Tuesday, June 3, 2008


If you have a weak stomach when it comes to bodily emissions, stop reading.

Anybody left?

I have to work extended days this week, during which time I wrap up all the odds and ends from the school year and clean and file and order and do all the things I can't do when people are coming in the door every 2 minutes (and start the day with an iced coffee, sausage muffin, and blogging.) But that's it. When records day ended for me at noon yesterday, I went home and decided that Ainsley and I were going to celebrate by visiting our family recreation center to workout and then swim for hours in the indoor pool, which is something we don't have much time to do on a weekday when school is in session.

It was going great. We had been swimming for just under an hour and were approaching the adult-only swim time they do for 10 minutes at the top of every hour. Ainsley was completely cool with it, and I was looking forward to doing a few solo laps, taking Ains to the bathroom, and then resuming our celebratory afternoon of fun under the fluourescnt light bulbs. All was right with the world.

But then I saw a piece of corn float by.

I was puzzled. No, that couldn't be a kernel of corn. How would corn get in the pool? But then I saw another piece. The only way corn could get in would be....

Oh, crap.


Another mom with her kids came to the realization the same time I did and we herded our kids out. As I helped Ainsley lift herself out, I saw a large brown blob on the bottom of the pool. It didn't look like a floating Baby Ruth bar the way they portray it in movies; it was a disgusting brown mass that mostly stayed on the bottom (with the less dense parts, like the corn, beginning to float to the top in an interesting but horrifying display of life science in action.) But as people realized what was going on and exited from the pool as though Jaws had been spotted, it was getting stirred up and I really felt sorry for the lifeguards and aquatic crew who were beginning to assemble with skimmers.

I told you not to read if you have a weak stomach.

I don't know if I have ever felt dirtier in my whole life. As I wrapped Ainsley up in her towel (which I am now either going to have to bleach beyond recognition or burn) I told her we were going to have to shower there at the gym. And then shower again when we got home. She did not complain.

Three showers later, I have mostly put it behind me. Mostly.

Looking around at the people that made their hasty exits from the pool, it was not obvious who the culprit was. It seems like it had just happened when Ainsley and I saw the floating nastiness. And Ainsley was one of the youngest swimmers yesterday afternoon; it was mostly school-age kids, with only one or two toddlers in swim diapers. I am no expert, but judging by the sheer mass I would say this was no toddler accident. I am not even sure that it's entirely accurate to say it was an accident.

Here's where I don't understand this situation, and where I get angry.

The pool mandates breaks for children every hour; we as adults and parents are supposed to take our kids to the bathroom at this time. Not that kids need to go every hour, but a young kid probably isn't going to take a bathroom break from a pool until the situation becomes urgent. They're afraid they're going to miss something. The adult-swim rule came about after several incidents of accidents in the pool last year. Yes, this isn't new for that facility; it's just new for us. We weren't witnesses the past times, we just saw signs indicating that the pool was closed for biological cleanup. The pool was also closed for two different time periods last summer and fall for shighella outbreaks. Shighella is a nasty intestinal bacteria that can't be completely killed by chlorine. On two different occasions, someone who had recently been swimming in our pool reported a case of shighella to the health department, and the pool water tested positive. Now, here's the thing: shighella is only transmitted through poo. So for the bacteria to have been in the pool, someone must have had at least a small diarrhea accident in the water. And this bug makes you really, really sick. It's not like you (or your parents) wouldn't have known you were sick already before the accident.

I don't get it.

There was very little adult supervision in that pool yesterday. I had been curious about that before I even spotted the crap. There were maybe 4 adults to be seen, and 20-30 kids. Now I know we live in a predominantly Catholic area, but I really don't think each of us had 5-6 kids with us. I think some parents dropped their kids off to let them swim without adult supervision.

There's something very frustrating about that.

I do my job as a parent. I watch Ainsley like a hawk at the pool. I make sure she doesn't swim sick (I can't even imagine letting her swim post stomach virus) and I make sure she goes to the bathroom regularly. In fact, one of our rules is that if she doesn't go potty right before we get in the pool, we go home. The amazing thing is that during those adult-swim times 99.9% of the kids just hover around the pool; I've seen kids be in there for hours and never take a potty break. You can't tell me the urge to pee doesn't come at some point for these kids.

I don't think the poo we saw leaked out of a swim diaper. Though still gross, that would be a little more excusable. What I think happened is that a school-age kid had needed to go for some time, but with no adult (or a lazy adult) present, and no supervision, the kid held it until it couldn't be held anymore. And then either a conscious decision was made to go ahead and dump in the pool, or nature decided for the child.

Either way, it's just not right.

I might not be so angry if this hadn't happened before. I might not be so angry if there had been some statement of responsibility or apology by the guilty party. But there was none.

It will be really hard to go back into that water having actually seen the startling mess. Judging by the past times I have heard of this happening, they will drain the pool, scrub it down, and then shock the water they put in. The pool will be out of service for at least a few days. But I will swim in fear now. And anger at parents and kids who know better but don't seem to care.

And not eat corn again for a really, really long time.

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