My condo building has rules. You’d never know by the way certain people act. Like the guy from Unit 114. He used to take his lawn chair to the courtyard. He’d sit and read his paper, but couldn’t read the sign that says chairs are not allowed on the courtyard lawn. The new security cameras caught his violation, so I didn’t have to file another Clearview Towers Incident Report Form. Inconsiderate people like him annoy the crap out of me. They don’t understand that following the condo rules keeps all 532 of us happy.
I almost had to report another rule breaker just last Thursday. I use the indoor pool at midday, three times a week. My therapist says the best way to overcome an anxiety is to confront it. At $175 an hour, I follow her directions. I remember to breathe, breathe, breathe when I step into the shallow end. I visualize releasing the edge of the pool, my toes pushing off the wall marked “3 Feet” and gliding into the center of the deep end without the buoyant pink noodle.
Sticking to my routine is the only way I’ll make progress. I have the pool, the noodle and the radio to myself on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The midday mix on 106.9 FM reminds me of my Jordache jeans and poster of Ponch, from ChiPs, but I don’t let it distract me from my visualization.
The room was empty last Thursday, but there was a kid in the shallow end of the pool, beating the water surface with the noodle. He couldn’t have been more than six years old and was in clear violation of the multiple signs that state: “Children are not allowed in the pool or pool area unless accompanied by a supervising adult.”
I maintain myself well enough to look like I could be the mother of this six year old boy, but I wasn’t. There was no way I was going to be his supervising adult. His mother had to be pretty damn inconsiderate to leave her kid unattended. He was a hazard, kicking around like the pool was his alone. And the noodle is not a life-saving device or substitute for a supervising adult. It is to be used responsibly, like I make sure to do on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
I stepped into the pool because something had to be done. Luckily, I had my goggles because that kid was splashing water all around.
“Hello,” I said and smiled.
He stopped kicking his legs and rested on the center of the noodle. The ends curled up like a big smile, but the kid just looked at me and didn’t say a thing. He was probably taught not to talk to strangers and I respected that. It showed some ability to recognize rules, so there was hope in the situation. I wasn’t looking to engage him in chit chat or be his friend. He just needed to be out of the pool.
“Young man,” I said, “you’re not supposed to be in here without an adult.”
He just kept looking at me. I didn’t want to seem mean, so I explained.
“It’s okay. You probably can’t read yet. But the signs say very, very clearly that children cannot be in the pool without a big person, like your mommy or another adult in your family.”
He looked at me suspiciously and fluttered his little legs like he was getting impatient. I’d never seen this kid before, yet there he was, breaking the rules and acting like I was disrupting his routine.
“Little man, what I’m saying is you have to leave the pool.”
“No,” he responded.
It was clearly not a question. I was the taller, bigger person in the pool and in the right to tell him to leave. It wasn’t like I’d expected the kid to be able to read the signs. I made it simple by telling him he could not be in the pool. I even avoided pointing out that he was a rule breaker, but he didn’t appreciate my efforts to spare his feelings.
“Little boy, you can’t be in the pool and you can’t use that noodle.”
“It’s my noodle.”
“Ah, little man, the noodle is not yours. It’s communal property. It’s okay. I don’t expect you to know what that means. All you need to know is no, the noodle is not yours, and you cannot use it because you cannot be in the pool.”
The kid resisted my reasoning.
“It’s MY noodle.”
It was my turn to be impatient. My pool time lasts as long as the midday mix. The radio wasn’t on, but I knew 106.9 was playing Donna Summer or Fleetwood Mac. I had to talk to the boy in language he could understand.
“Okay kid,” I said. “It is clearly NOT your noodle because it is pink and pink is a girl color. You are a boy. I am a girl. Therefore, you cannot use a girl-colored noodle.”
“Pink noodles aren’t for old ladies.”
My eyes got real wide and his got real small. I was angrier than when the woman in Unit 245 used to park her car too close to the dividing line between our spaces. I would have gone straight to the front desk to report this kid, too, too, but the security cameras would show me leaving him unsupervised. I wondered what hand gesture would get the front desk person to the pool room.
The boy placed his chin and mouth into the water. I knew he wasn’t sinking because he still held the damn noodle. When he raised his face, I thought he was going to scream, but he sprayed me with a mouthful of water.
My goggles got wet, but I saw his fresh face and heard him giggle. I heard a female voice behind us just as I was going to yell that I would tell his mommy.
“Danny! What did you just do?”
I would have told her we could watch a replay on the video footage, but she flip-flopped across the tile floor and kept shouting.
“I told you to wait for me. You get out of that pool right now. Right now!”
“I wanna…” Danny began.
The order echoed in the pool room. Danny dog paddled to the pool steps and stumbled up, holding the noodle instead of the hand rail.
“I am so very sorry. Danny, you apologize to the lady.”
The mother grabbed Danny’s shoulders and turned him toward me. I looked up at them from the shallow end. Water dripped from Danny’s Muppets swim shorts and the pink noodle in his hand.
“I don’t wanna!” he wailed.
“Danny…” his mother began.
“I’ll accept that he’s sorry,” I said and eyed the noodle.
“It’s a good thing you found him,” I continued. “I was concerned. You know, kids are not supposed to be in the pool by themselves. There are rules.”
“Well, thank you for being understanding,” she said.
I could tell she understood where I was coming from by the way she nudged Danny out of the pool room and looked over her shoulder at me. She didn’t know I wasn’t going to report their actions, her lack of supervision or Danny’s bad behavior. It was all on camera. Completing an incident report would have taken too much more of my time. Let her think I reported them, though. It might teach her to be more considerate and set a better example for that little rule breaker.