Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Tail

I’m supposed to be at a reunion today - a gathering of ex-employees of Aquarena Springs. But I’m not. I decided not to go, even though reporter Bob Phillips emailed to ask if I’d be there.

First of all, it’s a weekend-long event, with golfing, exhibits and dinner (and not free). Second of all, I swam there years ago, back in my college days. Seems a bit weird to go back.

Don’t get me wrong, swimming in the underwater show was a great job. Didn’t pay much, but it helped with expenses, kept me in shape, and every year I was tan (okay, that last one was not a plus, I now know). We mermaids would lay out on the training platform, rub on baby oil and bake our young bodies, day after day. Yikes!

I usually swam about four shows a day - underwater ballet and a picnic. It’s odd that four bananas and four Hawaiian punches would totally fill me up. It’s also odd that, back then, I could hold my breath for a loooong time. The idea behind the ballets was to take half a breath of air, hand off your hose to one of the guy swimmers, then perform your ballet moves as slooow as possible (keeping in sequence with the lead mermaid), then glide to a finish with your hand outstretched for the guy to snap the hose back in your hand.

Those of us who swam year round (most were just summer help) could go very slowly and hold our breaths a long time. You could spot the rookies because they would be through their routines and sucking on the hose before the rest of us had finished the first forward roll.

Maybe I’ll tell stories about my years as a mermaid every so often. Since I mentioned the ballet routines, I’ll tell a quick one now. One day, I swam the ballet as usual - slowly. We had different routines, but they included most of the basic moves: forward roll, reverse split, backward flamingo roll, etc. One time, after swimming the ballet, I hurried to the warm-up room inside the volcano to change into the mermaid tail … and discovered my swim suit stitching in the crotch was totally gone. It was a bit difficult to buck up and go back out, but I changed suits, put on the tail and went out for picnic.

So I offer you this piece of advice: If you’re ever a mermaid, always check your swim suit before you do a show. (That’s actually good advice, even if you’re not a mermaid.)
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34 comments:

  1. Wow, I learned something totally new about you, Helen!

    And congrats - you now have 200 followers on the nose!

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  2. Hey! You're right, I do. Wow.

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  3. I LOVE this story. I am fascinated by anyone who has been a mermaid at any time. :) Please keep sharing mermaid stories with us....

    And thanks for the swim suit tip!

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  4. Thank you! I'm having coffee and a big laugh about your swimsuit debacle!

    Yes, please give us more stories from your days as underwater mermaid/goddess.

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  5. It finally clicked why you say you were a mermaid. Wow. How long did it take again? That is cool Helen. Really cool.

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  6. Yes please, tell more! :)

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  7. Now THAT's not something you see on every CV!

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  8. Wow, I never would've imagined. It seems like it took much endurance to do those underwater routines, something that you might have kept with you through the years? Would love to hear more of these "tales."

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  9. OK, I think y'all just want more embarrassing stories! Luckily, I have some.

    It did take endurance. Training for the new swimmers was about a month long. Even then, it took about another month to begin to feel comfortable.

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  10. Now I definitely want to hear MORE Helen the Mermaid stories! Bring it on ... loved this one!

    Marvin D Wilson

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  11. Wise advice, great tale!
    I'd love to see more mermaid stories. I'm fascinated to learn about the pasts of my friends, who've done things I'd never imagine, knowing them years later.

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  12. LOL, Helen. Great story. I love hearing about your mermaid adventures. After seven srokes I'm shark bait. :)

    Jean
    http://advicefromeditors.blogspot.com/

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  13. Wow, what a fascinating, um, tale.

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  14. Jean, you'd be surprised...swimming underwater is quite different from swimming on the surface.

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  15. There are so many things I love about this post I can't even breath! I want to be an underwater mermaid! Do they want any kinda old, white haired, slightly rubenesque types? Oh and I have asthma so I can't hold my breath very long. Probably not eh? Oh well. I can put one in my next novel though. Wow! I thought I had some weird jobs. Well, I have but being a mermaid beats the best of them. I was a high-lead logger though - a lumberjack. Yep. I wanta be a mermaid! I'm having a tantrum. Oh well - I'll see if I can get that button accordion. If I learn to play that it will be almost as good as being a mermaid. YOU ROCK HELEN!

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  16. I rock? Jan, you were a lumberjack! We do have something in common, though - I once took an accordion lesson. Woo-woo. Once you learn, you can give me a second lesson.

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  17. Nice story,Helen. Even the swimsuit malfunction.

    I remember the first time I saw synchronized swimming. I decided I wanted to do that, even though we didn't even have a neighborhood pool when I was a kid. Grew up in MI and it was hard to do synchronized swimming in the lake. :-)

    But after I moved to Texas and started going to the pool, I loved to swim underwater and do some turns and pretend I was "dancing". My kids were always amazed at how long I could hold my breath.

    Thanks for bringing back some nice memories.

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  18. I laughed out loud. Funny story. I could see it happening.

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  19. Wow Helen, you are one intriguing woman :)

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  20. This is scary. I took syncronized swimming (can still make the length of the pool and then some underwater) AND, I took accordian lessons. No mermaid tail in my life though. Darn.

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  21. Hmm, we may have to start a club or secret online society of underwater synchronized swimmers who know what an accordion is.

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  22. This totally cracked me up! Thanks, Helen, I really needed that!

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  23. That's hilarious. A wonderful story and told beautifully. Thanks for the Sunday morning entertainment. Are there any pictures in the Hel archives?
    Ann

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