When I was about ten or twelve, I still did not know how to swim. How undutch. Swimming lessons were a part of my elementary school curriculum, but at one point my knees started touching the bottom of the instruction pool and I gave up.

That the instruction pool had become too shallow (or rather, that I had outgrown the instruction pool) did not matter much to me; however, at the real pool (the one near my uncle’s house that we snuck into) I was only allowed in the shallow end, and that was getting a bit ridiculous. I wanted to feel the water flow over my shoulders.

Let me first show you how the pool looked like:

As you can see, the pool was L-shaped. The shallow end (represented by light colours) was separated from the deep end (dark) by a low bridge that allowed the life guards to patrol and to get to spots of trouble quicker.

Now pool guards are busy people, and they cannot keep track of everyone. So from time to time, I snuck under the bridge into the deep end. As you can also tell from the picture, the transition to the deep end on the left hand side was minimal; one day I found out that the right hand side was different.

I decided to take a short cut, and went under the bridge at the deep end of the deep end. There was a steep slope there: I slipped, lost control, skidded into the deep deep end, and suddenly found myself sitting at the bottom of the pool, with what felt like a lot of water over me.

I pushed myself upwards, but since I could not swim, I sank immediately. I kept propelling myself from the floor of the pool, broke surface, took a quick breath, and sank to the bottom again.

This could not last for ever, of course. I had oxygen, but was also getting tired and pannicky. First, I tried to shout when I got above the water. That strategy proved pretty disastrous: instead of being able to shout “help”, I could just utter “he” and swallow water and chlorine. So instead of drawing attention, I just robbed myself of air.

The weird thing about the whole situation was that I had now been busy drowning without really drowning for about half a minute, in a pool full of people, and nobody even seemed to notice. However, several people had bumped into me and that gave me an idea. I decided to latch onto the next person that would swim by, and not let go until we were out of the water.

That idea may have saved my life then and there (or so I think). I grabbed hold of the first person that bumped into me swimming by. A struggle ensued; the person tried to get rid of me, but I would not let go. The person swam to the shallow end, after which I disengaged. It turned out I had grabbed a girl not much older than me (oh Google, what will ye bring me now), who was of course furious. I tried to stumble an apology and an explanation and a thanks, but I don’t think she believed me, because she was still looking angry when I walked slowly out of the pool to find a place to rest.

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