Pool Etiquette

Marco!  Polo!  So, it turns out that this is a game that’s not nearly as fun by yourself.

Having spent a solid portion of our Christmas break in and around pools and hot springs, I felt it was necessary, based on the situations and behaviours I observed during this time, to regale you with my own list of pool etiquette suggestions.

Let’s start in the change rooms, shall we?

1.  First of all, you can call me a prude or old-fashioned or whatever, but I firmly believe that the age of children in change rooms should be regulated.  That is, children who are in the wrong change rooms.  At some point, it just gets awkward.  My wife has told tales of boys that look to be about 10 or 12 that come in with their moms and just spend the next 20 minutes gawking at all the naked women around them.  When I’m changing in my change room, and a girl is asking her dad about the different equipment she’s seeing…  well, I’ve got two of my own girls, and this really isn’t that weird.  But when a girl that is wearing a training bra comes in with her dad, I think maybe – just maybe – those kids are ready to strike out on their own.  Let them try out their own side of the change rooms and see what happens.  Please.

2.  Snapping people with towels – it’s so much fun.  But probably not a good idea in public pool change rooms.  I can tell you why.  When I was a kid, I finally, after trying it for about 5 minutes unsuccessfully, figured out how to snap my towel.  I immediately snapped my friend’s rear end.  It was the perfect snap.  A crisp glance off the naked buttock, with a rewarding “SHNACK” to top it off.  Well, it wasn’t quite perfect, and my glee was short-lived, for my friend hadn’t waited around for me to perfect the art of towel snapping, and the person changing beside me was a perfect stranger.  It seemed he took exception to this friendly exchange, and I had to quickly explain that towel snaps are how we express appreciation in Canada.

3.  As irritating as it is to have to pay between 25 cents and a dollar for pool lockers, you still have to do it.  If you choose not to pay for your locker, don’t be surprised or angry when someone takes your stuff out of it, puts their stuff in, plops the change into the door, and walks away.  That’s how things are meant to work.  You’re not entitled to that particular locker just because it smells like your stuff now.  Pay up, or be prepared to give it up.  And complaining noisily to anyone who will look your way doesn’t make you look any smarter, cooler or more justified in being a locker squatter.

Moving along, we’ll take the tour to the shower rooms.

4.  Speaking of showering, please just do it.  It’s a lovely idea, and it gives everyone who sees you come in to the pool with wet hair, skin and bathing suit the false illusion that you actually cleaned yourself prior to immersing yourself into the public pool.  I know, it’s really a sham, and not much is achieved by running water over your body for a few seconds, but realistically, you can’t be doing any harm, and it helps settle my nerves to see you tried.

5.  I certainly appreciate the effort people put into reaching out to others.  I love getting to know new people, and hey, the pool or the hot springs is a great place to do that.  However, whilst in said showers, I have a couple of requests.  A) You don’t need to strike up a personal conversation with strangers in the showers.  If you really want to get to know that interesting fellow, by all means, but please wait until we’re in the pool to do so.  I just want to shower and get to the pool.  B)  Don’t touch me.  There really aren’t a lot of “ifs” and “buts” around this.  Let me put it this way:  if you are bending over to scrub yourself with a soapy handcloth, which I truly do appreciate you doing, I will ask you not to hold on to my shoulder to keep your balance.  This suggestion was gleaned from personal experience.  And I’m still talking to my therapist about it.

Let’s talk about what you’ll wear to the pool.

6.  I know the signage is typically clear on this, but let me reiterate.  No street clothes in the pool.  So yes, dear sir who wore his saggy gonch into the Fairmont Hot Springs pool, I’m talking to you.  If you’re at a lake, and you don’t have other things to wear, I suppose there are different, slightly laxer attitudes that might prevail.  But I don’t like seeing folks stroll into a public pool, wearing their tighty-whiteys, their shorts, their shirts, or anything else that clearly wasn’t removed during their trip through the change room.  And another thing I’ve noticed is that the street clothes wearing offenders often haven’t referred to Rule #4 either.  Ugh.

7.  Consider the appropriateness of your bathing suit.  I’ve been to Europe a number of times, and to say that they are more relaxed in terms of what they wear to a swimming facility, or frankly WHETHER they even wear something to the facility, is an understatement.  I was in for quite a surprise the first time we headed to a lake in Germany, and I started having a look around.  HELLO!  It goes for guys and girls.  In Europe, dudes wear Speedos.  It’s just that simple.  Now here, in conservative North America, gentlemen should be advised that their banana hammock Speedos might not be nearly as acceptable, etc – although it’s not against the rules, it’s just a suggestion, and just know that you’ll be snickered at.  A lot.  Also, if you’re headed to an outside pool, it gets cold here in Canada.  Just sayin’.

Finally!  We’ve arrived at the pool.  The water looks lovely.  Come on in!  Unless…

8.  Hey!  Guess what?!  Open wounds, let’s say with profuse (or even barely detectable) bleeding or perhaps ones that are oozing pus, aren’t really a nice thing to bring with you into the pool.  And even if you’re willing to be quite open about it.  Like the person who sat on the edge of the pool while I was in it, bleeding INTO the pool, and loudly discussing the stinging pain the chlorinated water was sending into their gaping wound.  Not cool.

9.  Bodily fluids may also be deposited elsewhere, or just left outside the pool.   I’m not under any illusions that pool water is clean, and that there isn’t a bunch of pee, snot rockets and probably poo floating around in minor quantities.  But please, do your part.  If you’re considering holding one nostril closed, and blowing a quarter-pound snot rocket out of the other nostril – into the pool you and I are both enjoying, please don’t.  I don’t care if that’s cool in the country where you come from. It’s not here.  And shouldn’t be there.  On that note, is that “pee dye” a reality?  As a kid, I was always warned not to squeeze off even a drop of pee, because the water would instantly turn blue or purple or whatever, and everyone would know you peed in the pool, and you’d be humiliated, and then your parents would be humiliated, and that wouldn’t be good German behaviour, and your life as you know it will be over.  But the truth is, I’ve never seen that dye do its dirty work to ruin someone’s life, and I often wonder if it’s all just a really effective rumor.

10.  Let’s not accept any relaxed standards around bodily fluids either.  I have an example to illustrate what I mean.  My parents, as mentioned, were very clear about their bodily fluids in the pool standards.  As in, don’t put them there.  My sister-in-law tells a story of a time when they were in the hot springs – Fairmont Hot Springs too, if I’m not mistaken.  A kid says to his mom: “Mommy, I have to pee!”  Well, this sounds like an excellent start, doesn’t it?  Little kid, with bladder control, advises mother of urgent need for bathroom.  If only it ended that way.   The mom, to everyone’s dismay, utters the following words: “Oh, that’s OK, honey.  Just go pee-pee in the pool.”  Those kind of standards will not do!

11.  Splashing – try not to do too much of it.  I’m no curmudgeon here, people.  I have three kids, all of whom splash around in the pool, and I did it myself.  I accept that.  I’m talking about excessive splashing.  If your kid splashes me by accident, I’m totally fine with that.  If your kid splashes me for the 30th time, after I’ve verbally taken issue with it, I will not be OK with that.  Additionally, if you are an adult, and you are very fond of jumping into the pool, directly next to, or perhaps INTO, a group of unsuspecting people, I will not be OK with that either.

12.  Band-aids – as a general rule, if you have a Band-Aid on, and I see it as you come into the pool, I’m already judging you.  I’m already thinking, well they probably have a fully infected, oozing laceration under there, and oh, look at the time, I’ve been in this pool long enough.  I know.  I’m picky.  Now, should you choose to come into the pool with your Band-Aids on, I suppose I can’t stop you.  But please, for the sake of all humanity, remember that the edge of the pool, or the bottom of it is not a good place for them.  Please keep the Band-Aid where it is, and check on it often.  On a related note:  kids – when you find flesh-colored chewing gum on the side of the pool, don’t chew it.  It’s likely a bloodied, crumpled-up Band-Aid.  Actually, now that I think about, it doesn’t matter what color it is.  Kids – when you find ANY gum in or around the pool, don’t chew on it.  Mmmmkay?

Just a couple of quick notes about other activities I was exposed to:

13.  Thou shalt not steal towels around the pool.  OK?  Because I didn’t bring it there for you to use.  I brought that towel there so I could a) be warm between the pool and the change rooms and b) cover up my gut during the change room to pool commute.  Or I might want to lay on the grassy knoll beside the pool, on my towel.  Or I might want to coddle my children by keeping them from getting hypothermia when they get out of the pool.  Whatever my reasons are, they’re better than your reasons for taking my towel.  Unless someone has lost an appendage and you need my towel to make a tourniquet that will save a life.  That is the one exception.  Life-saving tourniquets will be considered.

14.  People that read in the pool – weird?  Or am I weird for thinking they are?  I don’t get it.  Reading – what a fantastic activity.  Your brain is growing, and you’re doing yourself some good.  Going to the  pool – what a fantastic activity.  Your muscles and joints are getting worked, and you’re moving and you’re doing yourself some good.  Reading in the pool – what a strange activity.  Really?  You’re actually going to just stand in 4 feet of water, hold a book out in front of you and read?  And you look at my child strangely because they got one drop of splashed water on your dog-eared copy of “Catcher in the Rye”?  Really?  Actually, I should be more concerned with YOU, because we all know what kind of people read “Catcher in the Rye”.

15.  Don’t try acrobatic performances – especially of things you aren’t good at.  For example, if you and your 13 friends decide to make a human pyramid, and you haven’t really tried it before….. just don’t.  You look silly.  You’re going to hurt other people when you tumble down.  You’re going to hurt yourselves when you tumble down.  You’re going to drown.

16.  Remember that you displace your own volume in the water.  Therefore, if you are 700 pounds, and you are getting into a hot tub that is completely filled with people and the water is already sloshing over the edge, you will in fact not fit.  You will, in fact, send many gallons of water fleeing for their lives, over the edges of the hot tub, and once that’s done, you will make an already full hot tub an extraordinarily uncomfortable one.  Mainly because you are actually touching every single person in the hot tub with one part of your body or another.  So be kind please.


If most or all of these suggestions don’t work for you, you could always just consider spending some quality time in your own pool.

Well, that about covers it.  There are many, many more suggestions, I’m sure, and if you have some to add in the comments, please do so.  Same goes for great pool-related stories.  Share them, and get them off your chest.

If you’ve enjoyed this, feel free to browse my archives tab for other posts.