So, I took membership in the local govt.-operated sports complex and started learning swimming from this teacher who I suspect was just a guy who knew swimming and thought this was an easy way to make a quick buck. I say this because his teaching methods were not all that good and my progress was slow. Having taught for a few years myself, I know when someone is cutting through the crap and when someone is just passing time with the minimum of instruction. Since then I have learnt from other people that that's not the best way to learn.
Despite that I was still making progress and had learnt how to float, face down, using my feet to propel me. I could do it as long as I could hold my breath and could float from one side of the pool to the other side, widthwise.
Then one day, he told me to stand mid-way down the length of the pool on the edge. I should explain that this pool was regulation size with the maximum depth 12 feet and the minimum 4 feet. Where I was standing, I was abreast of the middle section about 7 feet deep.
My instructor told me to dive from there and then swim towards the shallow end. He reminded me several times, "Use the feet. Don't forget to use the feet like I have taught you." I nodded and dived in!
I floated using my feet as long as I could but soon ran out of breath and tried to stand up. Blurghhgh! What? No ground? I prodded with my feet but try as I might I could find no solid ground to stand on! And I panic very easily in water. No, not in the shower, thank you very much. But when I am out of my depth (literally) I lose my wits.
If I had tried to be sensible about it, I could possibly have taken a half-breath and managed to float further to the safety of the shallow zone. As it was I flopped around, arms flailing, feet kicking around a commotion underwater, like a drowning man, as a drowning man, for technically I was drowning. I was scared!
My teacher was right there and when he realized I wasn't gonna do it myself, he pulled me by the arm to the shallow zone. It was only a foot away!
He asked me, "Why didn't you use the arms?"
And I replied innocently, "But you didn't tell me to use the arms!"
He shook his head, "This time use the arms AND the feet!"
He didn't have to tell me twice! This time when I dived I used both arms and feet and swam like hell! I was literally swimming to save my life!
This time not only did I make it into the shallow zone, I almost head-butted the end wall!
Moral of the story: While it's good to follow instructions faithfully, when you are in deep water, use your head!