Whoever invented swimming obviously did not think it through all the way. I'm sure the intentions were noble, but they might as well have said, lets find a medium (water) to rinse off all the grossest parts of the human body (the nose, the armpits, the grease in the hair, the mouth...I'll stop there) and put it in a big bowl. Then pack it full of lots of people, all of whose bodies are being similarly "rinsed off'", and let everyone soak it in together.
I know what you are thinking...chlorine, right? My sister in law used to work for a youth wilderness camping boot camp and they would go to remote locations and live off the land. They drank water that had feces floating in it, bugs and organizims swimming in it, etc. And all they did to make it safe was dump in a small amount of chlorine and wait for everything to stop moving. So, I'm not debating the safety of pool water. I am simply opposed to the disgusting thought of jumping in a pool of shared body fluids, whether or not they are disinfected. Imagine wanting to take a bath at night. After filling the tub, you dump in some dirt, have your children urinate in the water, stir in some slobber and snot, ring all the grease out of your teenager's hair and pop a few of his/her pimples to add the the mix. Just before hopping in, pour in a bit of liquid chlorine to kill all the germs, stir and enjoy a refreshing bath. No one in their right mind would agree to this, but this is just like what we do when we swim.
And its not just the kids who are peeing in the pool. Don't get me wrong, I blame it on them too, but there is no denying the feeling of release that comes for letting a fresh stream of urnine go in a large body of water. How can anyone resist that temptation, especially when you've got to keep your eye on the kids and can't very well get out of the pool to use the facilities. But, even if it were just the kids , do the math. That is a lot of gross extra fluids added to the water!
But let's move on from the germ element of swimming for a moment, because I could write volumes about it, and discuss some of the other problems with swimming.
1) Name another time that (in the name of wholesome family entertainment) it is socially acceptable for everyone to strip down to next to nothing and play together. We go swimming for church activities, work parties, family reunions and with complete strangers. And no one seems to think it is strange to be hanging out with one another in the equivalent of our underwear.
2) I never really have liked the sun all that much, probably because my skin burns so easily. So, I didn't spend all that much time in the sun as a kid, but even so, I have sun spots on my face now as an adult. The other day I went to get them checked out by a dermatologist, thinking you never can be too careful with the prevalence of skin cancer these days. Apparently, he agreed, because he burned one of them off with liquid nitrogen. It was a wonderful experience, offering the whole range of human emotions...fear and anticipation, exquisite pain, burning, relief that your entire face did not burn off...I highly recommend it. I'm sure skin cancer itself is no better, by my preferred prevention is to stay out of the sun entirely.
3) As much as I don't like the sun, I hate sunscreen even more. Its perfumes spike my allergies and it feels really gross both when it goes on and when it dries. Not to mention the large amount of square yards of sunscreen it takes to cover my body...proper application can take hours. I tried one of those spray-on kinds once, only to discover that it is nearly impossible to get a uniform application. Unless you have access to a paint sprayer and vats of liquid sunscreen, I have to warn you that you will end up looking like you had a pattern of random burn streaks tattooed all over your body. So, it's back to manual application, which to me feels like rubbing liquid Crisco all over your body.
4) Your feet burn on the way to the water. Your body nearly goes into shock when you enter the ice-cold water, even in June. The wind blows on you when you get out of the water, making you chilled all over again, even though it is 110 degrees outside. Your feet burn again on the way back to your towel. That is way too many transitions and adjustments for me.
5) It is hard to know where you are going without opening your eyes under the water. But if you open them, you have to realize that you are either getting all the above-mentioned nasty germs in your eyes, or an acid so powerful that it can kill all of those nasty germs. I don't really want either of them in my eyes, so I keep them closed.
6) If I don't want the water in my eyes, why would I want it in my mouth? And no one can swim without getting the water in their mouth. In fact, watch someone coming up out of the water sometime. The water just pours out of their mouth, along with a bunch of saliva, adding even further to the disgusting mixture of body fluids.
7) I once had a friend who was in charge of keeping pool chemical levels in the proper range at a public pool. He told me they rarely ever really checked it...they just added in some chemicals once in a while and called it good. If our one hope hinges on all the germs being killed off by chlorine, are we really willing to trust a teenager with that job? Or the pool man? Or anyone?
8) All of this is compounded when swimming in a lake rather than a swimming pool. Take all of the above, add in a bunch of fish (complete with their cycle of life of eating, shedding, excreting, giving birth, dying, etc.) and other water creatures, and it is no wonder why the water is slimy and green. And yet we jump right in and pretend there is nothing wrong with it. That gives me a great business idea...turning cesspools into swimming holes. Why not? People swim in lakes and that is not all that different.
9) When I was a kid there was a man in the neighborhood that everyone called "uncle" who lived at the public pool (or at least he was there every time we went). He used to play a game called "Try to drown the children". You've played it before, I'm sure. It was where someone bigger than you holds you under the water until you think you are going to die and finally releases you for a short moment while you gasp for air and then puts you under again. I think public pools have craked down on this kind of behavior these days, but the game is still played each day in pools all around the world when adults aren't looking. But hey, I guess there are worse things that a strange man everyone calls "uncle" could play in the pool with your children when no one is looking.
10) Where do you put your wallet while you swim at a public pool? In the locker? Oh yeah, besides the fact that it costs a quarter (which I never have since I only carry plastic cards to pay for things these days), there is the dillema of where to put the keys while you swim. You can't swim with them (see wikipedia under "rust") but you can't just leave them poolside for someone to grab and open your locker. At the gym they give you little bracelets you can wear to solve this problem, but they haven't figured it out yet for swimming pools. And the last thing we need is identify theft while we are trying to relax in the cesspool.
I know some of you smart people may have perfect solutions to one or more of the above problems (although I assure you I can argue with your proposed solution), so go ahead and post them. You know, like only swim in your own swimming pool where you can monitor the chemicals, post a "no peeing in the pool" sign, or swimming indoors to get away from the sun. But, no matter how you slice it, there is no getting around the fact that we are swimming in a giant tub of shared body fluids and acid.
So, you now understand why camping is out and swimming is out. How could anyone dislike man's best friend? Stay tuned for the next post to find out.