In the past ten years or so I went from someone who loved to go to public swimming pools to someone who didn’t even bring a suit and argued with the front desk about whether I should even have to pay at all, since I was just going to sit in a chair wishing for shade and my air conditioned house. When I was a kid, I loved to swim, but somehow in the last decade I lost it utterly. I didn’t mourn the loss, either. I just didn’t want to go. Which was why when physical therapy declared I needed mandatory three times a week hydrotherapy this past winter, I was less than thrilled.
Fast forward four months, and now I am a pool rat. I still hate the fuss, and no, I am not attractive in a swimsuit. But there’s no question that water works. The weeks I don’t get to the therapy pool three times are worse weeks than usual, and a trip to the pool almost always makes whatever hell I’m in for that day better. So when Dan suggested we get a family pass to Ames’s new aquatic center, which isn’t at all far from our house, I went along with the plan. I wasn’t sure I’d quite made up with water enough for that, but I think I can now safely say that I have. The center opened last Friday, and in that time the Cullinan family has gone at least five times.
It’s a pretty awesome setup. There are three full sized slides, two for inner tubes and one called a "drop slide" which goes into 13 feet of water. There’s a "pond" for ages six and under with a family slide next to it where up to three people can go down at once. There’s a lazy river, and yeah, there’s the standard fifty meter pool with diving boards and three lap lanes. Even in the full crush of opening weekend, it didn’t seem that busy because the place is just so damn big. Parking is decidedly an issue, but as I said, we don’t live too far.
What I’m loving is that I’ve found a trip to the pool can greatly diminish any chronic pain I’m having that day. I think some of it is the anti-gravity factor, and some of it is the stress-lowering aspect. In the past two days I got brave and, with a swim cap and goggles, tried my hand at a few laps. I can’t do many at all, and my arms are not quite ready for prime time, but last night’s laps turned me from absolutely sure I would have to go back in to the chiro or ask PT to use the ultrasound on me to feeling actually quite fine today, except for some very tired and slightly strained arms. I did laps again tonight, and I feel even better, though yeah, now my arms are REALLY sore. But as someone who knows the difference between achy and sore, sore is a lot better.
And, like mother like daughter: Anna is pretty much ready to make a bunk in the women’s locker room and see us all in September. She was already wearing goggles, but today I talked her into a swim cap because all she does is dive and swim underwater, and when I added that to new diving balls, all she really needs now is fins. I’m on the hunt to find her some nose plugs, because as I was at her age, she can’t seem to let go of her nose to breathe out.
The pool is full of excitement too. One night we showed up only to find no one was in the water and an ambulance was screaming through the parking lot: someone had banged their head in the lazy river and got a concussion. The first few days we had to make Herculean efforts to get to the pool at opening or there would be not only no parking but no chairs. Last night as Anna was in line for concessions, we watched two sisters get in a catfight, the older one trying to rip the younger one’s head off by her hair, and she wouldn’t back down until the pool manager threatened to call the police.
Dan and I had just come back from the lazy river, and we were standing with Anna in the main pool (they call it the "lake"). All of a sudden all the guards blew their whistles and told us repeatedly to get out of the pool. At first I thought there had been some sort of weather issue, because it was cloudy and it felt like it could storm later. But as we all herded towards the exit ramp, someone indigantly pressed the pool manager for the reason we had to get out.
Her reply: "There’s poop in the water."
As Dan pointed out, she might as well have said, "There’s a great white shark in the water." There was practically a stampede.
Yes, some delightful soul shit their pants and then either dropped trou to let it out or just let it escape innocently out the side of the suit. It was resting along the edge of the wall. I don’t want to know how long it sat there. I really don’t. Practically speaking, there’s so much chlorine in there that we’re all fine, and honestly, we’re all giving off so much body waste in general that it’s just a communal germ festival. Hence the chlorine. But yeah. Poopy pool water, not my idea of a good time.
Even so, I suspet we’ll be back there tomorrow, and if not then, Sunday. Trust me, they were cleaning the pool when we left. And anyway, it feels really good to do laps. I like what it’s doing for my neck, and today even my hips are happy. My goal is to be able to do ten laps (up and back as one lap) without stopping to rest by the end of the summer. If it continues to do good things for me, I’ll continue to do laps in the community indoor pool in the fall.
And if my fellow pool rats can stop getting concussions, stop trying to kill each other, and can learn to use the toilet, it should be a great summer.