- 1 - What to do Before Entering a Public Pool in Japan
- 2 - Treading Chlorine in a Public Pool in Japan
The pool itself was 25 meters long and divided into four lanes of varying sizes. The largest lane took up half the width of the pool and was filled with the cast of the Japanese remake of Cocoon doing water aerobics more or less in sync with an overly enthusiastic instructor. Mostly less. With all the thrashing about in the water the whole scene looked more like an open audition for a remake of Jaws than a water aerobics class.
The next lane took up half of the remaining half of the pool and was apparently meant for furiously kicking your way up and down the length of the pool while holding onto a body board for dear life, judging by all the people furiously kicking their way up and down the length of the pool while holding onto a body board for dear life.
The next lane was the swimming lane and it took up a quarter of the remaining quarter of the pool or slightly more space than a small person. The final lane was filled with people walking slowly up and down the length of the pool while sweating (yes, sweating! in a pool!) and looking generally miserable.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the term death march. I’ve always heard it in the context of war, as in the Japanese death march or the Comanche death march (or Cherokee or whatever tribe it was—I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one for every tribe actually), but I’ve obviously never seen a death march first hand, so I didn’t really know what to picture. Now I think I do. At least those were the first words that popped into my head as I watched the slow, listless procession of gaunt, miserable looking senior citizens who seemed to be using their last remaining strength to make it to the opposite end of the pool.
My goal was the miniature lane which was thankfully almost empty with only a handful of people swimming back and forth at perfectly spaced intervals. Whenever they encountered oncoming traffic, which is fairly often in a 25 meter pool even with only a few people in the lane, they would turn sideways a bit and glide by each other without actually swimming since the lane was too narrow. I stood at the end and waited for the right moment, timing my dive to put me directly in the middle between two of the other swimmers.
Even before I hit the water a loud whistle broke the air and I noticed a guy running toward me. When I popped my head up, he was standing along the side yelling at me and gesturing wildly for me to get out of the water immediately. I couldn’t go back, since I already had two old men lined up behind me and I didn’t get the feeling that the guy yelling at me would be happy with me swimming to the other end, so I dove under the rope and into the paddle board lane.
In an amazing stroke of luck I timed it perfectly and made it through the kicking feet without taking any damage. I would not be so lucky in the next lane.
If the aerobics class had been following the instructor even just a little, I would have been able to time my movements and work my way safely through to the edge. Instead, this whole half of the pool was filled with sharp and flabby knees and elbows (yes, I know that seems contradictory, but they can be both sharp and flabby at the same time—believe me, I witnessed it first hand) randomly jutting in every possible—and some seemingly impossible—direction. I want to say I felt like I was slowly making my way through a car wash, but I’ve never been to a car wash that beats the shit out of your car and leaves it black and blue.
I finally dragged myself out of the water and spent the next minute being lectured and/or questioned by the irate guy with the whistle. I couldn’t actually understand anything, so I just stood there shaking my head at him until he caught on to that fact. It took about a minute, at which point he suddenly spun around walked over to a barrel, pulled something out and tossed it to me. A swimming cap.
I looked around me and noticed that I was indeed the only person in the room not wearing one and that included the fully clothed guy who had just been talking through me. I guess with the amount of chlorine they put in that pool, hair loss could be a serious problem. I put the cap on and dove back in the water, swam a few laps and went back to the changing room. It’s hard to enjoy swimming when you constantly have to stop to let people by, but you can never actually stop to rest since you end up holding everyone up.
I took a shower to get the chlorine off me before it bleached my skin to albino levels and tried to towel off, but when the air is as wet as you are and your towel has absorbed that moisture to boot and your clothes are also soaked, you’re fighting a lost cause.
I had left my apartment looking for a refreshing break from the heat. I returned several hours later bruised, beaten, exhausted and hotter and more uncomfortable than ever. At least I got in a good five minutes of exercise and came away with a head of fashionable, bleach-blonde hair