Growing up, my family belonged to a neighborhood pool. Well, I’m not exactly sure what you call it. It was a private pool; you had to have a membership to use the pool and take advantage of it’s many amenities. But it was near a neighborhood, kids would ride their bikes to the pool, some families would walk to the pool, but yes most drove to the pool. However, the health department still considers it a public space… and I’m sure it’s not so they can regulate it and collect tax money or anything…
But the health department is not the problem with pools. The problem is rather complicated while being easy to state simply. So, I’ll do my best not to ramble. But you know me!
The problem with pools is that everybody has one, but nobody has easy access to one.
So, we were members of a swimming pool club when I was little. In fact, my mom still holds that membership. She doesn’t really ever use it, but she still has it.
We would go to the pool and swim and play with our cousins, my neighbors, a few kids from school, and even a couple kids with whom we would makes friends at the pool. And we were allowed to bring guests. You had to pay for them, or they had to pay for them, or somebody had to pay for them, but you could still bring them. I brought some friends to the pool to hang out with every now and then.
But as I got older most of the kids I knew stopped coming out to the pool. Either their parents stopped paying for the membership because they couldn’t spend the money or they didn’t want to spend the money. Or they had other things to do and their money would be better spent on those things; be it sports, dance, karate, or random activities. OR they “got too old to play at a pool.” OR their parents installed a pool or moved them into a house with a pool.
It’s that last one that we’ll mainly focus on.
My family right now is in a middle ground. As I’ve said, my mom still has the membership at the pool. But she also has season passes to a local water park. My sister and her litter go to either place often. But you know where they go more often? An inflatable pool in the back yard. As I stared at the box with this season’s inflatable pool in it I began to wonder why we have so many “pools”?
The thing about the membership pools is you can use it whenever you want. But it’s such a hassle if you want to bring people with you. Of course you can bring a guest for a separate fee per guest. But how often? The pool we were members of started limiting how many times THE GUESTS can come to the pool for the season. Not how many times a member can bring guests, but how many times a specific guest can get in to the pool. It’s 5 btw… Not to mention that if you are the one who keeps bringing guests to the pool you are literally looked down on as someone who is providing a free aquatics experience for a non-member instead of convincing these people to just become members.
But not everyone can become a member. It is very costly, especially for first time members. Which is why some people decide to build their own pool. That and the fact their pool will have the rules THEY decide instead of those stupid rules. Then they can have real fun. *raspberry* And while that seriously is a factor, the truth is with your own pool you do make the rules and that includes when to open and close, what toys to allow, what swimwear to allow, who can and can’t use your pool, and so on. You have control. That means all that money you’re paying goes towards something you genuinely enjoy. You can have late night dips, summer pool parties, and casual get-togethers with friends.
However… while YOU now have access to a swimming pool 24/7 (even though you don’t because, you know, weather exists) your friends and family don’t. So, they can’t pay for the private swim club and even though you keep saying “come on over any time” they realistically can’t, won’t, and to be honest you don’t really want them to. (not to mention the HUGE liability of having someone use your pool without you home)
So… public pools? Well, while there are a few neighborhoods even in my area that have a public swimming pool, it’s just for the neighborhood and they most often suck. And actual public focused swimming pools? Well, besides the water park nearby, the only other swimming pool that was open to the public has shut down this year. The city can’t afford to pay for it anymore or something. Every other pool (which by my count is at least 7) is a private pool belonging to a health club, college, or private swim club. So what does everyone who can’t afford to pay for private pool memberships do?
Whether it’s a small inflatable pool, one of the plastic tension pools, or a little, plastic wading pool. Whether it was bought at Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, or the dollar store. Whether it’s got a filter or you have to dump it after every use. It’s a cheap piece of crap that lasts one season if you’re lucky, and can barely be used for anything more that laying down and splashing around.
Now, I worked in aquatics for almost 14 years, and my background includes lifeguarding at multiple pools, managing a pool, and teaching things such as swim lessons, lifeguarding, and CPR/First Aid. So that’s my background. You should remember that as you read the next paragraphs.
Why can’t we just turn the private pools into public pools? Racism aside, there is no reason NOT to have a public pool. Lifeguarding is hard, and knowing every member certainly makes it easier, but get over it. Let capitalism run the show and we can afford to hire more lifeguards, and make more competent lifeguards. People who can’t swim will jump in the deep end. Kids will almost drown. An adult may have a heart attack. Someone may die. I’ve seen all of these things at private pools who carefully consider who they let in and take the time to educate (and maybe even scare a little) the people who they think will be a problem… and we still had problems.
If we actually had public pools they would be run by people getting a competitive salary. They would have income because people want to use a pool on a hot day. They would be well regulated because the government that runs the health department would be in charge (essentially). And they would most importantly be open to everyone, since you wouldn’t have a board of nincompoops that decide who can be a member or not. Also, if you did have issues with someone you call the police, they get banned, and then you never have to deal with them again. It’s the law and it’s fine. With the private pools you’d have to revoke someone’s membership and deal with legal issues such as do they get their money back?
But most importantly, when I wanted to take my nephew to a pool and teach him how to swim I’d simply pack up, take off, pay the entrance fee, and swim. No fuss, no memberships, no guests who need a member to bring them, no asking a friend and deciding dates and times, and no backyard kiddie pool that’s barely deep enough for me to even dunk my head under.
So, as I’ve already said, the problem with pools is that everybody has (at least access to) one, but nobody has easy (simple) access to (a good) one (when they want to use it).
And that’s a shame, because swimming is so much fun!
P.S. – I missed last week, but I’m making it up this week by writing a really long and boring one. ;P