Where does one sign up for ‘how not to panic’ lessons?

Louisiana is a state where water sports abound, but, surprisingly, many of us who live here do not know how to swim.

Because we realize the importance of learning this skill, swimming lessons were always a summertime activity. My friend Dotty came with me to lessons because I needed moral support. But, unfortunately, she shared aquaphobic behavior with me.

We tried to convince ourselves that learning the sport of swimming would be fun.

Our class was small so the teacher was able to spend individual time with each of us.

The first week or so was a lot of fun, floating and splashing about in such a beautiful pool. I actually felt a little braver and more at ease putting my face into the water. But this day would be different, as we were expected to jump into the deep end of the pool and attempt to swim to poolside.

As I peered into the crystal clear water, my heart started pounding and my knees were shaking. Was I going to be able to do this?

“Get ready, get set, GO!,” shouted our swimming instructor. There I was with the five members of my class, standing on the edge of the blue-green tiled pool My toes were curled over the side of the pool, my tight-fitting red goggles were in place and my anxiety was soaring.

Splash! I felt myself sinking down, down, down as my mind raced trying to remember what we had practiced in the shallow water.

I made an awkward attempt to swim to the side of the pool, paddling feverishly and splashing wildly while gasping for air and going nowhere. The was definitely not summertime fun.

My goggle-covered eyes opened to spy the short, strong legs of our teacher swimming towards me. She put her arms around me and in a sweet, soft voice tried to calm me as we gently moved to the pool steps, which I grasped and held tightly.

I don’t think that my friend fared much better than I did, and neither of us returned to class the next day, both embarrassed and disappointed in ourselves.

The truly sad part of this story is that Dotty and I were both about 30 years old when this occurred.

Panic prevention is the next skill that needs working on, and, if that can be accomplished, perhaps swimming will be back on the agenda.

Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to the Human Condition at features@theadvocate.com or The Advocate, EatPlayLive, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810. There is no payment, and stories will be edited.