Witch hunt: My adventures in Swimming and Science

Today my two loves came together: music and swimming. My love of music is no secret; I reckon about 70% of my tweets are about music and I often write about it on my blog too. The love for swimming however, you may not know about. So let me tell you. I LOVE swimming.
I recently joined a gym, begrudgingly shelling out over £66 a month so I can use their pool and partake in exercise I actually enjoy for a change. It’s been great fun and I’ve really enjoyed being back in the water; slowly building my lap endurance back up. There was only one thing that could make me work harder. MUSIC! And so I bought an iSwim. It cost me £8.99 from eBay and is not the most sophisticated solution on the market but the alternative from Speedo is around £70 so I thought if nothing I’d give this a go since I already have a perfectly functioning iPod Shuffle.

Today was the first day I used it. IT IS A BLOODY REVELATION. Honestly, having some awesome tunes streaming into your ears while you’re submerged in water is one of the best feelings ever. I was happily swimming along, almost oblivious to the curious stares I was getting from my fellow swimmers. At least I thought they were curious. I didn’t think twice about the man and woman who literally jumped straight out of the pool, heading for the hydrospa.

I was resting after some laps, humming along to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black when the janitor came up to me, pointed at my earphones and said, “Not good for you”. I had seen this chap talking to another swimmer only moments ago so I should have guessed what he meant but I was thoroughly confused. I asked him what he meant but he kept repeating that they’re not good for me and by now I had gathered that this was as far as his grasp of the English language was going to take us. For a second, I thought he was telling me that listening to music in the holy month of Ramadan was going to send me straight to hell but I quickly dismissed that, surely he wouldn’t be so presumptuous. It felt like forever but I’m sure it was only seconds when I realised he thought the earphones and water combo was somehow hazardous so I explained to him this was specially designed for the water. He seemed happy with this and sauntered back to the chap he was previously talking to. The pair of them disappeared behind an opaque glass screen but I could still see their feet and the fact that they were still talking lead me to believe that this issue was not resolved.

Much to my annoyance I had to get out of the water and clear this issue up with this guy directly. “Is there a problem?” I asked. This guy told me he didn’t “know (me) from Adam” and that he was afraid I was going to electrocute them all. “All I see is an iPod on your arm and I got worried,” he explained. I was polite as possible and explained again that this was specially designed for swimming and even if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t get electrocuted by an iPod, the electrical charge is simply not strong enough (“Trust me, I’m a scientist!”). What’s more, I’d completely ruin my iPod! “Well I didn’t know that did I? That it’s a special thing for swimming,” he replied, quite defensively. “You should have asked me,” I told him, more annoyed that he’d reported me to the janitor than anything else.

I carried on swimming after that but felt very self concious, like I had a toaster strapped to my arm or something. This felt like a bloody witch hunt. “Let’s throw her in the water; if she electrocutes everyone she’s innocent, if she doesn’t, she’s a witch!” That guy never came back into the pool and I didn’t know whether this was because he was done swimming or that he didn’t believe me. Either way, I felt quite awful about the whole thing. More so that I might have to stop using it. Just as I started to get more relaxed and into the flow of swimming, two staff members came into the pool area and pulled me over. Someone had called them to complain and I had to defend myself once again. They were very lovely about the whole thing and more curious as to where I got it from and how cool it was than worrying about their patrons’ safety. I felt a bit better about the whole thing and again tried to get back into the groove.

Did I mention I was using an iPod Shuffle with the iSwim? Drawback: You can’t skip songs because you’re using the iSwim waterproof headphones and not the special Shuffle ones that have the controls on them. This meant for a good part of my session I had to listen to fifteen minutes of Anil Dash‘s Business Blogging podcast from Fast Company! As much as Anil has a lovely voice I wanted music dammit! I didn’t realise I had put my entire iTunes directory on the iPod rather than a select few playlists. You live and you learn!

When I had finished my session, I kept thinking about how wonderful it was to have music whilst swimming and hoped the encounter today didn’t spell the end of it. To sort it out, I went to see the duty manager who happened to be one of the ladies who had come to see me earlier. Apparently, it was a lady who had reported me, more concerned with my safety than her own. I suspect it was the one who had vacated the pool when she saw me earlier. It would be easy to write off the guy I had spoken to earlier as a douchebag who didn’t understand science and didn’t have the social skills to come and voice his concerns to me directly. But the fact that someone else was also concerned means I probably shouldn’t be so harsh on him. Long story short, the duty manager said I am free to continue to use it. I just hope no one else is frightened by it. I wonder if I can swim wearing a sandwich board that says “I will not electrocute you!” on it? Probably not, a sandwich board might actually be a health and safety hazard.


  1. i, i don’t know what to say. i thought an office peep alarmed that i keep a bag of sugar in one of the office cupboards (long story) was funny, but this is something else…

  2. omg…. seriously…. its an ipod- dont you let this stop you from being excited about your music-swimming combo lady!

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