Running, cycling... essentially solitary activities. We could think that, for swimming, it's the same deal. Not really. The pool, the changing rooms, we share them. And it can turn into bizarre, funny, annoying or truly irritating situations. So, come with me to the swimming pool!
1- The changing rooms
After paying for the entry ($2.50-$3 in my modest Californian pool / around $5 in France... a bit pricey, in my opinion), you're ready to face the changing rooms. Be aware that it can turn into a labyrinth with steps to accomplish.
In France, the first step is always the same: you get rid of your shoes. No shoes allowed in the changing room. It's a question of cleanliness. I totally agree with that and nobody will argue against it, in France. Well, it seems like it's not the same in the USA. I have to admit I was a bit shocked when I realized there was no such rule in my Californian pool. No rule at all. And, actually, even non swimmers can access the changing rooms and go next to the pool (with shoes worn outside on). It didn't bother anyone. Well, except me, the French girl!
Second step, getting undressed and putting your swimsuit on. In the USA, the changing rooms are simple: benches, lockers and an only stall, just in case. You get changed in front of everyone. It's normal and natural. I quickly lost my typical French reserve and it didn't bother me anymore. Actually, it's when I came back to France that I felt uncomfortable.
At the first swimming pool I went, no choice to make in the changing rooms. You just had to follow the arrows. Women's on the left, and you enter a 2-door stall. One door to enter and one door to exit on the other side. You make sure to close both doors and then you get undressed. Once done, you exit on the other side (with your swimsuit on, of course!). There, you find lockers. But no bench. Actually, there was a sign which took me aback. It was more or less something like that: "We want to remind you it's forbidden to be naked or partially naked in the changing rooms. You could be sued for exhibitionism (article xxx-xxx-xxx from the penal code)". WHAT??!! "Couvrez ce sein que je ne saurais voir !" ("Le Tartuffe", Molière)
But, to my surprise, the cleaning staff was going around (showers / changing rooms / toilets) with no sex distinction. WHAT WHAT??!! It's more shocking to me and it makes me more un at ease to have a man hanging around when I am in my swimsuit getting ready to go to the pool than a woman getting undressed next to me.
Actually, at the 2nd swimming pool I went, it was even another story: unisex changing rooms. One room for everyone. Of course, with stalls (as it's always the case in France). I can comprehend it's useful for people with children. Still, I don't feel comfortable.
Last step (at least, in France), you walk into a footbath before accessing the pool. Be warned that an automatic shower can be integrated to it. That's the little surprise which can make you reach the pool with an already wet towel. But, don't worry, you'll make this beginner mistake only once.
2 - The lifeguards
In the USA, the security is no joke. The lifeguards (always young adults) are taking their role very seriously. There's the tall chair. The lifeguard NEVER leaves the chair without the life buoy and, if he is in the chair, then the life buoy is on his laps. And it has nothing to do with the size of the pool. The lifeguards speak to each other when they take over but their eyes stay on the pool.
In France, it's different. Way too often, you just need to take a look at the lifeguard to understand he is bored stiff and is wishing to be anywhere but here. Well, at least that's when you can spot him...
The first pool I went once back to France was a huge one. Lots of lane, 50 m long, surrounded by bleachers... when I reached the pool, I looked around in vain to spot the lifeguards. That's only when I was already swimming for a while I managed to identify a group of people as the lifeguards. They were at the top of the bleachers, all together, laughing and clearly not concerned about checking what was going on in the pool. I wondered how long it would take them to spot, react and reach a swimmer in danger (even more if this person was on the other side of this large pool). I hope it's only an isolated case.
Already tired? We didn't even get into the water! Let's take a break and we'll jump into the pool, next time. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, any thoughts about what I wrote or any stories to share?
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