Swimmers’ Toes

July 2nd, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

toes.jpgOther former team athletes must recognize their own as swimmers do.  I don’t know what the telltale signs are, even for another previous sport, wrestling.

Swimmers exhibit frequent acquired idiosyncrasies. Even when we have no intention of hitting the water, we stretch by folding one arm over the head, with the biceps on the ear and pushing on the elbow with the other hand.

Among the more subtle indicators are developed shoulders, particularly for women. I think of a new bartender at Redbones in Somerville last year.  The usual small gang of old farts was on the stools like crows on a fence when she took our draft orders. She wore a typical summer tank top. When she returned I asked whether she had been a swimmer, specifically fly. She smiled, said yes and we talked our teams. She knew why I had pegged her from her build and said she could recognize swimmers sometimes too.

Another swimmer connection came several years ago at work. At a conference table with a dozen or so of us around, I ended up across from Nancy, whom I knew but not well. She was in charge of version control (ClearCase) and was a serious software geek. As documentation manager, I had a stake in her business because that product was the only one with a native recognition of the binary files for my department’s major development tool, Framemaker.

We went on about the products we were developing, test schedules and on and on. I moved slightly back from the table to cross one leg over another when I saw a swimmer tic. Nancy was alternately moving her big toes over the second toes and reversing that.

Swimmers are almost prehensile with our toes. It may be the strokes or the years of gripping the starting block edges. It may also have to do with naked feet. Nearly every other team athlete practices and competes with socks and shoes.

Swimmers generally can pick up objects from the floor and move them to a trash can or into a hand…very chimp like.

On the way out of the meeting, I asked about swimming and we too talked teams and strokes. Amusingly enough, her best friend in the company, a guy I worked closely with was irritated when I mentioned that I was pleased to discover a swimmer among all the runners around. I was not aware that he had a great pride in knowing Nancy better than the rest of us. He had no idea about her wet background.

Of course, he had no reason to know or notice. When he saw her gesticulating with her toes, he probably thought nothing of it. It takes one to know one.

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2 Responses

  1. Uncle says:

    The offspring, who is eight inches shorter, has got almost the same wingspan I do. That and shoulder surgery are what the fly gets you. And she’s back in the water in a Master’s club. She’s home next week and I’ll have to watch the toes.

  2. Harrumpher says:

    Masters, eh? At least none of either of ours is applying for an AARP card yet. If she keeps swimming, she may never be interested in one of those.

    Do ask what she can pick up with or otherwise how she can use her feet.

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