During all the years I taught Creative Writing, there were always students who questioned my advice to write from their own experience because, they said, their lives were too boring to write about. I'd tell them that a good writer can make anything - even pocket-lint - interesting. Well, here goes. I'm going to practice what I preached by telling you about bathing-cap fabric and bathing-suit elastic. But first, some background (ahhh, a reprieve!).
My husband and I were at the dog-park a few weeks ago, and as we walked with the human pack following the dog-pack, we found ourselves drifting into gender groups. A man had been talking about changing his doorknob and not being able to find the right screws, so we women fell back as the men gravitated to him, giving him advice. We commented on the chains of events these projects inevitably spawn to eat up your weekend. I told them about how my husband's preference for motors in any yardwork we do, can be a super time-waster - how we'll be picking up brush and walking it to the brush pile, and Win will say, "Wait, I'll get the tractor and trailer to haul it," and by the time he drives into town to fill the fuel can to gas up the tractor and/or buy new spark-plugs and/or oil the trailer-hitch, I've already finished the brush-hauling by hand. The other women added examples that got us on the subject of the latest gadgets, how husbands like experimenting with them while we just want to get the job done as simply as possible. I mentioned how I wouldn't even try out the bathing-suit drying machine in the locker rooms of the YMCA where my husband and I now swim. Win had marvelled at it and told me to try it, but I told the women that I didn't want to create another new habit that stretched our long carbon footprint even more by using a ton of heat. I said I was fine wrapping my wet bathing suit in a towel and taking it home to hang on the clothesline. One of the women corrected me, saying the machine used no heat, only centrifugal force. "It just squeezes the water out of the suit," she said. "I love that machine," and then she went on to tell me that as a single mom with four kids, she wasn't going to let anyone make her feel guilty about using time-saving devices like clothes driers, hair driers, etc., even if they were energy hogs. I apologized and said I was just talking about us, Win and me, and hadn't meant to preach, and we proceeded amiably from there.
But learning that the bathing-suit squeezer didn't use heat intrigued me, so I tried it out. And got quickly addicted. It added to the luxurious ritual of reward for a vigorous workout to put my suit into the chest-high metal box, straining my biceps further to push my palm down hard on the lid of the centerfuge and squeeze water out onto the floor in a satisfying, splashy spill. Then wonderful to walk out of the Y with everything dry and light, to get in the car and drape the nearly-dry suit over the passenger seat, my towel over the seat-back, and drive home luxuriating in the cozy, sun-heated interior.
Another pleasure of this new regime is getting tips from other swimmers, including blog commenters. One of them mentioned in an e-mail that she wears a bathing cap to keep water out of her ears. So I went shopping for a bathing cap, and Wow! have things changed in the 50 or so years since I've worn one. Unlike the old rubber ones with a strap under your chin, the new ones are all strapless, and only one of the four kinds is waterproof. The others have to be sprayed with waterproofing if you want to keep water out. And the only waterproof one - the latex model - tells you on the directions that you must "wet hair before putting on." So none of them keep your hair dry, which seemed to be the sole point of the ones I grew up with.
When I asked the clerks in the sports store which kind they'd recommend to best keep water out of the ears, they just shrugged. So I picked the cheapest one, the latex at $2.99. The others: silicone, lycra, and spandex models were all $9.99. But when I took the el-cheapo one up to the counter, the cashier warned me about "latex allergies." I asked if that was something I could catch myself, or does it spread through the water to other swimmers? She said she didn't know, but that some pools ban latex caps.
So I went and put it back and said I'd have to go to my pool to get their recommendation, that I'd had no idea that bathing caps were so complex. It's lucky I did, because at the Y, they sold bathing caps and earplugs, and knew what they were doing. The swimming director told me that the only way to keep water out of your ears is to put in earplugs, then wear a bathing cap to hold them in place. So I bought a lycra cap and wax earplugs, all cheaper than at the sports store.
Two things have happened since I got the cap; 1. my bathing suit came out of the centrifuge with all these little white bits of lint in splotch-like shapes on the chest and back of my suit. I thought it was from the white-painted logo on the cap, which I'd thrown into the machine with my suit. And 2. I carry my head down in the water with my feet coming above the surface to kick, like I'm tilted toward my head as I swim. I went and asked a life-guard about both these conditions, and she said my bathing suit elastic has rotted because the centrifuge machine is very hard on suits, that she always wraps hers in a towel and takes it home to line-dry; and that now with a cap, I'm no longer carrying my head high to keep the hair out of my face. She'll help me with the latter, but now I guess I've got an excuse to look for new bathing suits.
Can anyone tell me how to shop for ones that have long-lived elastic? I'll go back to wringing out my wet suit by hand (even more work for the biceps), and never use the centrifuge again, but I'd like to start out with something that will give me a couple of years of wear (given suit prices). Is this a realistic goal? And - is anyone still reading?