Daily Phil
Friday 31st March 2000

Yesterday, given that it was a gorgeous and not too humid Houston day, I went for my first open-air swim of the year. One of the worst things about swimming is that being short sighted the scene dissolves into heavy gaussian blur moments before I move from the hard white thing into the wet blue thing. This isn’t really a problem until pinky-brownish things appear, moving along the hard white thing. Most of these pinky-brownish things are just passing by, and I keep my head down (well, as much as I can, given that I’m no good at putting my face in the water, a disability which I’m sure hinders my graceful swimming ability no end) and look like I’m concentrating on swimming, in an effort to avoid the obligation to exchange polite greetings.

There is a handful of pinky-brownish things that are familiar enough I can recognise their identity by their fuzzy shape and movement, so I can confidently stop swimming and discuss how the water isn’t quite as cold as I thought it might be and it’s fine, really, once you’re in.

The most problematic pinky-brownish things are the things which get into the wet blue thing. For some reason there is no common set of things which get in the wet blue thing and things whose fuzzy shape and movement I recognise. In fact, it’s rare that the things in the wet blue thing are things who I see anywhere else. For some reason pinky-brown things that like the wet blue thing are never seen fully clothed and back on the dry thing. In a normal situation we’d probably raise our eyebrows as we passed and exchange greetings, even if we’d never met.

(As an aside, everyone, I mean everyone, says either “Hey,” or, if you’ve exchanged more than simple greetings at some point in the past, “How’s it goin’?” While the “Hey,” is no problem for me I’ve been unable to rid myself of the decidedly English “Alright?” which I fear may be heard simply as a lacklustre response to a “How’s it goin’?” if my questioning tone of voice isn’t recognised.)

Back to the strange pinky-brown thing in the wet blue thing. Given that my eyesight doesn’t allow much more than recognising general fuzzy shapes, the complex synchronisation of eye contact required for greeting a stranger is more than a little tricky. Keeping my head down and concentrating on swimming can only last so long before I appear downright rude. But the chances of the two pinky-brownish shapes making eye contact while splashing up and down the 15 metre pool is next to impossible when one of them can’t tell without staring whether the other is making eye contact, and when the first doesn’t want to stare because the second is female and not wearing an awful lot.

So what is otherwise a simple but vigorous spot of exercise in the sun turns into an unnecessarily charged social situation as far as one pinky-brownish thing is concerned, and a situation which will only be worse next time if it isn’t resolved, and “Hey”s exchanged, first time around.