This winter (I know it was winter, because all I can remember about it is snow) I had a MRSA infection possibly contracted at the impossibly filthy gym where I work out. I could have gotten it elsewhere, but we’ll never know. After the suppurating and painful lesions healed, I was back in business, and began working out at the same gym. Cuz I’m just like that. . . much to my roommate’s dismay. Still, I have been afraid to use the pool again because, well, it’s wet and there is a huge sign warning people not to use the pool if they have boils or lesions or open sores and I, for one, don’t want to be reminded of it.

But today I went back to swimming and it was great! The pool is actually pretty majestic with a high high full-roof skylight and lots of space. And I have found the the trick is to go really early–right when they open before the hoards of aggro swim jocks come to ‘train’. It also it optimal to swim at a time as far as possible (preferrably not even on the same day) from “Women’s Swim”. Because my neighborhood has a large Hassidic jewish population, and this is a municipal pool, they have scheduled times in the pool respecting the ladies desire to swim away from the gaze of men. They have female life guards, don’t allow men on the deck, and they draw the blinds over the windows so no one can look in. But I will tell you, having been caught in there–it is not a pretty sight.

I think it’s wonderful that these ladies value exercise. I appreciate how social they are within their isolated ethnic group. But I don’t think actually learning how to swim plays a part in their culture. The couple of times Women’s Swim has started in the middle of my workout, I remarked that I have never seen anyone able to sustain such involved and raucous conversations with their mouths half-submerged underwater. The lane boundaries cease to exist and the whole exercise becomes entirely free-form. To make it more hilarious, these ladies, even though there are no men around, are so modest that that wear billowy white t-shirts over their bathing suits. The effect of all this is the sensation that you are swimming between hundreds of buoyant jellyfish, trying to avoid bumping into them.

The locker room is no less chaotic, with identical black wool coats, nude panty hose and brown wigs strewn about benches and stuffed into lockers. The first couple of times I opened a locker and was surprised by a hassid’s effects I though someone had stuffed a small animals inside. Pale, naked ladies riddled with varicose veins talking and talking and bumping into each other, the whole event is festive in a New York kind of way. I hope this pool is not where I picked up MRSA because I don’t want to stop swimming there.


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