SMOKE: Boy With No Pants
Originally published: 19 October 2004
I was but a nipper of seven or eight, living in Pretoria.
The public swimming baths were in a suburb called Hillcrest and occasionally we would go there on a hot Highveld summer's day and spend our time trying to thrash around amongst the swelter of sweaty kids who filled the pool.
I've never been a fan of public baths - far too many people get into that water and of those people a percentage will undoubtedly release their bladders into it at some stage. I'm no German and I try to avoid urine games, so the concept has never appealed to me.
Another reason I loathed public swimming baths was that I never had a decent costume - either I had to use my school Speedo (and even as a kid I was aware that wearing a Speedo - particularly with your school badge on it - wasn't the coolest thing to wear out in public) or I had to find a pair of shorts, and that's where the trouble began in this particular story.
I had a pair of shiny brown jogging shorts - you know the kind. Very seventies. They were far too short, were nipped in slightly at the bottom, had a lighter tubing running around the outside and were of that shiny, loose material which does nothing but emphasise or damn your all-male equipment.
It rests on your privates - draped loosely over them - and when you sit down it falls away, revealing a nasty testicle surprise to any young, accidental female admirers.
I hated those bloody shorts, but one fine day I had no option but to wear them to Hillcrest. Big mistake. I should have stayed at home instead.
As at any other public swimming pool Hillcrest had diving boards, and I'd just started swimming lessons and had learned to dive. From the side of the pool, mind - I'd never been on a diving board before.
But I gave it a shot - first with the lower board. I found I could do it quite easily and spent a lot of time diving in and getting out, and eventually decided I was up for the bigger challenge of the high board.
I first noticed the problem as I was halfway up the steps of the big diving board - the elastic that held my shorts up was coming loose. It was noticeably less tight around my waist than it had been when the shorts were dry, but now that they were waterlogged - and the elastic soaked - they were resting very loosely on my jutting, bony hips.
I thought of going back down but by then it was too late - there were already three or four kids on the steps below me, waiting expectantly for me to continue climbing. So I climbed, and got to the top.
Where - naturally - the terror struck. Those boards are far higher up than they look, and this was a monster. The water was miles beneath, there were kids shoulder to shoulder in the pool, and a serious bout of vertigo hit me.
But by now the other kids were up on the board as well and muttering darkly so I had to go through with it. I'm very proud in such situations and would never run whimpering - the shame would be too great. I'd rather take the plunge and kill myself if necessary than suffer that sort of embarrassment.
So I decided to dive and hope for the best - I went to the back of the board, measured the distance to the lip carefully and accelerated off the blocks.
I jumped before the end of the board - as high as I could - and came down, bending the board under my weight. I bounced back up and went sailing through the air in graceful flight, and in that precise moment of precipitation - the moment when I reached the highest zenith and paused before my downward plunge - the elastic on my shorts gave up the ghost and I went without them.
Those damnable brown shorts hung in the air after I'd left, and as I plunged downwards I heard some girl scream out in delight: "Haai! Kyk daar!!!" (Hey! Look there!!!).
What an extraordinary sight it must have been - a tiny, rake-thin kid plunging downwards off a high board with thin legs flailing madly, white botty glinting and wobbly-dangly bits flying all over the place, followed by a fluttering pair of wispy brown shorts.
And of course everyone saw, because of the kid who screamed "Kyk daar!" They all kyked daar.
To make matters worse I had completely forgotten how to dive as my brain desperately tried to blot out the shame, and my arms - instead of being outstretched in front of me with my palms touching - were somewhere behind me as I desperately tried to pluck my shorts out of the air to take with me.
I landed headfirst in the water and it was like hitting concrete - I almost passed out underwater and was convinced my skull had cracked open.
But I stayed underwater as long as I could, until eventually my bursting lungs and the pain in my head forced me to the top. Where my tittering audience awaited, agog with excitement as to what would happen next. Here was rare entertainment indeed.
I had to swim around looking for my shorts, which had sunk somewhat and were under a foot of water. This meant I had to go underwater to look for them and I saw any number of kids who were also underwater, getting a good look at all the genital action.
I retrieved the curséd shorts, put them on underwater to a smattering of appreciative applause, then had to suffer a million eyes burning into me as I got out of the pool and walked dripping and ashamed - with sodden shorts resting on and glued to my privates - to my towel.
And there you were, wondering why this site was called The Daily Smoke.
All Smoked Out,