The diving board loomed thousands of feet into the air.... reaching heights of epic proportions and nearly touching the clouds.
Well, at least that what it seemed like from the perspective of a "not so brave" 13-year old girl.
Sure, I could swim. That skill had been perfected early on thanks to forced lessons at summer camp and the insistence of my father who picked up where the swim instructors left off. In fact, I could even perform a fairly decent dive. I'd stand at the edge of the water in the deep end of the Olympic size pool at Southampton Swim Club, making sure that at least one or two of the cute teenage lifeguards were watching. Then I'd push off, entering the water head first with the skill and grace that surely would have earned me a "10" at any professional competition. (In reality, the more appropriate score probably would have been a "2".)
But take a head first plunge off the HIGH DIVE?! No way! That feat was reserved for the mighty, the brave, the fearless...AKA... the popular teens.
In fact, the sign in front of the HIGH DIVE might as well have read:
Gawky, chubby, 13-year old girls with braces, glasses, and big noses not admitted.
The terrifyingly tall HIGH DIVE loomed over the aptly named "diving tank". A smallish, 12-foot deep pool reserved only for jumping, flipping, flopping, skipping, or diving off of one of two boards:
1. The normal, regular, run of the mill type of board, situated a mere two feet above the water
2. The.......... (cue the Jaws theme music) HIGH DIVE
Occasionally my friend Joy and I would take turns on the low dive, happily waiting in line for the chance to strut our stuff on this simple, inviting, not so scary board.
Then, one day, life as I knew it changed forever.
Joy got in line for the HIGH DIVE.
No, this could not be happening. My friend could not abandon me! We had made a silent pact born out of fear of breaking every bone in our body. We would not, could not, should not ever, ever, ever, go near the HIGH DIVE.
It didn't matter that taking the 20,000 foot plunge off of the terrifying apparatus would give me the sliver of a chance of being inducted into that oh so exclusive club of "popular" kids who apparently came into this world without a fear of anything. Yes, I wanted to shed the title of "nerd", but I simply didn't have the nerve.
I watched with jealousy as Joy climbed the ladder to the sky, stepped tentatively on the
HIGH DIVE, walked to the edge, and took the plunge.
When her head reappeared from the depths of the pool, a huge grin showcased the delight on her face. "It's not that scary Lisa," she encouraged with enthusiasm. "Seriously, you should try it!"
With terror in my heart, I took my place in line for the (yes, you guessed it - the theme from Jaws is playing again) HIGH DIVE!
At least seven kids stood in line in front of me. Then six. Five! Four! THREE! (GULP) TWO! (Yikes) One! (AAAHHHHH!!)
MY TURN HAD ARRIVED!
I put one foot on the ladder, then another, and up and up and up and up and up and up I climbed.
Finally, I reached the surface of the HIGH DIVE.
I tiptoed towards the edge of the board, telling myself over and over that I could do it. Finally, there I stood, at the very tip of the board, looking down at the water below and facing three choices.
1. Jump to my death.
2. Turn around, face utter humiliation, and climb back down the ladder.
3. Do nothing.
Much to the dismay of the 3,985 kids now lined up waiting to get their turn on the
HIGH DIVE, I chose option number three.
Quite simply...I froze.
I'm not sure how long I stood there at the edge of the board, contemplated the horrible situation I had created. The jeers of my fellow jumpers echoed as if from a distant planet.
"Just jump already!"
"Jump or climb back down!"
"You are holding up the line!"
"C'mon, stop it, stop being such a coward."
Eventually one of the cute lifeguards got into the act, kindly encouraging me to make a decision so that the rest of the kids who were not total geeks could actually enjoy their day at the swim club.
Still, I froze.
The jeers of the crowd below grew louder. Kids young and old as well as the grown ups who were usually too busy playing cards or gossiping to care about such mundane things as swimming stopped what they were doing to investigate the ruckus at the HIGH DIVE.
Five minutes turned to 10....then 15....then 20.
Still, there I stood at the edge of the HIGH DIVE, frozen in terror.
Drastic times called for drastic measures. In came the BIG GUNS....the owner of the swim club.
He made his way over to the diving tank, and the kids in line parted ways to make room for his approach up the ladder.
At that moment, for reasons to this day that are still unknown....I threw caution to the wind.....
Bravery had triumphed!
When I emerged from what I has assumed would have been my watery grave, I swam over to the ladder, climbed out of the diving tank, turned to Joy and said...............................................
"That was fun! Let's do it again!"
|The HIGH DIVE at Southampton Swim Club, circa - mid 1970s. In retrospect, it probably was not quite as high as I had imagined! Also, sadly, the swim club no longer exists, as the valuable land now plays host to a housing development.|
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