Tsach Gilboa, at age fifteen, finds himself locked in a death struggle with his best friend—for the attention of a girl.
To provide some structure as well as satisfy their need for peace of mind, the summer I was fifteen, my parental units signed me up for diving and swimming camp at the local country club, a stone’s throw from the beach. Since several of my friends were also signed up, I went willingly and was looking forward to plenty of sun and frolic in and out of the pool.
Ron and I met at orientation and bonded immediately. Ron was an American whose parents moved to Israel a few years before. He was an all American boy with the toothy smile and American accent girls found charming. I was a true Sabra with homeland charm. Since we shared the same sense of humor and worldview with very different taste in girls, we immediately became great friends and the perfect mutual wingmen.
Then, of course, we fell for the same girl and darkness closed in and threatened to consume us. The girl we fell for was tall, skinny, and blond with blue eyes, definitely beautiful, in a brainy, classy kind of way.
Recent research clearly indicates that teenagers are rewards focused and tend be willing to engage in risky behavior which has the perceived potential for great reward. And this was certainly true for us that summer.
We decided to challenge each other to a risky and dangerous activity to determine which of us “gets the girl”. It started with a run/dive off the highest platform in the pool. This was a solid cement tower with a 33 ft top platform. Ron suggested we run from the back of the platform and jump, not looking to see where we are jumping and whom we might fall on. To make sure we actually keep our eyes closed, a mutual observer was stationed up on the platform with us to monitor the jump. Ron was first to go. He ran, leaped and landed five feet from two elderly ladies chatting on the left side of the pool. Luckily, they did not notice.
Then it was my turn. As I was climbing up, warning bells and alarms were blasting full force between my ears and my heart felt like it was about to burst out of my chest, Alien style. I ran, jumped and landed safely in the water one foot closer to the ladies, who again, were oblivious.
It was a tie and, true to form, it emboldened us to try something more spectacular. The specifics were left up to me. I recalled that in our diving exercises, I had discovered a metal hatch at the bottom of the deep end of the pool. This was the cover of the water filters. The idea was that large debris, if any, would get stuck on top of the grid for removal by pool personnel with appropriate equipment, while common, small rubbish would get filtered by the pool system. I turned to Ron and proposed the following: “Why don’t we each dive in, lift the metal hatch, go into the filter chamber, close the hatch above us and then get out and up to the surface, all without drowning?” What a genius I was!
To this day I have no idea how or why I came up with this very dangerous idea, and I am eternally thankful that this story had a happy ending. I dove in first and proceeded to descend as quickly as possible. I lifted the filter chamber cover and slid under it, letting it close behind me in the hopes that it would not lock. The panic was almost paralyzing. I pushed it and to my great relief the cover opened easily, and I got up to the surface with air to spare. As I climbed out of the pool I noticed Ron (although previously tan from weeks of pool and beach), was white as snow. Realizing that this might not be the best idea, I offered to call it a tie and leave the choice of who gets a date to the lady in question. Ron promptly and indignantly refused, mistakenly deciding his manhood was on the line.
He jumped in, made his way down, and disappeared from view. Realizing, after a few minutes, I was holding my breath and out of air, I took the biggest breath I could and jumped in after him. Half way down, I saw him struggling to get out of the filter chamber and gulping water. I grabbed him under his arms and pushed up to the surface. With help, we got him out and he proceeded to vomit a delightful cocktail of pool water and lunch. Out of friendship and shame I pronounced our competition over and the result a tie. Ron thankfully agreed and accepted.
As for the lovely lady in question, it turned out she was dating a senior and had no interest in juvenile delinquents who engage in “stupid, senseless and dangerous little boy games”.
We later found out, that had the filtration system been on, we would probably not have had the leverage to open the cover once inside the chamber and get out (a very sobering thought indeed). The only saving grace to this experience is that it did not end in the tragedy it easily could have.