You don't look for much beyond speed, stroke, potential hazard, move almost mindlessly next to people from all walks of life as you would on the street, yet in a strangely more deliberate and intimate setting. Peirce speaks of three categories of being: "The first," he says in "A Guess at the Riddle", "is that whose being is simply in itself, not referring to anything nor lying behind anything. The second is that which is what it is by force of something to which it is second. The third is that which is what it is owing to things between which it mediates and which it brings into relation to each other." In a sense, everyone turns into cars, moving on our bellies and backs, trying to pass the slow people doing belly-flops in the medium lane: you give them disapproving looks through the goggles, fail at that, but speaking is out of the question for fear of messing up the breathing rhythm -- and besides who's going to hear you anyway, the pool renders everyone equally deaf: the pool etiquette relies on indices almost exclusively -- you race past only to encounter another swimmer just turning about face and heading straight at you.A head-on collision is nearly inevitable: the reverie created by the speed of your leaps, the perfect sync of your body's movement in the position reserved in our lives largely for rest, and if not that, certainly not transporting oneself -- the firstness one might call it (I've ruined it of course by describing it) of flying through this world is quite literally terminated. And yet, that perception of the other swimmer quickly results in a dive underneath him, and the clash stays only in the mind, and here we enter thirdness -- a natural law makes it possible in water to simply go underneath someone -- not so on the street. Smaller instances of these states of being occur with each individual stroke. The underwater-back-to -surface process is in itself a constant return to secondness, but it is also a matter of habit -- and habit-formation happens in thirdness.
It is interesting, too, that no physical trace (perhaps a chemical one does, but not perceivably sans an advanced chemistry kit) of me having been in the water exists in that water, yet the smell of chlorine sticks to my body and hair despite the shower. Most people would easily detect, without being Sherlock Holmes (or Peirce), where I'd just been. And there, in the shower, suddenly everyone turns back into people you might see on the street, New Yorkers, except nude. We, who don't talk in the subway, walk fast through our city's busy intersections, are entirely vulnerable and uncovered in front of each other. We're all strangers, or friends even, suddenly disrobing and washing ourselves, slowly assuming our usual shapes, re-learning to talk, hear, stay upright, ready to return to the outside world, where we'll run into each other time and again, and despite having been in the same shower, not acknowledge each other, but keep moving past, in the usual way.