on what might’ve been a Zamboni. He saw us coming out of the VIP restroom, and did an angry double-take. I could tell by the look on his face he was preparing to unload on us, but decided against it at the last minute, for some reason. We just walked away, without saying a word.
We passed a lunch room, where the concession stand was located. I asked my partner if he wanted to get something, and he said he did. So, we started checking out the spread.
And it was all healthy! What the?? There were no Kit Kats, no nachos, and no pizza. Instead, they had bananas(!?), granola bars, and (I’m not joking) baggies filled with carrot and celery sticks. Worst concession stand ever.
The Secret bought a Fruit Roll-Up (or somesuch), and I didn’t get anything. I mean, seriously. I’d look like a complete idiot gnawing on a length of celery inside a natatorium.
We finally found the pool itself, and I braced for instant discomfort. Those things are almost always breathtakingly hot, but this one wasn’t as bad as usual. In fact, it was close to comfortable. It’s unheard of.
A woman from our neighborhood said a few words as we walked past her, and when we sat down I instructed my son to spread out so she wouldn’t sit with us. I don’t have anything against her, really, I just didn’t like the idea of being forced to make small-talk for two hours, with a charley-horse smile on my face.
Toney was working “on-deck,” so we wouldn’t be talking to her until after the meet was over. The older Secret was to swim in races 2, 7, and 23. As usual, there was a big gap in there… “More Kinks after 7?” I suggested to the younger boy, and he thought it was a fine idea.
The announcer asked everyone to please stand – and remove your hats – for the playing or our National Anthem. I wondered if they’d added that part about the hats because of me. Twice I’ve been publicly reprimanded at swim meets for not taking off my Brooklyn Dodgers cap during the anthem, and in England I got a good dressing-down inside a church, for similar reasons.
While the song played, I realized the man beside me was singing. And he had a real deep voice, like that guy in the Statler Bros. way down on the end. As it progressed, I noticed my sternum was vibrating. I could feel him singing, more than I could hear him.
When it ended, he looked at me, smiled real big and said, “I love patriotism!” I think it was the first time I ever heard someone string those particular words together.
There was a kid on the other team wearing tiny bikini trunks, and was all pumped-up like he’d emerged from the womb doing five-pound curls. Everybody else was wearing swimwear that nearly reached their knees, and this guy was sashaying around in panties. I’d never laid eyes on the kid before, but couldn’t stand him.
The Secret did well in his first two races, and we headed toward the car. But my cell phone rang, and it was Steve. I talked to him for a while, inside the room with Satan’s snack bar. Steve’s birthday was Friday, and I jokingly called him an “old bag.” And I’m not 100% sure of it, but I think it offended him.
After the meet was over, the younger Secret and I returned to the car several minutes before the swim folk arrived. I used the GPS to locate the nearest Cracker Barrel, and it was 30 miles in the wrong direction, somewhere in New Jersey. I found a more logical location, and stored it in our favorites.
And I was pleased to learn Toney was thinking exactly the same thing. There’s something about returning from a day trip that just screams Cracker Barrel. I told the British GPS lady to lead us there, and she took us on roads we’d never traveled. And before long we were told to “turn right on Cracker Barrel Lane.” Good ol’ Cracker Barrel Lane.
The place was crowded, but I was relieved to learn there wouldn’t be a wait (my stomach was sucking-up against my spine). They seated us in the middle of a room, near the fireplace, and there was another table pressed against ours. So, we basically had dinner with another family — four strangers we’ll never see again.
And they were going to town on it. I mean, those people could eat! I was afraid we might be hit by cutlery sparks. The woman seated next to Toney kept lifting her plates and bowls to her mouth, and performing a horizontal shift. There was much grunting and nose-breathing, and I did my best to just pretend it wasn’t happening.
I ordered pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and macaroni ‘n’ cheese. I also requested sweet tea, but the dingbat waitress brought me unsweetened, and disappeared until it was time to give us the check. She apparently outsourced the actual delivery of our food, and I wasn’t a fan of her performance. Which was reflected in her tip.
When we got home the boys went to bed, and Toney and I watched Pineapple Express. Well, to be more precise, I watched it, and Toney snoozed on the couch. I think she konked-out before the DVD menu fully loaded.
I enjoyed it. The plot was fairly weak: substitute counterfeiting for drug dealing and it could’ve been the premise of a Drake & Josh movie. But the two main guys were funny, and I liked the over-the-top brutality of the fight scenes. A nice, unexpected touch.
I gave it four stars at Netflix. Here’s what I’ll be receiving for next weekend. I’ve heard good things.
So, that was my Saturday. What did you do?
Before I call it a day here, I want to alert you to four new Smoking Fish sightings, all captured by Good2Go. Excellent! I appreciate the effort. Keep ’em coming, folks.
And I want to get your feedback on the new header. It was designed by The Evil Twin, who also did the latest t-shirt. I think it looks amazing. Thanks, also, to Chris McMahon, who installed the thing for me. I probably could’ve done it myself, but was afraid I might tear a hole in the universe, or something.
See you guys tomorrow.