A friend told me that the worst thing she ever saw was when a little boy told his mother that he needed to go to the loo, and the mother had said "Just do it in the pool," so the little boy stood on the side, pulled his trunks down, and peed into the pool. Well, that's not too bad is it? Quite funny actually. My sister told me that, while pregnant, she once threw up in the shallow end of her local swimming pool. That is pretty bad actually. But I think that what happened to me in Cascades pool in July 2013 was worse.
Now, I have been taking Jamie swimming regularly for several years - I have a pretty good routine for getting changed that effectively minimizes the likelihood that he will damage something, or escape and cause himself or someone else to drown.
These are the steps to the routine:
- Get changed together in the group changing room
- Lock the group changing room with the key.
- Hold Jamie's hand while I put the key and all our clothes and valuables in the locker,
- Lead Jamie to the toilet.
- Go in the cubicle with him while he uses the loo.
- Quick shower for both of us.
- Go swimming.
On the ill-fated swimming trip in July, steps 1 and 2 went according to plan, but at step 3 there was an unexpected problem. I put all our belongings in the locker, and put the pound coin in the slot, then turned the key to lock it, and nothing happened. The locker had taken my money and refused to lock. So there I was, wearing swimming trunks, trying to restrain an increasingly impatient twelve year old with one hand and trying to fix a broken lock with the other hand. When I realised I could not fix it due to a complete lack of locker-fixing skills, I had a dilemma - if I went looking for a member of staff to help me I would have to leave my valuable unattended, but unpacking the locker and taking everything with me while holding on to Jamie with one hand seemed like asking for trouble. As I stood there, paralyzed with indecision, Jamie pulled free of my grip and ran off towards the toilets; I saw him go inside a cubicle and lack the door. Thinking that he would probably be fine for a few moments, but conscious of the fact that step 5 (above) states that Jamie should be supervised in the toilet cubicle, I ran off to find help and soon returned with capable-looking member of staff who had a screwdriver. While he set about fixing the locker, I tried to coax Jamie out of the toilet cubicle.
I had thought that the worst-case scenario was that Jamie would either refuse to come out of the cubicle, or that perhaps while he was in there he would flush all the toilet paper down the loo; but no, he managed to surprise me with something much worse. When he eventually came out of the cubicle, he was holding his hands in front of him, fingers spread out, and they appeared to be covered in melted chocolate. I was confused. Where could he have got chocolate from. Then, the full horror dawned on me. It was not chocolate.
Quickly, I grabbed Jamie by both arms, and let him towards the sink at the back of the room. I turned to the helpful staff member, who was staring at us with his mouth open, and muttered "I think you're going to have to clean the inside of the cubicle. Sorry." When I reached the sink and started washing Jamie, he did not resist, thank goodness; if he had decided to struggle against me, well, I cannot bear to think about it.
While all this was going on, another member of staff came in from the pool side, looking for me and Jamie. My wife, who had by now got changed in the ladies' changing room and was in the pool, had been wondering where I was, so had sent a lifeguard in to the men's changing room to check her husband and son were okay. I indicated to him that we were okay. I imagined him going back to her and saying "Is your son small, with Downs Syndrome, ginger hair, and covered in poo? If so, he is fine."
Eventually, after a thorough scrub, and another apology to another appalled-but-trying-not-to-show-it member of staff who had to clean up the sink area, we progressed to step 6 (although I thought it prudent to have a longer shower than originally scheduled), and eventually step 7. Swimming. At last.
As I made my way out towards the pool I avoided making eye contact with the poor guys who were cleaning up Jamie's mess. Half of me was feeling sorry for them, the other half was thinking "This is nothing, you guys only have to deal with this today, this is my life!" The other half (well, you know what I mean) was thinking that if their lockers had been working properly, none of this shit whould have happened in the first place.