Babies on Board

Now, I know I said "never again" in regards to the thorny issue of myself and the pool at the gym, but because I NEVER LEARN, I went back there today. And because I apparently have no problem whatsoever with repeating the same story multiple times, I say to you again today: NEVER AGAIN. Because the pool at the gym? Was full of babies. And also: toddlers.

Now, I know this entry will cause a whole barrel load of controversy amongst the parents who read it, so let me just make my usual disclaimer and say that I do not dislike babies. But I was really surprised to see so many of them in the pool this afternoon because:

a) I hadn’t bothered reading the Rules of the Gym, and therefore was under the impression that children weren’t allowed in it.


b) It’s a pool AT A GYM. Where people go to exercise. Not to play "dodge the floating baby" and get dirty looks from parents every time you swim too close to their offspring.

Not, of course, that there was much in the way of exercise going on today (or, indeed, on ANY day that I’ve tried to swim, because this wasn’t a Sunday thing: every time I’ve gone to the gym lately, it’s been more like a creche than an exercise facility). In fact, most of the 5000 people who had dutifully turned up at the pool  (some of whom were all kitted out in ear plugs and bathing caps and everything) were all crammed into the hot tub, unable to swim because THE POOL WAS FILLED WITH BABIES. And toddlers.

The noise level was deafening. This was partly because they’re having the sauna refurbished, of course, but it was mostly because all of the babies were screaming at the tops of their little lungs, managing to achieve that particular pitch that only babies can scream at. You know, that sound that makes your hair stand on end and your head feel like it’s actually going to explode? That’s the sound they were making. Constantly.

There were eight of them in the extra-wide lane, but their numbers had swollen to 11 by the time I left. There were two of them in the "Fast Lane". THE FAST LANE! And they were not swimming "fast", let me tell you – well, they were about five, so they wouldn’t be, would they? In fact, they were not even swimming at all: they were just splashing around crazily, and blocking the lane so that no one else could use it for, you know, swimming. Which is kind of the whole reason we pay money for a GYM subscription.

So, number of children in the pool: 13. (Plus one in the hot tub, which is NOT ALLOWED.)

Number of lanes available for swimming in: 1

Number of minutes it took me to give up and retire to the changing room (Where I was treated to the drama of Little Johnny* locking himself in one of the shower cubicles while his mother stood outside saying "I’m not going to tell you again… Really, I’m not going to tell you again…" so many times that it would have been comical had I not been so distracted by all of the little boys who were standing around staring at me as I got changed) : about ten. I’m actually amazed I lasted that long, but clearly I have a masochistic streak in me that made me curious to see just how bad things could get.

I don’t blame the babies. They were just doing what babies do. No, I blame the parents (God, I wondered when I’d finally be so old and curmudgeonly that I’d get to hear myself say that!) who had allowed their children to take over the entire pool, totally ignoring the signs that tell you to SWIM CLOCKWISE and instead allowing their offspring to float around anti-clockwise (In the "fast lane"!), diagonally, backwards, sideways, and, in fact ALL WAYS, as they played with a selection of floats and inflatable toys. And screamed.

The parents themselves, meanwhile, all just crammed themselves into the jacuzzi (Population: 12), and ignored the fracas around them. I BLAME THEM. And I wouldn’t even mind so much, were it not for the fact that this happens now every single time I try to swim. I use the word "try" advisedly here, because it’s not a huge pool, and it becomes impossible to swim lengths in it when it’s that crammed full of kids playing. If it was a community pool, I would understand and expect it to be like this. But it’s not. It’s a swimming pool at at GYM, so you’d think it wouldn’t be considered too unreasonable for people to expect to be able to swim there. But you’d be wrong, of course.

As I left the changing room, I picked up one of the comments cards which they have dotted around the place for you to make suggestions about improvements to the gym. (My suggestion: maybe consider making it possible for people to exercise occasionally. You know, while they’re at the GYM? That they’re paying quite a lot of money for? Be a novel idea, anyway…) Before I had time to examine it, though, and work out how I would be able to essentially condense this entry into the five lines they allow you, I was disturbed by what sounded like around forty party "tooters" (that has to be a made up word, surely?) being blown by forty hyperactive children. And indeed, as I glanced up in the direction of the noise, a conga line of small children made their way down the stairs from the gym, each enthusiastically blowing on a "tooter".

I swear to God, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

* For those of you who are wondering, by the way, Little Johnny was finally liberated from the shower cubicle, and proceeded to run around the changing room, followed by his harassed mother, who was screaming "KEEP YOU PANTS ON! I WON’T TELL YOU AGAIN!" at the top of her voice at two second intervals. There’s nothing like a relaxing Sunday afternoon swim, is there? No, I mean literally: there is NOTHING LIKE a relaxing Sunday afternoon swim. Not while The Others are on the case, anyway…