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Monday’s post about the long-overdue elimination of the swim test at my alma mater generated some thoughtful responses.

Gavin Ferriby suggested that the requirement may have originated in the “muscular Christianity” movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He pointed out that swimming was considered particularly masculine at the time, and that physical strength in men was increasingly equated with Christian virtue. (At the time, my alma mater would have been all male.) I have to admit, I hadn’t thought of that. The timing seems about right, but whether it was part of a religious movement is lost to history.

Michael Burke wrote in with a jarring reminiscence:

“At Virginia Military Institute, all cadets still take a semester swimming course (part of three years total of required PE)—I took it in 1969—in those all-male days, it was done in the nude. That changed my senior year. I can guarantee you that fifty naked 18-year old men in a pool was perhaps as awkward as your experience.”

Glad to say my test in 1986 wasn’t quite that.

Another Williams grad from around the time I was there wrote in to admit that he signed up for the remedial swim class rather than taking a swim test he knew he would fail, only to discover that nearly all of the students in the remedial swim class were either Black or Hispanic. If that was true in the ’80s, it’s striking that it took until 2022 to ditch the requirement.

A few wrote in defending the requirement, noting that drowning is a significant cause of death. It is, of course, but it’s the only hazard that has its own graduation requirement.

Thanks to my wise and worldly readers for adding context!

The travel gods remain angry and continue to demand sacrifice.

Last month I attended the AACC conference in New York City, where I contracted COVID. I had hoped that infection would sate the travel gods’ appetite for a while. But no.

Last week I had an engagement near Cleveland, so I booked flights out of Newark. The flight there was slightly delayed but nothing terrible, and I thought the engagement went really well. Afterward I returned to the Cleveland airport, looking forward to wrapping up a good day.

At that point, I think, the travel gods smelled hubris. They exacted their revenge.

My return flight, scheduled for about 8:00 p.m., was delayed several times before finally being canceled. I had to scramble to find a nearby hotel and managed to catch the last shuttle before they stopped running. I got a text from the airline saying they had rebooked me onto an early-morning flight the next day, so I set the alarm on my phone for dark o’clock and made the best of it.

I woke at 4:45 to a text saying the morning flight was also canceled. Other airlines had nothing reasonable—mostly 10-hour marathons with routes like “Cleveland to Newark via Atlanta,” which seemed like tempting fate. Amtrak had literally nothing. So I rented a car.

Students of geography will quickly figure out that driving from Cleveland back to Newark involves traversing Pennsylvania the long way. The very, very long way. Complicating matters somewhat, I had a late-morning Zoom call that I really didn’t want to miss. Had I made it home the night I was supposed to, that wouldn’t have been an issue, but pushing the return back a day created a new conflict. How to do a Zoom call from Route 80 in central Pennsylvania?

Here, a shout-out to the manager of the Fairfield Inn in DuBois, Pa. I set up base camp in the breakfast area of the hotel (this was around 11). He seemed bemused enough to let it happen. From there I fired up the iPad, did the Zoom and got back on the road. I don’t know how well I came across, but under the circumstances, I was proud of it.

Okay, travel gods, you’ve made your point. Can the next trip please be uneventful?

On Thursday The Boy FaceTimed me from Virginia to draw on my knowledge of obsolete technology: “I just picked up some old-school speakers for free! What do I do with these wires?”

I fought the urge to ask if he picked up the hand crank to power them.

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