Friday, June 27, 2008
Summer: a destination
I've found this new habit of riding my bike to and from work - I love it. I've become so accustomed to it, driving now becomes a hassle and almost brings on a sense of guilt. My cycling route to work is nearly always different from my route home (hence my eclectic personality). This is because when I'm on my way to work, I'm more concerned about what time I arrive, making sure I have enough time to shower before everyone else arrives, hoping not to offend them! While on the way home it becomes more of a time to unwind before adjusting back to home life - for some reason this is more of a transition for me?
Anyway, riding home today meant not only fighting traffic and potholes and people who don't seem to know the idea of checking BOTH ways before crossing the street (no bitterness here...), but experiencing some wonderful prairie summer rain showers at the same time. It's liberating riding in the rain, getting your feet more soaked than you can imagine and not even thinking of dodging puddles as you're already so wet it just doesn't matter any more.
So on my usual route home, I happen to pass by an outdoor swimming pool that I used to go to as a kid, sometimes driven by my parents, but mostly attended after having walked the 45 minutes through the neighborhood, across the highway, and along the river paths. I have such fond memories of going there years ago - the sticky feel of the locker rooms, the lack of chlorine smell you get in enclosed facilities, and then the ultimate - the "I can't believe they could ever fit this many people into one concrete bowl" itself. Wall to wall swimmers, basically just standing there (cause even trying something slightly resembling a swimming motion could cause numerous injuries to yourself and those around you), enjoying the sun, and taking in the coolness of the water. I don't think my dad was so impressed with the facilities, he never seemed to want to stay very long. Might have been the crowds, or the noise or the general disorder with lifeguard constantly blowing their whistles at attendees who never really intended to learn the lesson they were so desperately trying to get though. I remember the unwritten rule as a kid, when caught doing something wrong in the pool - dive under the water, move around to a new position, and surface with your back to where the lifeguard was. Guaranteed to work every time, as long as you weren't the only one in the pool!
As I've been riding by these past few weeks, I've been watching to see when they'd fill up the pool. I'm amazed that with everyone's concerns for things like West Nile Virus, outdoor air pollution, concern for personal hygiene and contact with water, and just general fear of the outdoors, that pools like this still exist, but I'm glad they do.
And so today, the last day of school here before the summer break, the pool was finally filled, the water glimmering welcomingly about a foot short of the brim, but sadly, it was empty. No kids. No adults watching their kids. No lifeguards making lots of money to spend watching over these kids. Now I was already wet, and believe me, given the opportunity and path directly to its edge, I would have joyfully jumped in - if even to once in my life have it all to myself! Alas, not today.
As I rode on, I was kind of sad thinking about how short our outdoor swimming season is. At most, I think the pools are open 7 or 8 weeks, even if the summer weather continues on into September. This got me to thinking about other cities I've visited that not only have outdoor swimming pools, but pools dedicated to swimming where you can go and get in a workout of 'laps.' If you've ever walked along the shoreline of Vancouver, you might have seen the pool at Jericho Beach, dedicated, as far as I can tell, to people wanting a swimming workout. I can't even fathom how refreshing it would be, all year round, to swim like that outdoors. I can't imagine that it is open through the year, considering they do get snow, but what an amazing experience that would be, swimming through the water, with huge snowflakes gently falling. And then I remembered another great pool, one my wife and I came across walking along the shoreline of Bondi (pronounced Bond-eye) Beach in Sydney, Australia. Cool thing about this pool is that at high tide, the water washes right into the pool! It's called the Bondi Icebergs Club, and knowing how cold that water gets, I think they've earned the name. Somehow I don't think the guys swimming in the pool hang around the locker room too long having manly talks, at least not once they're swimsuits are off. To me though, the most interesting thing, and most cleaver considering the conditions, they claim to be the only licensed swimming club in the world. Dating by to 1929, it seems to be the winning combination others, like Winnipeg, could learn from. Maybe back when I was a kid, my parents might have taken me a little more often, and would not have been so anxious to leave.