This week I bumped into two separate stories about swimming in public pools. Both made me feel sick about it. One was an hilariously disgusting piece created by The Onion, America’s satiric news media outlet. Click through to make yourself queasy if you dare.
I laughed out loud reading that piece. But then I stumbled on a link from the Chicago Athlete Newsletter that featured a Chicago Tribune story about how swimming in lakes and public pools really can make you sick. That made me genuinely nervous.
The Tribune story concludes with this dandy bit of advice: “Swimming is a really great activity,” said Robinson. “No matter where (you are) swimming, try not to swallow the water.”
Oh, that’s wonderful. As, if…
Now, I try not to swallow any water while swimming in open water such as lakes. But the mere act of swimming in an open lake with other swimmers flailing around you guarantees that you’ll swallow at least some water during 15-30 minutes in the water.
At public pools, especially general public pools, the set-aside period for lap swimming isn’t even a guarantee that you’ll not gulp some water.
But what both these articles say is grotesque and simple: Basically we’re all licking the asses of everyone else who swims in the water. It is unlikely many people shower before they enter the pool. Those who do probably do not really soap up. So all those poopy, hairy-assed dingle-berries hanging around shady-ass buttholes are an incredibly gnarly source of all kinds of germs that can enter your system through your mouth, eyes and ears.
I mean, holy shit.
Leave it to The Onion
The Onion put it better: “Visibly alarmed CDC personnel explained that they received a disturbing report last week of a municipal park in Astoria, NY that contained what they described as “an in-ground reservoir filled with approximately 40,000 gallons of tepid water mixed with human sweat, body hair, bacteria, and mucus.” The officials stated that further investigation revealed dozens of similar cases in the surrounding area, touching off fears of a widespread epidemic.”
Still, most of us have swum in public pools all our lives. Occasionally we might get Swimmer’s Ear or an eye infection. But truly, we’re probably actually enhancing our immunity by immersing ourselves in all that germ-infested water. I’m beginning to believe that swimmers such as Michael Phelps are nothing more than overgrown nematodes that have sprung arms and legs. It’s happened before in evolution. Why not again?
Dirt alone won’t kill us. I recall the day I came into the living to find my year-old son with a funny look on his face and a ring of dirty around his mouth. He’d dug his hands into the soil of a living room plant and shoved it in his mouth. I laughed, scooped him up and cleaned out his throat. He suffered no ill effects.
But I haven’t always been so lucky with infections and such. I spent one whole summer fighting an infection known as c-Diff brought on by a cat bite that led to cellulitis that led to antibiotics that led to a gut compromised by the death of my good gut bacteria.
All I did that summer (two years ago) was crap a lot and pray that my gut would someday heal. But I still swam in Lake Zurich that summer but did not podium in the Sprint Triathlon.
So despite all the satire and the weird news about public pools that is real, I’ll not stop swimming in them or enjoying the occasional spin in a lake. We don’t live in a void in this world. The Onion tries to tell us that every day. We just need to listen.