I've learnt a lot about the human condition since I started to attend a swim squad.
Social researchers would benefit from observing the hierarchy of my squad. In so many ways it fits the model that defines school playground and office politics. Life really.
When I first joined, I sensed resentment from a couple of my peers in lane 8. I often wondered if it was just me as I tried to find my place in the gang. Initially, I failed to endear myself to one woman - easily my age - because I didn't understand the 'clock', red and black caps and time repeats. She gave me the cold shoulder but didn't offer to educate me. And no one bothered to acknowledge let alone talk to me.
It was the same in the change room, where all the lanes merge to queue for the showers.
I felt like a fish out of water, way out of my depth.
Then, slowly, I ingratiated myself into the lane 8 'inner circle'. It's taken this long, but I've worked on my image as an easy-going sort of sheila who likes a joke and plays by the rules (no cheating the clock). Ha ha!
The woman who originally hated my guts now chats to me and I'm mates with the blokes who make sure I never catch up to them (men - but that's another story). I know my place in the group.
Of course, lanes 7 and 6 are out of bounds to those in lane 8. These are the faster swimmers (many in lane 6 are elite triathletes) who don't even glance at the motley lot in lane 8.
However, the lane 7 swimmers in particular have to guard their territory because lane 8 is not immune to ambition. For some in 8, 7 is the impossible dream, sort of like Everest but nothing like it at all.
Being in lane 8 is like the first year of high school. The older more experienced students who've been at the school longer know the ropes and have mastered the skills of survival. They abhor the newbies who haven't proven themselves worthy of inclusion in the exclusive upper eschelons.
Lane 8 is uncool. And worst of all, we're slow.
One day I would like to be in lane 7, and when that day comes I'll let you know.
PS: I'm thinking that if everything goes according to plan and I maintain my current three days a week, it will take around 12 months.
PPS: I also have to take into account that I'm no spring chicken and the average age of the women in the squad would be mid-20s. For me, those days are long gone and so is the energy!