I was too sick to go to work today, so I called in sick, leaving a voice message with the raspiest near-death voice I could croak out and then went to the pool with my daughter. I figured I could be sick there just as well as at home. Like some alternative therapy, the sun baked and water cooled, and I did feel better, as if I had dipped in the Pool of Siloam. Sick, and suntanned.
I felt slightly guilty, as if I was playing hooky from school. Playing hooky, by the way, the Urban Dictionary says, is probably derived from the Dutch term hoekje (spelen) “hide-and-seek,” and sometime in the early 19th century came to be used for skipping school, or other obligations. Tom Sawyer played hooky. I did once and got caught. I like it, though.
There weren’t many men at the pool. There was a gaggle of women, regulars I’d judge, a fair number of whom looked tired and pregnant. There were amoebic clumps of tracked out kids herded by YMCA staff, a military guy with a buzz cut, and sun-burnished lifeguards with bleached out hair and whistles and authoritative if adolescent voices.
I remarked on the double-entendre of the sign in front of the water slide that said “SLIDE RULES” to my daughter, but she looked at me quizzically, and I said “you know, like a slide rule?”, and she still didn’t get it, and I said, “abacus?,” and we concluded that it was probably unintentional. No one here is over 40, so no one knows what a slide rule is. Still, I smiled, as it was like finding a heart-shaped rock in the middle of a field, a found pleasure, a smile from God.
I forgot my hat. At 56, I’m less vain, so I wrapped a shirt over my head. I was reading Touchstone magazine, which is like reading Lamentations, a cheery venture on a sunny day, when I felt someone watching me. Looking up I saw a young African-American kid with a nice face and a green Y t-shirt looking at me. “Hi, how you doing?” I said. He kept looking at me. I said, “What’s your name?” He said “Jonathan.” I couldn’t understand the last name, though he gave it great expression, contorting his face as he said it. “Been in the pool?” No answer. “No pool?” He said, “No pool,” shaking his head. “Well, have a great day, Jonathan.” I went back to reading. I felt his eyes still watching me. I should try that sometime. It’s really unnerving.
Being sick, interrupting routine, can be a good thing. You stop working. You let things slide. You notice more. You heal a little in the elements. You see new things. Best of all, you might spend the day with someone special. Work can wait.