Monday, June 27, 2005

how-to guide for visiting chicago public pools

roosevelt pool being painted after completion

had my first chicago park district public pool experience friday. now, this was not my first time at a park district public pool. back in the funview days, we lived at roosevelt pool with redheaded rita, neighbor and daughter of a big irish name in chicagoland wrecking. with our aluminum pool passes sewn in matching thread to our one-pieces, we spent every day from 1-5 at the beach-like circular pool, occasionally heading to the snack shop for sherbet cones and cheese pretzels. we'd begrudgingly get out of the pool during adult swim to join the rest of the kids in glowering at the few moms and dads making laps around the large high dive platform in the center. then, we'd luxuriate in the locker room showers in a scented cloud of agree shampoo and head home. oh, i miss the roosevelt pool days.

making use of your hard-earned tax dollars at a chicago public pool takes some adjusting to. the chicago pool embodies the utilitarian sense of going to the pool: you're either in the water or you're out and drying off, getting ready to leave. there's no all-day open swim every day of the week. instead, there are several learn-to-swim classes for those urban parents seeking to break the chain of landlubbing city folk. there is, however, a daily open swim hour from 2:15 to 3:15. i slapped on my suit, unmarred by any municipal markings, and checked it out.

why is the experience so different? you can't bring anything other than a towel and sandals to the pool deck. no lockers either. you have to check your bag in the small, fetid changing room. i smuggled a book and phone [my rhinestone phone that i dropped on the concrete and broke in half] in my towel.

ain't no snack bar. there's scant few chairs. there are, however, a lot of people. sitting on the concrete deck, the word that comes to mind when observing the pool is teeming. it's literally teeming with life: shallow end is chockablock with parents and tiny kids and smaller kids splashing and dunking. ruled by rambunctious teenage boys who line up lemming-style to hurl themselves repeatedly into the drink, the deep end is no place to swim. you might have a blinged-out teenage girl thrown at you by accident, too. your best bet is in between -- too deep to wade and play but too shallow to jump, this area is frequented by few.

what else is different? there's a lot more tattoos. there's moms commanding daughters not to wreck their hair by going underwater. there are lots of grimy kids and parents in ill-fitting, mismatched bathing suits [or reasonable facsimilies thereof]. there's unabashed swearing. there's sullen pregnant teenagers, bulging over last year's junior-sized bikini. what's different and cool is how friendly the kids are -- no shyness of "stranger danger" dressed in triangles of lycra.

at 3:15 on the nose, the whistles blow and screaming like college bar bouncers, the lifeguard chant begins: get! out! get! out! everyone obeyingly exits the pool, greeted by a gaggle of paletelleros -- little hispanic guys pushing carts peddling paletas [popsicles].

different isn't bad. i'll be back.

No comments: