Growing up, I spent a lot of time at the YMCA. Basketball camps, youth lock-ins, swimming lessons, I was always there. I took so many swimming lessons, I’m convinced my eyes have permanent chlorine in them. I can still remember the pain of the bright sunshine on my burning eyes as we emerged from the indoor pool after my lessons. The pain was worth it, though; I was committed to moving up the hallowed swim lesson ranks, from tadpole to guppy to fish to flying fish to shark to porpoise. The over-achiever impulse started young.
I spent so much time in the water growing up that it seemed natural to become a lifeguard and swim instructor for the YMCA. Often, I would be on duty as the lifeguard as the swim team practiced. In other words, it wasn’t the most taxing job. Often, it could be pretty boring. The Baywatch television show made the job look glamorous, and, sure, I had the buff body and the sexy slow-motion run down pat. Still, it could be a pretty uneventful job. That is, until the day the job caused me to time travel.
It was a Friday evening, and I was at home, not feeling well. I can’t remember the specific symptoms, but I distinctly recall feeling “off.” I knew something was wrong when I felt the urge to go to be early in the evening. I was and still am a dedicated night owl. That night, though, I felt exhausted. Luckily, the next day was Saturday, and I didn’t have any commitments until that evening at 6:30pm, when I had to work a private swim party at the YMCA.
Private parties were the bane of the life guard corps. Inevitably, the “star” of the party was a snotty, entitled brat celebrating his or her birthday. There would be lots of screaming, splashing, and running on the decks, and the normal power and authority bestowed by the whistle hanging from your neck would be muted by indulgent parents. On those nights, you did not rule supreme at the pool — your rightful position in the aqua hierarchy. No, those nights, you were a necessary evil, an ornament that completed the scene for Little Bobby’s awesome swim party. Did I mention that private parties were the bane of the life guard corps?
Whatever ailment had caused me to feel so poorly on Friday night knocked me out. I slept and slept and slept. To my great horror, I awoke at 6:15pm on Saturday. Instantly, panic set in as I realized I had to be at the YMCA for the private party in only 15 minutes. Since the YMCA was at least a 15 minute drive from my house, I was already late.
I flew out of bed, threw on a tank top, swim trunks, and flip flops, and ran out of my room toward the front door. I remember catching a glance of my parents sitting in the dining room as I ran by the kitchen. I didn’t have time to say anything, still feeling the mental sting from the realization that I was about to be late to work for the first time in my life. At that time, my band director was clear: to be early was to be on time, to be on time was to be late, and to be late was to be dead. I was dead.
I hopped in the old green farm truck my parents let me drive and tore out of the driveway. As I motored down the road, I remember watching each minute click off the radio. How could this have happened? How could I have slept for over 18 hours? Worse yet, I’d have to suffer the wrath of some snotty 7 year old because his party started late.
I slammed into the parking lot of the YMCA, and ran inside. As I did, I noted that the parking lot was pretty sparse, which was unusual for that time of year on a Saturday night. My intense focus on getting to work really overrode every other concern, though. As I ripped open the front door and bolted into the lobby, the lady behind the front desk looked up at me while she folded a towel. Something did not feel right. Why was it so quiet?
“Hi Max, what are you doing here?”
“I’m working the party. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I overslept.”
“Max, are you okay? That party isn’t until 6:30.”
“I know, I’m late.”
“Max, it’s 6:30am. The party is tonight, at 6:30pm.”
I froze. What was going on? What? It’s 6:30 in the morning? How can that be? How could I have spent the last 20 minutes under the impression that it was 12 hours in the future?
The lady answered a phone call.
“Yes, he’s here. Max, it’s your parents They wanted to know if you’re here.”
Somewhere between the not feeling well and an unusually deep sleep, I had awoken under the impression that it was nearly 6:30pm, when it was actually 12 hours earlier. It’s not unusual to awake disoriented, but my disorientation lasted for 20 minutes. I had run out of the house so quickly my parents didn’t have time to stop me. I was oblivious to the lack of traffic on the road given my focus on my lateness, and I can only assume that the amount of sunlight at that time of the morning roughly approximated the amount of sunlight 12 hours later. It was a perfect storm.
I arrived at the YMCA in a timely fashion later that evening. It was the one time a private party wasn’t too bad. Oh, I’m sure the birthday kid was snotty and entitled, but it didn’t matter. Sure kids, run on those wet decks all you want. I didn’t care. I had time traveled. The first human to do so.