Public pools and the (supposed) joy they bring

I want you to imagine something. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and picture in your mind a truly horrifying place: a large, vat-like pool of chemical-laced liquid, surrounded on all sides by rough cement walkways. Scores of smelly, unwashed, barely-clothed people spill into the vat, swirling the waters into a milky soup of shampoo, cologne, tanning lotion, sunscreen and deodorant. A stone-faced, tan-skinned overseer perches himself high above the teeming waters, stoically observing. Screaming children run amuck, free to slip and injure themselves on the cement and plummet from dizzyingly high platforms.

Do you have the image in your head? Good. Focus on it. Can you smell the overwhelming B.O. of the impossibly hairy man eating a chili dog in the lawn chair next to you? Is the image of a pasty man in a tiny Speedo etched deep into your mind? Are your ears ringing with the shrill screams of three dozen feral children participating in the sick charade known as “Marco Polo?”

It’s terrifying, isn’t it? It’s sickening to even imagine. But the most frightening about this place is that it actually exists: it’s called a public pool, and they dot the country like infernal fortresses of evil.

The idea of the public pool is an innocent one: they provide a place for people to gather, to do some swimming and cool off. The family can hop in the minivan with a cooler of Capri-Sun and have an afternoon of fun. Kids love to swim, adults love to lay in the sun. What’s not to like? Seems like paradise, right?

No. The result is closer to hell on earth, a bubbling cesspool of wickedness.

I have always hated public pools, for as long as I can remember. The idea of being placed in a large body of water, shoulder-to-shoulder with a hairy, slightly European man sporting a bathing suit about four sizes too small, is the stuff of nightmares. And then there was the ever-present possibility that an older kid would decide it would be fun to dunk me under water, where the crotch of the European guy is horrifyingly apparent (much like a looming Great White).

This experience is just short of traumatic for a child.

And then there’s the water park, a virtual city of public pools and water slides. Though the water park can be pretty fun, it suffers from many of the same issues: punk kids, apathetic parents, ridiculously overweight men in tiny shorts, etc.

With the water park, there’s also the very likely chance that you will be crammed into a dark, cylindrical tube and propelled at outrageously high speeds. The sensation, I imagine, is much like leaving the womb. You explode out the end like a shotgun blast and tumble headfirst into a pool of stagnant water, the foul liquid rocketing up your nostrils. As you surface, sputtering, three gallons of chlorine sloshing about in your sinus cavities, your mom calls to you from the warm safety of her lawn chair.

“Was that fun, honey?”

Before you can answer, a 500-pound man in cut-off denim shorts descends the slide and slams into you with the force of an out-of-control bulldozer. For a single, blissful moment, you wonder if you’ve died. But then you realize that heaven isn’t supposed to feel like you’re slowly suffocating at the bottom of a pool, the crushing weight of a half-ton man-creature atop your feeble frame.

No, this is more like hell. The hell of a public pool.

1 comment:

  1. three words, matt: therapy


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