It’s an unbearably hot November afternoon and I’m completely out of my comfort zone. A sign at the entrance of the pool reads: NO DRUGS NO WEAPONS NO HOOKAHS NO DOGS. The brick building has faded yellow paint, with graffiti-tag accents. In the parking lot, a group of men laugh and shout next to tow truck, empty quarts of Black Label are knocked about by their bare feet.
Ice pelts metal in an elemental rage. The noise is deafening inside the indoor Linden swimming pool, but it’s a good thing we came here – it’s not exactly poolside weather. Pockets of Speedoed swimmers with towelled shoulders stand clumped together, dripping onto the concrete, their breath misting up the glass windows. The sky cracks with electricity. I see the rest of the #20laps team and head over to them. “We’ve been told to get out the water because of the lightening,” says Alex. All I hear is “out” and “water” and “lightening”. Gail gestures to me so I stand next to her; she leans in close and shouts something about the superintendent not wanting to talk to anyone or have his photo taken.
It looks like the whole of Joburg has come to Zoo Lake. It’s an uncharacteristically sweltering spring day; there’s boating and braaiing, and the Boules Club is throbbing. I’m not quite sure where the Zoo Lake swimming pool is, so I stop to ask a very busy car guard. “It’s on the other side, mfethu,” he responds. Fair enough, I look like a small boy with my camo cap and sunglasses. Cars snake, engines groan, people hoot. I finally manage to find a spot. It’s a glorious day, and the entrance to the pool is glorious in equal measure: it’s grand and colonial and quondam. I pay my nine ront and enter.