Friday, August 8, 2014

The Retreat to Privacy at Poolside

Our shrinking civic life seems to include the non-political aspects of sociability as well.

When I lived my childhood in Miami, the beaches served as the primary swimming venue. We did not learn to swim, however, at the beach. We learned to swim at  county parks and recreation pools.  And in several cities where I have lived the only place most people could swim was at the city or county pool.

Over the years, as my parents became more affluent, we lived in neighborhoods that boasted of pools for the exclusive use of the homeowners. If I remember accurately, my friends and I spent at least part of every summer day at the neighborhood pool. Dozens of kids swarmed all over the grounds, either swimming or enjoying the playground equipment. I never much thought about it before, but I guess the attraction of a neighborhood pool was its convenience and  the escape it provided from swimming with strangers from another part of town. A bit of privacy if you will.

Now I own a home in a neighborhood with a pool. On my days off from work I will spend an hour or so taking in the sun and swimming for a few minutes. I usually make my way down early in the morning before the space gets too crowded and the day gets too hot. Early in the morning I share the pool with some older women swimming in their burqas accompanied with their grand kids. I have made it down to the pool in the afternoon, but the state of affairs becomes much hotter in a number of ways. The afternoon temperatures make even the poolside much too unbearable for this fifty-something year old man. In addition, the handful of neighborhood college girls make their way down to the pool by then, turning up the temperature in a manner of speaking. (I still ponder how to react. At my age is appreciating a college girl stretched out on a chaise lounge an "innocent pleasure of life" thing? Or is it a "creepy old man thing?"

A couple of observations along the way. First, my neighborhood pool never attracts the number of kids that the pool of my childhood. Do kids today have other interests? Do they instead play video games about swimming, manipulating their third level gnome through a gauntlet of swimmers, rafts, and noodles to some confrontation with "the boss"--the lifeguard?

Second, and more to the point of this post, I notice the number of neighbors who have dropped $30,000 or more to put a pool in their backyard. I can stand on my front porch and point  to six neighbors with concrete dug-in pools in their back yard. They seek privacy not only from the strangers that they encounter at a city pool, but also from their closest neighbors.

Its my neighborhood pool on the internet!

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