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On New Year’s Eve, a friend asked if we were doing resolutions.  “Well,” I answered, “I think mine is the same as it always is — to not be so easily annoyed with people.”  She responded that hers was to be nicer to people.  “But I guess that’s kind of the same as yours, isn’t it?”

“Oh, no no no,” I answered.  I’ve read all those articles about how you should make your resolutions things that are actually possible, so as not to set yourself up for failure.  Therefore, as I told her, “I don’t actually have to be any nicer to people.  I’m just going to try not to get so irritated by them.”  If I’m really successful at keeping my resolution this year, no one will ever even notice.

On New Year’s Day, I went to my local Y to go swimming.  (I’m a big fan of forms of exercise that don’t make you sweat.)  Since I’ve had a week and a half off work, I’ve been visiting the pool quite frequently — I would go every day, but I feel the need to take a day off in between to allow the skin on my legs some time to grow back after being chemically singed by the high dosage of chlorine.  Anyway, I figured this was the perfect time to test out my resolution, since a great many behaviors irritate me at the gym.

Test 1: Locker room nudists.

Entering the locker room, I was greeted by a pair of shirtless middle-aged ladies chatting about their holidays.  One was blow-drying her hair.  I understand the need to take off one’s clothes in order to put on different clothes.  I can even get, sort of, why one would prefer to stalk naked from the showers back to one’s locker — though the locker room, especially on such a frigid day, is never all that warm, so I don’t really understand why one would shun even the meager warmth of a thin gym towel, but whatever.  But once you’re at the hair-drying stage, why not at least don a bra?

But I soldiered on, suppressing my bafflement and irritation, even when one of the shirtless ladies asked, as I was tugging on my bathing suit, how far along I was.  I swallowed the temptation to say, “Why whatever do you mean?” and told her that I’m due in March, making an effort to make eye contact and not stare at the drooping display of my post-breast-feeding future.  I even reminded myself that this was friendly of her to ask, and smiled at her as I headed to the pool.

Test 2: Splashers.

I am a vision of loveliness by the time I reach the pool, with my pregnant belly stretching my non-maternity bathing suit to its limits, my bright orange bathing cap revealing my head’s slightly conical tendencies, and my mirrored goggles lending me the look of a curious insect.  It makes no difference to me, as I can barely see a thing without my glasses.  I mean, I can’t see how many swimmers are in my lane until they are two feet in front of me, and that is no exaggeration.  I can’t see the clock on the wall, though I can sort of remember where it is.  So I walk cautiously, mindful of the twin hazards of near-legal-blindess and slick tile, and lower myself into the slow lane.

There are many ways in which my faceless fellow swimmers can annoy me.  People who swim too fast in the slow lane are particularly loathsome — a few weeks ago a lanky teenage boy practically grabbed my ankle as he menaced me down the lane.  One memorable irritation was a big, sloppy swimmer who reared out of the water once to ask the lifeguard how many laps were in a mile.  “Oh,” he said loudly, “so I’ve already done a half-mile.  Not bad!”  As if everyone in the pool might start Hoosier-clapping to his success.  He then proceeded to breaststroke down the center of the lane, so that the other three of us had to dodge him on every lap.  All of this is made worse by the fact that I can’t even see anyone — but today I remind myself that they don’t really know this, and it’s not exactly fair to be annoyed about that.

My most enduring irritation are the splashers.  I don’t know much about swimming, and I’m not a particularly skilled one, but at least I keep my splashing to a minimum.  Is there some reason for excessive splashing that I don’t know about?  Possibly.  This is what I tried to imagine on New Year’s Day, every time I came up for air and instead inhaled a mouthful of water released into the air by the exuberant kicking in the next lane over.  Nothing to be annoyed about, I told myself.  You are in a pool, after all.

I was feeling pretty good by the time I’d showered and was ready to leave.  I had talked myself down from two great ledges of annoyance.  I was on the path towards New Year’s Nice Persondom.

Until, that is, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home.  Guess how many items the person in front of me in the “12 items or less” line had?!  Just guess!!

Well.  There’s always next year.

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Amy Shearn AMY SHEARN is the author of the novel How Far Is the Ocean from Here. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, a baby, and a dog. Visit her online at amyshearn.com.

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