Aquatic Agism

When in Vancouver, I live in an apartment on campus at the University of British Columbia (UBC), one of the largest universities in Canada. The aquatic centre on campus has a huge indoor pool, as big as I’ve ever seen. It’s so large that every time I see it I can’t believe how big it is, even though I’ve been there many times. In fact, it’s so big, I can’t believe they could make a building large enough to contain it. Of course, I’m sure if you ever come see it, you will not be impressed since I’ve massively oversold it. I don’t care though. I will always think it’s big.

The pool has a three meter diving board and a five meter platform. The three meter is plenty high enough. The five meter platform is just plain scary. The one time I did go up there, I realized that even if no one seems to be paying attention, climbing back down really is not an option. It’s just too humiliating. I had to jump. And it was not good. It’s scary enough just being up there; jumping down and landing is… well, shall I say, “unpleasant”. So I don’t go up there anymore. Nothing good can come of it.

Anyway, I was at the pool recently and saw a bunch of kids jumping from the five meter platform over and over. I guess they didn’t get the same impression I did. Maybe they even found it fun. I thought that was pretty amazing. These kids are so brave.

I walked by the bottom of the ladder where one of the kids, a skinny gangly girl with arms and legs everywhere, was about to go up again. Here I am a grown man, too scared to go up there, when this kid of… hmm, how old do you suppose she is? I needed this information to continue my internal self-beratement.

So I said “What are you, twelve years old?” With a snarly sneer, she shot back “No… thirteen.” I could tell from the look on her face that she was insulted to the point of disgust.

Oh brother. “Oh c’mon,” I said. “That was pretty close. C’mon, you try: guess how old I am.” Being much older, even a small percentage error would likely yield an answer off by much more than a year.

Of course, she takes a quick look at me, pauses a beat, then carelessly guesses exactly the age I turned on my most recent birthday. Not even a friendly underguess, like the kind you offer friends to assure them that they look much younger than they are. Spot on.

I was taken aback. What could I say? “Hm. On the nose. Touché.” A meek offering.

How a twelve year old guessed the age of an adult, I know not. She could very well have a career at the county fair at a guess-your-age booth. Or maybe not (accuracy there ain’t really a premium when the value of the $1 prize you win for an incorrect guess is greatly exceeded by the $3 fee).

I got the last laugh though. Shortly after, the lifeguard came over and chased her gang away because the “Adult Swim” started. “Ha ha! Maybe thirteen is more than twelve, but it’s still less than eighteen!” I taunted to her from the cowardly safety of inside my head.