I kept my glasses on.
It sounds small, but it was kind of a BIG deal.
If you can keep your glasses on when everything goes to hell in a hand basket, you cling to that small anchor of control like… well, like… a drowning woman clings to a boat.
One cold winter’s morning, I swaggered into rowing a single scull for the first time. I was cool. I was calm-ish. I was collected. I was a strong, confident woman in charge of her own destiny.
I was touching. I was body swinging. I was ½ slide, ¾ slide and the whole shebang. I was cruising. And then I wasn’t.
You see my own hubris rose from the placid water like a leviathan, laughed and showed me just how over confidence can bite you in the proverbial behind.
I swayed to the left. I swayed to the right. My blades refused to cooperate. My brain short circuited and cardinal rule number 1 of never let go your blades suddenly and without warning evaporated from my psyche.
As the horison shifted I realised there was no way to rectify the situation. I was going overboard.
It was cold. It was really, really cold.
And then cardinal rule number 2 came into play. Never secure the shoes too tight. Although my freakish feet slip out of the shoes while rowing along, this does not mean strapping them on with extra shoes is the right way to go.
There I lay hanging on the scull, my feet firmly ensconced in shoes in no way keen on relinquishing control.
I yelled frantically for help, panicked and then took stock-take of my situation.
It was a this point I became aware that my glasses remained perched on my nose. This became of vital importance to me as I bobbed in the icy current.
I thought of Kaye Winslet in the Titanic and that poor man who survived in the ocean for days floating about on a piece of driftwood. I realised I was woefully under-equipped for survival.
But – I still had my glasses on.
My arms cramped up around the boat.
My hands went blue.
My legs reacted to being held at an awkward acute angle went numb.
I briefly considered submerging myself in the water and trying to untie my shoes. But, as I couldn’t get my hands to cooperate by letting go of the hull it seemed a moot point.
With the relativity of time and humiliation it seemed like forever I lay there contemplating just how ignominious my death would be. I’d be the woman found floating upside down in the lake whose shoe fetish killed her. I refused to die with such an epitaph like poor old Uncle Wilsie whose toe got stuck up the hot tap.
Eventually, hours and hours later (about 10 minutes really), along paddled my rescuer. I have no idea how, but he managed to steer me towards the shore. Where I lay hugging my boat like a cold, angular, unyielding comfort blanket.
“Let go now,” he said.
“No,” said I, “Feet. Stuck. Shoes.”
I had only small words left.
The absolute joy of having my legs facing downwards cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, they were not impressed with my treatment of them and refused to cooperate in allowing me to muster some shattered shred of dignity to totter out of the water cold, miserable and chastened by having to admit my own idiocy.
“Are you alright?”
“I still have my glasses!” I said.
I kept repeating this, much to everyone’s amusement, but it was really the only thing keeping me vaguely together.
And then I was given a hug and dissolved into tears of abject misery and dejection.
A coach boat was called to the rescue and I was ferried off across the lake to the jetties.
“How are you feeling?” said the coach.
“I still have my glasses,” said I.
Back on solid ground I trudged, dripping to the boathouse and discovered that my fingers would not cooperate enough to open the padlock. I found a patch of sunshine, removed my squishing shoes and hoped the world would just swallow me up whole.
Some dry clothes and a towel (thanks to my son who had left some in the car and who I will never nag about taking his stuff out again) I felt marginally warmer. A life saving cup of coffee later and I was cheerily telling anyone in hearing distance, “I still have my glasses!”
Arriving home my son (the rower) told me off for rowing so far away from my crowd and leaving him behind. All true. He then explained how simple it is to re-float the boat and get back on.
“All you do is hold both blades, square them in the water and flip the boat over. Simple. Then just pop back in.”
Yeah. When exiting the swimming pool I use the stairs. I think this needs to be kept in mind.
Although my first inclination was to swear off rowing in a scull for the rest of time, I heard in my head the still, strident voice of Priscilla, my first riding instructor – “Get back on the horse!”
And so I shall. Just as soon as I stop shivering. And after I’ve practiced rescuing myself from the strait-shoes in a nice warm shallow spot of water for a bit.
I kept my glasses on. So there!
Look, there’s a YouTube video on how to save yourself. Pity I wasn’t able to Google it while hanging on for dear life, but c’est la vie.