My toes curled around the tiled right-angle at the edge of the swimming pool, gripping almost monkey-like, as I prepared to leap into the cool refreshing waters in pursuit of greatness. Visions of the glorious leap I'd soon make, the subsequent triumphant entry into the annals of back-yard-swimming-pool greatness filled my mind, obscuring everything else: The shouts of two of my brothers urging me on together with the encouraging looks from the two young girls, daughters of our family friends whose house we were at faded into the background as I focused. Rather lamentably, any thought of common sense, physics, hydrodynamics, action and reaction, excruciating pain and shame also faded into nothing. Yep, no thought of those insignificant matters at all...Just visions of glory, my attainment of the title, "paragon of the pool." Glorious!
There I stood, upon the precipice of magnificence, a figure of soon-to-be-legendary-status, ready to spring skyward and into the wobbly blue water and forever engrave my name, and brilliant deed, upon the honour-roll of awesomeness...
...Only, things weren't to unfold exactly to
plan what had seemed a good idea at the time. The day would live in infamy, go down in the annals of fucking stupidity within my family's long and distinguished history. It's funny painfully true and quite disturbing that those infamy-annals my family holds so very prominently feature me...Hmm, What does that say about me? Adventurous, fearless, brave, strong, mighty STUPID?
Back to the story.
The day had started like any other visit to our friends house, a doctor-friend of my parents. The fact he was a doctor was fortuitous as it turns out...The doctor and his wife had a couple daughters around my age and we got on really well. I was nine years old at the time, so the year was 1979...Yes, a long time ago, but not so long I that don't recall the tragic events.
These friends had a pretty cool house with an indoor swimming pool which occupied the kids whilst the parents talked about boring adult stuff. We'd head over there when it was really hot, which happens a lot in Australia, and spend hours in the pool then have dinner or lunch.
So, a day like many others. Splashing, jumping and other in-pool-shenanigans ensued and the day seemed destined to follow a well-worn path - A typical summers day with friends.
As with most kids we had pool toys: Balls, blow-up-whacky-things to club each other with, blow-up rings and those styrofoam kick-board things. Us boys would attempt to batter each other to death whilst the girls would pretend not to be impressed - But of course we knew they were. It was rowdy but good clean kids-fun.
It's here that the roadmap to
greatness pain and suffering begins to unfold. At the time I was clueless, now...Well, it's sort of funny. I'm not sure why things went the way they did to be honest - I mean I can literally think of no valid reason for me to come up with such idiocy however considering this is the interwebs I'm going to blame my older devil-brother. He was the root-cause for most of my stupidity as a kid, broken bones and painful experiences, and besides, he's not here to defend himself anyway. I blame him.
Back to the story.
My toes curled around the tiled right-angle at the edge of the swimming pool, gripping almost monkey-like, as I prepared to leap into the cool refreshing waters.
In my hands I held a short styrofoam kick-board/paddle-board thing. These things were designed to aid in learning to swim or to provide additional floatation-assistance to the upper-body enabling one to do leg-work keeping the upper body immobile. This one was probably no more than about 50cm in length from flat end to rounded tip.
The sounds of those not willing to achieve greatness through magnificent pool-jumping faded to nothing, like droplets of water on hot concrete. I stood, monkey-gripping, with my toes focussing on the moment, the leap, the landing...The glory and then...
...An idea struck me. In a moment of clarity I knew what I must do to make my moment of greatness ascend to even greater dizzying heights of magnificence.
I can see it in my minds' eye right now as I sit in this café, safe and secure, eating lunch whilst tapping away on my lap top - I can feel the magnificent moment unfolding. Me standing there deploying my moment-of-greatness-idea, the cool and inviting waters wobbling around below me, the awed gapes of those plebs around me, the unworthy, peasants unwilling to accept greatness into their lives or have the gumption to strive for it.
Back to the story.
My epiphany, the one which would accelerate my greatness into the stratosphere, was to put the end of the styrofoam kick-board into my mouth and bite down on it, holding it between my teeth and hands also. This done, a firm galenkp-chopper-grip upon the board, monkey-grip toes tensed like coiled springs for my leap and visions of glory in my mind...I leapt forth into the sky in a similar a mighty eagle may leap to attain flight - Greatness taking flight! It was spectacular - I shit you not.
I'm not sure how high my magnificent leap was, 10 or 15 metres at least, in my mind, but probably much less than that in reality. I felt the wind catch the board a little as I rose and fell. My greatness-fixated-nine-year-old-brain didn't heed the warning signs. Moments later I felt the water beginning to envelope my feet in it's soft, cool fluidy-embrace...My knees were next, my nine-year-old man-gear then chest felt the waters' caress...Then under I went - My greatness momentarily obscured from my appreciative audience.
The operative words here though are, under I went. You see, there was a slight flaw in my roadmap to greatness, one I'd failed to identify in my haste for greatness...Yep, styrofoam doesn't submerge without massive amount of force being exerted upon it - I know this now. I went down, the board hit the water and its natural buoyancy thrust it back skywards, in a leap that probably rivalled my own, tearing it from within my tenacious galenkp-chopper-grip.
I knew right away I was in trouble. I don't know, maybe it was the almighty snap I heard/felt, maybe it was when the pain hit home. Intense pain. Mind-numbing pain. The pain you hear about and wince, screwing up your face thinking how glad you are it wasn't you! That sort of pain.
I would like to say I took the pain like a man, like I would have as an older person, but I was a little brownish, half-drowned skinny kid and it fucking hurt! Come on, cut me some slack. I didn't take the pain well.
Back to the story.
A primal scream echoed through the pool area, then another. Then I started drowning. Finally I surfaced again and my hand went to my mouth, came away...No blood. Another guttural howl of pain escaped my mouth and I half-drowned half-swam my way to the side of the pool in intense pain all the way. That was when mum and dad burst into the indoor-pool area following the echoes of their
brain-damaged-greatness-seeking-child second born son followed closely by the doctor and his wife. By then I was crying in pain, not howling, having controlled myself a little - Screaming in pain isn't really my thing I guess. [It was initially though.]
Naturally I was immediately administered first aid by the doctor...My brother
kindly unkindly offered some mocking words of derision during the tratment and explaining what I had done. To be honest I was in a bit of pain so didn't take it all in...But what happened, I hear you wonder?
The damage I incurred that day, other to my pride, was that four of my teeth were broken off about halfway down the tooth, far enough to expose the nerve running through each one. So, my two top and two bottom front teeth were broken cleanly off half way down each one and the nerves were severed...Funnily, they were still stuck in that asshole-board, the teeth...We only found them later still stuck where I had bitten down, clinging forlornly to my vision of glory and greatness. I kept them for a while to remind me of how near to paragon of the pool I had come.
So there you have it - A lamentable true story but one that taught me many things. I learned that sometimes a persons' hubris and ego can cause pain, not just to the individual but those around them also. I learned that no plan survives contact with the enemy and the importance of thinking things through a little better. I also learned that styrofoam kick-boards are asshole-things that don't submerge.
It also taught me, much later, that sometimes laughing at oneself can be a great healer. I'm not sure why I seemed always to be the one to break-out and do something off-beat, dangerous, adventurous, reckless or downright dumb but it was often the case. My childhood is full of such stories - It's amazing I survived to be honest, but I did and all of these moments form the tapestry of my life. My family laughs about this story now and it gets reenacted like charades in a cruel parody of the actual events.
I laugh along though, why not huh? I've done some fucking stupid things in my life but somehow manage to survive each one...Sort of like Wile-E-Coyote I guess - Always coming up with interesting ways to do things and almost, but not quite, dying in the process.. src
I think I'll tell the story of when my brother and I tied our bikes together next...It was a few years later...I almost lost my man-parts but fortunately they survived. Hmm, I wonder if that has something to do with Faith and I not having kids. Look out for it if you want a chuckle.
Design and create your ideal life, don't live it by default
Image shows me in a much happier place...Teeth intact.