Springing Back

By Jim McCloskey

The news media have landed a few blows to watershaping’s chin in recent weeks.

First there were stories about the fact that peeing in swimming pools is a really bad thing, basically because you shouldn’t breathe the gas that rises from the water as urine reacts with sanitizers.

We all know that it’s impolite to relieve yourself in a pool, but as someone who spent summer after summer, day after day as a very small child in an indoor public swimming pool populated by hundreds of other kids of approximately my age, the experience is survivable.  The thought makes me twitch a bit in retrospect, but I am otherwise unruffled.

Then came a recent video report about how disgusting the water is in hot tubs and spas – more off-gassing of urine byproducts, more fecal matter, more of a whole list of unsavory slime made more unacceptable by the fact that the water is typically germ-sustainingly warm and breathing faces tend to hover close to the water’s surface for extended periods.

Again, I have been a regular spa user for all of my adult life, and as I have discussed in the past, I tend to soak and stretch out for long intervals while seeking to ease the pains in my creaky shoulders, neck and lower back.  I doubtless have shed many odious skin cells in my pursuit of this happiness, but I have lived to tell the tale.

(Although I haven’t seen one yet in this rash of negative reporting, it wouldn’t surprise me if there had also been coverage of the hazards of playing in public fountains and splash pads.)

As I see it, these stories are all part of a larger, seasonal puzzle.  In one form or another, they cycle through the media in springtime and, truth be told, I’m happy to see them.  Everyone who swims in a pool, soaks in a spa or plays in an interactive fountain should know better than to drink the water, for example, and it can’t hurt to remind everyone that peeing in the pool is far from courteous.

I am, however, entirely undaunted:  Here’s to a nice, long summer spent in and around water!

***

I’ve been a movie buff for a long while, stretching back to the way-pre-cable days when the only programming most local television stations could afford to air was old movies, most of them tending toward the B side of the quality coin.

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, there were always movies on the tube.  No-budget channels 5, 9, 11 and 13 competed for attention by running horror/science fiction titles late at night and somewhat better fare in the afternoons and evenings – although I recall seeing my share of forgettable westerns and war movies by daylight and strangely entertaining gladiator flicks early in the evening.

I never stopped watching and have by now seen thousands of films ranging from the truly great to the incredibly wretched.  That’s why the video linked below caught my eye:  It’s a compendium of clips from movies – some great ones included – in which swimming pools feature prominently.

After you watch the video (click here), scroll down and take a look at the list of films from which the snippets were extracted.  Even though there were many more candidates I could think of for inclusion, I figure that lengthening the video to make it more comprehensive wouldn’t have been the best idea.

As offered, the compilation shows how deeply swimming pools are imprinted on our cultural psyche.  But it leaves me with a chicken/egg question:  Is Hollywood so involved with pools because films are a mirror of popular culture, or are pools so important because Hollywood made us think of them as something special?

I don’t have an answer for that question and probably never will, but here’s a thought:  If the movie business had taken root in Chicago or Cleveland or St. Louis instead of Los Angeles, would pools so often be part of the picture?

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