It's almost the season! You can practically sense it, drifting readily toward us. The hot, dry air, the feeling of warm sand between your toes, the smell of sunscreen . . . it's Summer! And though this season elicits many happy past memories in all of us, whether that be camp, lake vacations, Summer reading, or sleeping in, we all have some memory of playing at the pool. In fact, one of the main things that reminds me of Summer is the potent, familiar scent of chlorine itself.
But as we get older, that light blue, cooling square in the ground doesn't generate the same kind of joy that initial splash once did. In fact, as we gaze around at public pools (or hotel pools or gym pools), we see it in a much different light. It no longer looks inviting, it looks like a run-for-your-life infestation of germs, ready to splash on us and ruin our favourite season by cursing us with some sort of weird ailment, fungus, or bacterial-something-we've-never-heard-of. Thinking of this, I have come a long way from the little girl, so anxious to get in the pool with her floaties on that she burst into tears every time her parents made her wait, so they could put sunscreen on her.
What's with all the disgust?
It's no secret to anyone how communal spaces often play as a breeding ground for spreading germs and illness. Anything contagious lives high and mighty in these spots. I grew up in a very clean household myself; my mother is impeccably clean and always had disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer on hand to clean up any public space we were in, like aeroplanes, movie theatres, or public restrooms. And it came with good reason too — I was not sick often as a child, and it gave me a sense of awareness without being overly cautious.
However, when it comes to pools, it's another level, and this is simply because the moist, wet environment offers the perfect ecosystem for many different strains of bacteria and fungus to thrive and spread their weird little selves to. My first distaste for these public pools, though, arose as a child. While visiting one with a friend, I developed a plantar wart on the bottom of my foot.
The podiatrist my mom took me to at 8 immediately asked, "Been to public pools lately?" As it was June and I obviously knew I had gone with my friend and her family, I nodded shamefully. He advised me to always wear flip-flops while walking around the concrete and especially in the pool locker rooms. This was a new concept to me because I grew up with a pool in my backyard, and he explained how that was much cleaner given just my family uses it. I ended up having to have the wart removed with a needle and laser!
Now, as an 8-year-old, that seems traumatizing. But with my mom holding my hand and encouraging me, I got through it and was told by the doctor that I handled it better than most grown men he's done the same procedure on. My mom bought me ice cream afterwards and I wore it like a badge of honour, telling anyone who would listen, that I was a tough chick that could handle a mini surgery better than a grown dude. (I admittedly sometimes still tell this story.)
The next week, though, we went on a holiday to the lake and I had to stay on the boat and not swim the first couple days, as I was advised to not yet get my foot wet. So while everyone was having a grand ole time in the water, I was soaking in Epsom salts, grumpily looking on and swearing off ever going to a stupid public pool again.
And to be honest, a dip here and there while babysitting in high school or a couple times after laying out in college, I have pretty much stuck true to that. And you bet I always have cheap flip-flops on hand to wear around the area.