Today the Secrets had an AWAY swim meet, and Toney told me it was at a place we’d never been before. And since we’ve been going to AWAY meets for years now, this was surprising. How could it be possible? Surely we’ve been everywhere by now?
No, I was told, this is a new team, just getting off the ground. Nobody knows much about them, but they were somehow admitted into the league, and we’re swimming against them today.
Hey, whatever. Just tell me where to point the hood of our car, and I’ll get us there. It’s no skin off my scrote.
Yeah, but it turned out to be quite an ordeal…
Toney had directions printed from an email, and they took us way out in the boondocks. Within twenty minutes of leaving home I had no idea where we were; the road was winding and roller coaster-like. And on the rare occasion we passed a building or house, it was ramshackle and falling down.
Toney consulted the GPS for a second opinion, but our British guide couldn’t help us. She told us our destination is not a real place, or something along those lines. Extremely comforting.
And the longer we drove, the more obscure the directions became. Eventually it was stuff like, “Turn left at the wagon wheel, and continue until you see the Sprite bottle on the stump…”
“They have a swim team out here?” I started hollering. “What do they do, swim in overalls? Do the kids have to remove their Skoal dip before getting into the water??” It was crazy; it felt like we were in depression-era Kentucky.
We continued, and our car bottomed out twice on the pavement, and at one point I believe we were on an actual dirt road. It reminded me of going to my great grandmother’s house as a kid, which was so remote you drove for a long time, parked the car, and walked the last mile.
Eventually we found the high school, where the meet was to take place, and it looked like there was a football field next door with a grain elevator in the end zone. I’m not sure what that was all about.
“Hey, at least it’s a real school,” I said while parking. “I thought you guys might be swimming in a pond, out on Old Man Taylor’s back 40.”
We went inside, and I needed to find a bathroom. When I located it, a guy was there posting a sign on the door telling everyone to use the men’s room off the gym, at the other end of the hall.
Gritting my teeth because of pee-urgency, I went in search of the gym. And man, what a time-warp.
The school didn’t look overly old, maybe from the ’70s, but it felt like I’d entered a section that was somehow much, much older. That gymnasium was straight out of the 1930s, or my name’s not Jeff “The Snob” Kay. The scoreboard was very ornate, and old as hell. For a few seconds I forgot about my urine-trouble and looked around, fascinated.
Toney was holding court, as usual, when I returned, and I wandered over to the concession stand. I half expected them to be offering “a hit off the ol’ clay jug” for $1, but unfortunately they were not.
It was still a tad unusual, though… They had all the regular stuff, but a lot of it was homemade. They didn’t have Reese’s peanut butter cups, for instance, but a reasonable facsimile whipped-up in someone’s home kitchen (potbelly stove?) — two inside a baggy for fifty cents.
I bought a Dr. Pepper from a cooler on the floor, and went upstairs to the balcony overlooking the pool. It was hotter than an August crotch up there. But they had real stadium seats, instead of the ass-punishing bleachers most schools offer. So, that was nice.
The other team, I saw, was extremely small. We have about 75 boys on our team, and they had less than 20. But it’s a new team, and hopefully they’ll be able to whip-up some interest in the, um, community. I wish them luck, sincerely. Competitive swimming is a great sport.
I took out my cell phone, to check my email, but there wasn’t even a hint of a signal in that place. The section where the bars appear on the display was missing — the entire section itself.
Sighing with disappointment (no internet for three hours??), I took a look around and saw that a lot of the fashions were from the 1980s. Many of the women reminded me of Barbara Mandrell, at the height of her popularity.
One exception was a woman seated to my right, with terrifying man-hands. She looked like she’d been baling hay for the past twenty-five years, and the veins were bulging on her forearms. Holy shit. She could probably bend prison bars with her bare hands.
Yeah, and unfortunately the kids on the other team weren’t very good. A lot of them didn’t even dive into the water, they just jumped off the blocks like a Mountain Dew commercial. It was not pretty. Our team slaughtered them, straight-up.
But at least they didn’t start each race with a shotgun blast, like I’d predicted in the parking lot…
After it was over, we turned on the GPS again and hit the Take Us Home button. And it worked in reverse. Penelope (I think that’s her name) had us drive a slightly different route, but no less “scenic.” At one point we had to stop while a passel of wild turkeys skittered across the road.
It was an interesting day. And I wish their team luck, I really do. It’s just the extreme ruralness of it all… And all those houses that would’ve made even Fred Sanford shake his head in disgust. I always say I could adjust to almost anything, and I’m sure I could adjust to that style of living, as well.
But I’d probably risk being labeled “uptown,” and have a few of the rusted-out appliances removed from my yard, and the engine block hauled off my front porch.
Would that be cheating?