The swimming pool is a blue world of calmness, a place where order should reign and sleek bodies should pass effortlessly through the waters. My old pool had signs dictating how to get into the pool, what lanes were open to the public, the required speed for each lane, the direction for swimming in each lane, the style of swimming permitted in each lane. I was indoctrinated by the unwritten rules that make society function in the pool: let people pass if they are right behind you when you finish a length and are obviously faster than you, and only pass while swimming if there is no other option. The polite thing to do is lightly tap the person’s foot while swimming and they will let you pass at the end of the length. Of course, there will be flare ups of “swim-rage” but everything was very organised and obvious to a beginner.
Having complied with these rules, I was shocked on my first visit to AYA Bad- there are no rules! I discovered three lanes signed “Publikum”: no indication about speed, direction, type of swimming. That was enough to make me panic and I have encountered many strange situations. Once, I swam in a lane with one other person, both of us swimming up and down happily, before we were joined by a third individual who thought it would be a good idea in such a narrow lane to swim up and down between us. Another time, I observed silent aggression as a man swimming moderately fast in the wider, generally agreed-upon (I think) slow lane was forced out by two old ladies swimming side by side and refusing to move to let him pass. He gave in and got out. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve expected someone to let me pass at the end of the lane and they happily kept on swimming, or the times that people have passed me just before I get to the end of the lane, narrowly avoiding a kick to the head as they tumble turn, leaving me speechless in polite mortification.
So I can’t yet tell you how to swim in Austria. I haven’t worked it out. I’ll just keep my head underwater and hope for the best.