Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rules of the Pool - Scarsdale NY and São Paulo

Scarsdale Pool Complex. From town website.

So yesterday I went to the club pool with my dad and my boys. It's been a very hot week in São Paulo and it was time to cool off. The twins squirmed during sunscreen application and ran as soon as they could slip away to swan-splat into the pool. The boys, age 7,  are not quiet--I read once that research on twins revealed that they are scientifically proven to be louder than other siblings. I would re-phrase the results of the research to say that my kids scream like banshees. 

While I was sitting there putting on my own sunscreen and trying to pretend the loud kids were not mine, I happened to notice that the one lifeguard chair was empty. No one standing next to it wearing his (and they are all men) "salva-vidas" or lifeguard shirt. Hmmmm. Ah, there he is. He's sitting down next to his buddy in the shade and they are reading something. Not a phone, at least, but reading something. He does not look up as my kids jump on each other and attempt to do judo in the mid-sized pool (there are 3 pools--a children's pool, a mid-sized pool where the kids can stand up, and a deep larger pool). There are approximately 30 other kids jumping, laughing and splashing in this pool. No sign of action from the pool guy. Two kids, approximately 5 years old run by in a game of tag. No action. A chicken fight begins. No action. Hunh. 

Finally, at the point I have taken out my handy cell phone to photograph, the lifeguard seems to have noted my interest in his lack of interest. He stands up and moseys over to the lifeguard chair where he leans on the footrest and continues to read. 

Empty lifeguard chair. Not empty pool.

I can't help it. I have to compare with a US pool complex experience. And my chosen one is Scarsdale, New York, which is as completely unfair as it gets. Hey, it's my blog, I get to bias it at will. 

Scarsdale has a population of around 17,000 people.   It is the richest town in the US (per capita median income) and is, in a word, beautiful. And it has a great pool complex for those hot summer days--something like 5 pools (maybe 4, can't remember exactly), green grass, playgrounds, sand volleyball court, etc. It is also policed to within an inch of anyone's life.

In Scarsdale, there is at least one lifeguard per pool. This lifeguard never takes his/her eyes off the pool and is constantly scanning. Every 10-15 minutes (again, I can't remember, but it is precise), a new lifeguard comes on duty, standing at the base of the first pool's lifeguard stand. The "relieved" lifeguard then runs (yes, RUNS) to the next lifeguard stand, stands there for a minute or two and so on and so on. It is serious stuff. There are no swimmers running on the pool deck, there is no jumping on your friend (certainly never on their backs), and there are so many other rules, I have clearly blacked them out in my mind. The result is an organized, well-kept and well-run pool where my kids would certainly be banned for life. 

What's the deal? Well, as my dad says, Scarsdale is full of lawyers. No, that's a bit of a joke but certainly a lot of it has to do with the likelihood that some kid will get hurt some day and there will be suing of everyone and everything. On the other side (my club), I find it likely that someone could be fully underwater for 10 minutes in our club pool with no one noticing. And probably no one suing. Swim at your own risk. 

Which do I prefer? Somewhere in the middle, thank you. I know the US to be lawsuit happy. I know Brazil to be hopeless about its justice system. Suing someone takes years and you're likely to lose if your opponent is richer or has better friends than you do. Mostly I prefer that the lifeguard does exactly what his name suggests. Save lives.


Do I get points off for a digression if it is after the blog post of the day? Is it actually a digression if I have already made my point of the day? I am going to risk it. When I visited one of my besties in Scarsdale three years ago, we took her goldendoodle (half golden, half poodle) for a walk around the neighborhood. We met up with a neighbor who was walking her woodle (wheaton terrier with poodle--give me credit, I did not laugh but it sounds like a Dr. Seuss book, no?). They talked briefly about the issue at the pool that the young lifeguards (many high school students) were overhearing women talk about "50 Shades of Gray", the book. As of three years ago, that book had not made it to Brazil and I had no idea what they were talking about. Here is how that bit of conversation went:

Me: "What's 50 Shades of Gray?"

Neighbor (read in NY accent): "What? Are you from Mars?"

Me: "Brazil, actually."

Neighbor: "Well, that explains it."

I love New York.

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