By lex, on September 7th, 2004
I was a swimmer in high school. At the time, it was considered good form on short distances to go as long as you could without breathing. The thinking was that the act of turning your head to breathe could increase drag, and cost vital hundredths of seconds. Hundredths which could, over the course of a 50 yard freestyle, cost you the race.
I was always good at holding my breath. Two minutes and change was my personal best.
Once when I was about 14 or so, I was up at a resort in Pennsylvania, where my lobbyist sister, at that time a Congressional aide, was working a political campaign. There was an outdoors hot tub at this resort, in which I chose to while away some of the long hours between envelope licking sessions. Back in the 70′s, before ten year-olds blogged national conventions, that was what passed for being a politically active youth.
The hot tub seemed a perfect place to hold your breath – the sound of the bubbles in your ears masked the sound of your heart thundering in your chest as the seconds ticked away. There was a handrail entering the hot tub, which allowed me to minimize exertions to remain at the bottom, holding my breath.
About a minute or so into my most recent experiment, a couple of older guys jumped in the tub. They’d walked outside just after I’d gone under, and saw an apparently empty hot tub – warm, relaxing, inviting.
They clambered in, not seeing your scribe hugging the bottom through the bubbles breaking on the surface, fully prepared to ease back and say, “ahhhh.” Your scribe, holding his eyes and counting Mississippi’s, didn’t see them either.
Except one of them, in stepping in, kicked my arm slightly. It’s hard to imagine just what went through his mind at that moment, expecting a relaxing session in the hot tub, and finding an apparent corpse at the bottom of the pool. In retrospect, I have to admit that it would be pretty exciting.
A frantic arm searched across the bottom, running up my back before grabbing a hand full of my hair. Having found that certain purchase, I was hauled from the bottom of the pool up into the night air, sputtering and screaming in half-scalped pain as I emerged from the froth. My rescuer, no doubt anticipating a heroic CPR session on an unfortunately non-responsive victim, screamed in return to see an animated youth screaming into his face. Which in turn, frightened me all the more.
We had a good moment or two of scream, take a deep breath, scream some more. Meanwhile, his friend, no part or parcel of this experiment, danced around in frantic circles, practically wetting himself until hotel security ran up, sidearms drawn.