My friend woke me up at around 5:30 this morning to swim in a nearby community swimming pool. My estimate is ten minutes by motorbike including the traffic jam. It’s beside the newly built Singaporean retail store, Parkson, a high end department store that sells nothing but luxury good that only the rich and famous of Hanoi will bother shedding thousands of US dollars for.
The construction of the pool is similar to those pools constructed in the 70s in the Philippines, the height of the postmodernity when a debate whether a pool built upside down is a deconstruction of the prevailing theories on modernity. But there is nothing significantly postmodern about the pool. It’s just like any other community pools.
The purpose of this essay is not, however, to critique the problematique of the signs of postmodernity enmeshed in community pools. This has a nobler purpose than that and that’s giving the readers practical tips in surviving and truly enjoying a swim in a community pool.
Since the entrance fee is less than a dollar (10,000 VND), a swimming connoisseur who happens to choose a community swimming pool, this one in Hanoi especially, should not expect anything grand. He can only dream about an Olympic size pool complete with thermostat and depth adjuster. This is not the place for an exhibition of diving somersaults since the deepest part will not drown a five-foot man, and doing so could be dangerous, if not stupid. Also butterflies, breast strokes, backstrokes, and timed freestyle are taboos.
Since each swimmer is only allowed to occupy one-half of a square meter to move around, the only possible swimming stroke is dog style; locomotion is limited to 12.56 cm from point of origin. If the swimming fanatic insists on occupying more space, he will disturb the balance and may cause civil war in the pool, which can be deadly and unhygienic sometimes. Aside from dog-style and all its countless variations, splashing pool water is also allowed only if the fanatic is with his close friends. Doing it in the presence of other stranger connoisseur can jeopardize the safety of other people in the pool.
Eating, urinating, and drinking (unless the water in the pool, needless to say), are not allowed while in the swimming pool. The second one, most often, is breached by some swimmers. Pool management all over the world are finding ways how to curb this illegal activity and are willing to sponsor give the next Nobel just to end this policy breach.
Time of the use of the pool is limited to 45 minutes, or 30 minutes in some more popular pools, depending on the number of people waiting in line to cool down their bodies through swimming. The end of swimming time is either signaled by a whistle, a loud speaker, a fire alarm, or if situation demands a brawny man in swimming trunks with tattoos all over his body who will forcibly pull out someone who’s gone overtime.
And since it is a universally accepted fact that all community pools are mandated by law to have shower rooms, our connoisseur can have a luxury of washing from his body all residues of chlorine, pool water, and urine, if any. Most of these shower rooms are devoid of shower curtains so the world can have a peep of his naked glory as well as him seeing a part of what this world can offer. This procedure should also be done quickly since everyone is also timed.
Drying the body is never a part of the time equation. The management already assumed that since most of the swimmers are wearing cotton and that cotton absorbs moisture then it follows that providing a machine or towels to dry the body will just be an added capital expense.
He will leave the exit of the pool facing an incoming traffic of human just as excited as he was to swim.