Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Seymour Butts

If you think the features on your iPhone™®© and Lady Gaga©®™ change at a lightning blur, clearly you have never owned a Butt Buoy®™.

This is my third such inflatable orange creamsicle-colored swim-safety device, and it's remarkably different from the second, which had changed from the first. As with computer software, consumers pay for corrections to product design flaws.

But as the kids used to say, allegedly, it's all good.

Your standard Butt Buoy©™, the facts will bear out, lasts a year and a half. Though to be honest, Butt Buoy™® No. 2 needed babying and $4.75 worth of vinyl patching to keep it floating at the year-and-a-half mark. Barely.

A Butt Buoy™© is a flotation device that open-water swimmers can tow as they work out. Not only does it help boaters see swimmers better and maybe not run over them, it includes a dry bladder for storing valuables during a swim. I didn't deem the dry bladder useful at all, until the day after someone broke into our cars while we swam at our beloved Lake Natoma.

Officially, the Butt Buoy™© goes by more genteel descriptions, such as "tow floats" or "swimming safety devices." Mine, for example, is officially known as the International Swimming Hall of Fame SaferSwimmer™ Float.

I am helping change that. With the fervor I should be spending on adult literacy or world hunger, I am convincing fellow swimmers to call these things "butt buoys.®™" A triathlete who used to swim with us offhandedly coined the off-putting name, noting how the orange blobs drooped over one's butt, like a saggy DayGlo™ diaper, as we waddled to the water, and floated above our butts as we swam. Offended at first, I soon embraced the name — give me a better descriptor! — and promulgated it to the swimming masses.

It has worked. Some other swimmers on other continents, with whom I correspond on the facebook™® "Did You Swim Today?" page call them "butt buoys©™."
(Yes, by Googling®™ "butt buoy™" — if you haven't already — you can link to a company that has trademarked the name for a line of boat marker buoys. They are literally representations of a presumably white, presumably woman's thong bikini-clad butt. Just her butt. You may choose from a variety of colors and fabric patterns — Leopard print! Checkered! — for the bikini panties.

(I'm still trying to figure out what the buoys represent. A woman frozen in mid-jackknife dive, perhaps? Someone drowning? If so, why? My first thought, though, is that this is what the bloodless, disembodied pelvic girdles will look like, bobbing in the water, when Disney®™ eventually remakes "Jaws" as a computer-animated musical. "Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged wimmen …"

(But I digress.)
No. 2 was a Butt Buoy®™ design laboratory regression, I must say. It had brittle seams, which split shortly after I bought it (though by folding down the top of the dry bladder and clipping it closed, water managed to stay out for a year and three months). From buoy no. 1 to buoy no. 2, its makers replaced the sturdy handle that tethers the waist belt with a strap welded in place with rubber grommets. Gone are the words "SWIM 4 HEALTH" and "SWIM SAFELY" in bold black letters across the top.

My new one has a small warning instead, "NOT A LIFESAVING DEVICE," and "FOR USE ONLY BY A COMPETENT SWIMMER."

The International Swimming Hall of Fame never asked me for proof.

Hoping for a sturdier version, I came upon the Hall of Fame's TPU model, which stands for thermoplastic polyurethane and sounds ominous.

A long time back, I asked the International Swimming Hall of Fame to make Butt Buoys™© brighter, maybe neon yellow instead. I may even have suggested they call their products Butt Buoys®™ instead and watch sales soar.

No answer.

Then my SaferSwimmer™ Medium TBU arrived and — so orange! I'll need my mirror tinted goggles at all times, lest my corneas peel out of my head. Do they make welder's swim goggles? Rower would see me easily if they didn't have to avert their eyes from the brilliance.

All the seams are internal, so maybe they aren't subject to cracking and tearing.

Product review: I like it. I'm anxious to see if it's hardier than the last two.

My mentioning the new Butt Buoy™® on facebook™® launched an unexpected discussion, more than the usual "likes" and two-word encouragements. One British swimmer I talk with frequently, for example, worried that such buoys would embolden people to swim in conditions for which they are unprepared.

I get her point, and have begun to understand that swimming is serious business among the general population of the United Kingdom, where many schools make swimming part of students' curriculum.

But Butt Buoys®™ and their ilk don't show up on the average consumer's radar. I was swimming open water for a year before I ever heard of one, and few swimmers I know want them because, well, they look stupid.

I'm keeping mine. One week of swimming, so far so good.

Here are a bunch of Butt Buoys®™ in action, at a lake in Florida I'd like to swim someday. The doctor here invites swimmers from around the world every day to jump in from his backyard. You have to watch it: Doc Lucky Meisenheimer is a trip.

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