I love a swimming pool but since owning a home with a pool is little more than a fantasy for me, the public pool is the answer. I didn’t have a pool growing up, and so as a child, I frequented the town pool, grumbling with all the other children as I heaved my body out of the water for adult swim, and shrieking with joy after the interminable hour was over and we were allowed back in. The snack bar at the town pool, staffed by tan teenagers, gave me a taste for Fun-Dip (stick only, please) and Kraft macaroni and cheese, nuked in the microwave and served out of a paper bowl. The pool in my town cost some nominal fee and was a hearty and welcome upgrade from the sprinkler or a Slip n’Slide. As with most things in childhood, I did not fully appreciate the pool for what it was, but it cemented my insatiable desire for a swimming pool, and fuels my summer quest, which is to get in a pool at every opportunity I can, for as cheaply as possible.
When I moved to Brooklyn, the McCarren Park Pool was empty, serving as the site for outdoor concerts by bands I didn’t listen to. But in 2012, the pool opened again to the general public. How nice it was to have a big-ass swimming pool within walking distance from my apartment. As is standard at all public pools in New York, you have to leave your phone in the locker room and can only bring a beach towel, a book, sunscreen, and a bottle of water, thereby forcing you to effectively do as close to “nothing” for the duration of the time that you’re there.
Sinking into the shallow end and posting up against the wall, I usually blow through a book in one session, pausing occasionally to do a slow and clumsy breaststroke to one end and then swimming along the bottom like the world’s most inept mermaid on the way back. The teens and children that populate the pool splash. There’s a pleasing sense of community at the public pool in that it truly feels inclusive. The barrier for entry is so low: all you need is a bathing suit, a combination lock, and the temerity required to stand on line under a beating noonday sun at summer’s height. Of all the things in this city worth waiting for, the pool is at the top of the list.