Along with tennis and golf, swimming has always been viewed as one of the more civilized sports in our culture, reserved for the privileged country-club set and the Miss Manners-bred youth of middle-and-upper class suburbia.
So why is it that, with growing alarm, I'm noticing more frequent outbursts of swimming aggression ("lane rage," if you will) among the allegedly more mature masters swimmers and their recently-retired-from-competitive swimming counterparts?
In recent months I have witnessed screaming, hair-pulling, temper tantrums and even a court trial that began after one rather territorial swimmer executed a near-perfect flip turn on a less-serious athlete (the flowered bathing cap gave it away) who side-stroked into his lane.
This all leads me to believe that a lesson in swimming etiquette is long overdue, and now that I've gained what I hope is legitimate credibility as a (peripheral) voice of American swimming, I will take this opportunity to stand on my starting block soap-box and help make the swimming world a kinder, gentler place.
Lesson #1: Lane Entry
We all love to have our own lane when we swim, but inevitably some party-pooper will come along in the middle of a workout and decide to share your lane even if there happens to be an empty one a few feet away (Rule #1.1: Always take an empty lane before you step into an occupied one. Rule #1.2: If you ever decide to share a lane, find someone your own speed to share it with).
For those of you already in the lane, proper etiquette requires that you begin to circle-swim in a counter-clockwise position. Swimming side by side is dangerous because there is a 50 percent chance that one of you will forget to stay on your side and swim headlong into your partner. There also is the likelihood of a third swimmer arriving soon (Murphy's Swimming Law: If you have a lane to yourself, it will be short-lived).
For those of you entering the lane of another swimmer, enter on the right side and wait until the swimmer has acknowledged you at the wall, or passed you and started circle-swimming. Rule #1.3: DO NOT stop the swimmer to herald your arrival (as newsworthy as this piece of information is to the free world, the said swimmer could be in the middle of a terrific set that need not be interrupted). They will notice you standing on the side of the lane and alter their course accordingly (if they don't, direct them to Active.com where they can read this article).
Lesson #2: Merging and Passing
As you both begin to share the lane, be aware of each others orbit and trajectory. Avoid practicing breaststroke and butterfly as it can be messy in a mid-set collision (of course you may opt to chase your partner into another lane with that 6-foot-wide butterfly wingspan, but good manners prohibit me from endorsing that here).