Health · Notes from West London

Swimming, and New York City cab drivers

At the start of the month, in this piece, I wrote about taking out a monthly subscription to a nearby gym, a fitness centre attached to a publicly-run swimming pool. It costs less than a quarter of what I was paying to a privately-run gym earlier in this decade. One reason for joining the private gym was the unavailability of the publicly-run pool. It was being redeveloped, a project that lasted two or three years. The main reason for keeping my membership to the private gym was inertia, the subscription mentality that means you continue to pay for something even though you don’t make enough use of it.

I have been updating that earlier piece to keep a record of my trips to the swimming pool, for the same reason that I include much of the information on this Blog: I can find it easily here. It shows that in the first 14 days of this month I have swum 8 times. The cost of my monthly membership means that after my fifth swim I am “in profit” compared to “pay-as-you-go”.

You might have come across research that supports the long-held belief that there are fewer taxis on the street when it rains. As I recall, this relates specifically to New York City. The research found that the perception was true: there really are fewer cabs on the street on rainy days. This is because of the cab drivers’ approach to earning money. They have daily targets, to cover their costs and however much more they need to earn. When the day’s target has been reached, whether it takes 8 hours or 12 hours, they stop. On rainy days they reach it much quicker. They could carry on, making hay while the sun isn’t shining, as it were, but typically they keep to their usual mindset: the day’s target has been reached, so it’s time to stop work.

I have been thinking about this over the last week while swimming. I could think of my gym membership the way that New York taxi drivers approach their day’s work. When I have swum enough times to justify paying that month’s fee I could stop until the following month. If I did take that approach, I would have stopped last Saturday (9 March), having made my fifth trip to the pool. Alternatively, having taken just 9 days to break even I could work out how far ahead I am at any given point. This evening’s swim takes me three-fifths of the way through April, to Thursday 18th, over a month ahead of where we are now. I could leave it for a full five weeks before my next swim. But that’s not the point. I have taken up swimming again to get my body into better shape than it was during the winter. I want to get to the pool 5 or 6 times a week but that will have to wait another week or two. I currently need extra recovery time, so I don’t plan to go more than two days in a row for a while.

These regular trips to the pool are triggering a whole series of memories, various times in my life when I swam up to 25 times per month, until an ear infection or a dose of shingles put paid to it. If this current burst of activity continues, I will be prompted to finalize a few pieces for this Blog. My subject is memory, and for me swimming triggers memories more powerfully than most other activities can. I will post links to any such pieces below. In the meantime I have created a sub-menu on my Memories menu, for all the pieces in “1000 Memories” that mention swimming. Please start here.





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