A Lesson in Diplomacy.

image Here’s what I did Tuesday. It was way better than my crappy Monday.

I had oatmeal and caught a bus to University of Washington (Left is the IMA).

I swam with Aaron in the IMA pool, which is managed by idiots, and which is currently set up in such a way that accidents are imminent. Luckily they haven’t had any major incidents yet, but it’s bound to happen.

Aaron could see the wall because there are no black lines on the bottom and wall is completely white, so he got out to ask if he could put an orange cone on the bottom of the pool. It was such a reasonable request, that I would have probably just done it without asking. There was even an orange cone sitting on the side of the pool for no apparent reason. Aaron’s more diplomatic than me, however, and he went to the office to ask while I continued to warm up. After I had done about 300 yards waiting for Aaron to get back with his cone I gave up and went to see what was taking so long.

The pool manager was responding with all the rehearsed bureaucratic lines he knew (I think his knowledge in this field far surpasses his knowledge in anything else related to his job).

“Well, I’ll have to ask Maintenance about the cone, but in the mean time you’ll just have to be careful.” “We’ve been swimming like this since the 60’s and nobody’s been hurt” (yeah right). “This setup was good enough for the good will games.” (The good will games were held next door in the Pavilion Pool where the varsity team trains and races. That pool is also quite small, but it has stands and six lanes.) “We’ve always done it like this.” (actually, they’ve always swam double lanes in the same direction as the six black lines on the bottom of the pool – a setup that is already lacking in intelligence – but the double lanes with crooked lane lines going perpendicular-ish to the black lines is definitely new.)

The manager then tried to explain to Aaron that the IMA is a place for inexperienced swimmers to “recreate” and not for athletes to train. “Just imagine a single lane with somebody doing side stroke while you swim over the top of them – that’s sure to cause collisions”. (I’m going to skip the obvious improbability of a side stroke swimmer being in the fast lane while there are actually fast swimmers)

Aaron started to say something to the effect of “At least with single lanes people can stay near the lane line and each lane will be half as crowded.” But I cut him off and said, “No Aaron, he’s right. The public pools in America are simply asking for law suits because they all seem to think that single lanes are safer. It actually turns out that the UW is the among less than a percent of pools that have figured it out and play it safe with double wides.” The pool manager completely missed my sarcasm and seemed for a split second to be happy somebody was on his side for a change, so I explained that I was being both condescending and sarcastic (I admit this is not the best way to start a discussion), and that my point was that straying from the norm is not safer, it confuses people not used to that particular pool, makes the lanes more crowded, and provides fewer options for swimmers of various ability levels.

That’s when he told me to talk to some other Idiot Manager Guy (IMG), who I told that the double lanes were not my main concern, that it was the perpendicular to normal flow that I thought was most dangerous, and furthermore, if they were going to change the lane lines, they could at least make them straight (one of the lane lines goes about 4 feet diagonally, so the two lanes it separates both go from 8 ft at one end to 12 ft at the other).

“Just change the lane lines back to normal when classes aren’t being held”

“That would be a great deal of work”

“It would take five minutes”

“No actually…”

“No really, I could do it by myself in five minutes, do you have a watch?”

“This is ridiculous”

“No, this is the most dangerous pool setup I have ever witnessed and you are just asking for somebody to get hurt.”

“Leave. Don’t swim here. If you don’t think it’s safe, then you can leave.”

“I’m not leaving, I’m just giving you warning so that you have the opportunity to change something before somebody gets hurt, whether that’s me or somebody else, if it happens it falls on you.”

“No, it won’t be my fault if you choose to stay here”

“It kinda is your responsibility to maintain a safe environment”

He then got frustrated and decided to show his authority to somebody else. He turned to Carrie, who was on the deck showing an aquatic instructor something important.

IMG: “You need to get off the pool deck with you street clothes.”

Carrie: “She’s with me, I’m showing her something”

IMG: “Carrie, will you please escort this woman off the pool deck”

Carrie: “Why?”

IMG: (I’m paraphrasing here because I don’t remember how the rest went and I decided to get in the water anyway.) “Because I can’t seem to win any arguments today and I want to feel powerful and less like the idiot that I am.”

Aaron never did get his orange cone, and he continued to miss walls for the next 3000 yards before we got out.

He went to have some cute sorority girl read to him while I ran, taught a spin class (it went well, I had to tell stories because apparently I wasn’t talking enough. Hopefully they don’t find out about this blog and I can just repeat stories that I write.), then I ran again, then I went to PT, then I ate a GIGANTIC burrito and then I did a Yoga class and went home. It was an awesome day.

Oh yeah, and I learned nothing from my lesson in diplomacy. I’m still swimming at the IMA and still colliding with people who are swimming at various degrees of not-straight which are different from my own.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

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  1. I got lost when Carrie was talking. Then I got back into it when you said something about a sorority girl and then I was jealous about the burrito cause I’m starving. It’s time for a graveyard video post.

  2. Ok, Carrie just emailed me and also said this post is “It’s waaaaaay toooooooo looooong.” She also corrected a typo and told me that it wasn’t IMG that told her to leave it was the pool manager, but if you’ve seen the movie Radio Flyer you know that “history is in the mind of the teller, the truth is in the telling.”

  3. LOL.. so perfect Ben. I walked by the pool on Monday and saw the retarded setup. I stared for like 5 minutes trying to figure out their train of thought. They went from bad to worse. Now the whole swim lane is deep so you cant stand for a second between sets, the diving board is completely useless since it is over the middle of the swim lanes, and the middle lane is shaped like a football somehow. Its like 3 lanes in the middle. And they have a square of useless 3-4 foot deep water for all the elementary kids that go to the IMA to play in… or maybe thats for the college kids that are afraid of the “Deep End”.

  4. Ben (and Aaron), I don’t discount your argument here, clearly these people are on a power trip….. BUT you should follow it up with filing a complaint again ADA (american’s with disabilities Act), that the pool would not allow “reasonable accomodations, as required by law. You might actually make progress against this guy and their set up because reasonable accomodation is federal law. I would also send the IMA and university a letter letting with a summary of the situation (about not allowing the cone, not the lane argument) and statement of filing a federal complaint.

  5. so ben, why are you swimming at this pool, when there are lots of better options in the city?

    I have run into this problem a few times. Both actually were in San Francisco. They also run their city pools with double wides, it is confounding!

    For alcatraz I went to a pool right near my home stay, paid my money went in to find the double wide lanes. Two of them, one for fast one for slow (Needless to say I was by far the fastest person in the water). I swam one lap and was stopped by the lifeguard who told me that in the fast lane, they swim clockwise!?!?!?! The other lane swims normal counter, but the lane I was in swims clockwise. Apparently they were trying to make some kind of a cool vortex in the pool? I was pissed and started ranting about, were we in England or something (where along with AUS and NZL they do swim that direction). I was just so confused that a pool in America could operate like that. I think it has something to do with the high asian populations? Remember how weird the pools in Korea were too? To boot, I think the pool was some weird distance like 28m or something.

    Seems like it shouldn’t be that hard to find a 25yd or m pool in America with normal lane lines, right? I mean we are the best swimming country in the world?

    Go swim somewhere else.

  6. but kelly, it always works so well for you, like that time you were buying shirts and tried to give the girl $3, or that time at LA when you didn’t have a number on your number (ha!), or that time you shared your office with The Intern.

    anyway i have heard of this simultaneous clockwise and counterclockwise swimming, but only in pools where everyone is good. supposedly they do it in boulder during “pro practice” (which, does that truly exist and who goes and do they all really call it that?) and each lane (single-wide, mind you) rotates a different way, so you don’t whack someone in the next lane over. i am dizzy with the visualization but i guess it works.

  7. Being that I was an “eye” witness to this account of the story I would have to say that this explanation of the story is almost perfectly accurate. Somehow they don’t understand at the IMA that if you spend a few minutes or a few hundred dollars on a good pool you will save the $1 million lawsuit later when a 3/4 blind kid smashes his head into the white pool wall. Also, here are some good answers to the pool mans comments.

    Pool Man: “We’ve never had any injuries in the past”
    Response: The next day when we were swimming again Ben collided head on with another swimmer. The other girl was like 4’11” and 95lbs. Her brain must have been bouncing back an forth for hours after. She said “I’m ok” but I don’t know if I believe it because she kept getting out of of the pool and sitting on the edge after that. As for Ben, he got his bell rung but kept on swimming.

    Now I know this is not a great counter to the pool man’s statement about never having incidents in the past because this is the present but I would bet at least a few dollars that incidents like these have occured in the past 40yrs of the pool’s existance.

    Pool Man: “She needs to leave the deck. There are no street clothes allowed here period”
    Response: Pool Man was definitely wearing much shaggier clothes than the new aquatics instructor he was saying this to. Also, if he was doing his job correctly when he arrived in the morning he would have already went out on the deck multiple times to make sure the area is safe, the water is the right temperature and that his lifeguards are not asleep. If he did his job in the morning than he would be breaking his own rule. Maybe he’s just not doing his job.

    Pool Man: “They had the goodwill games here”
    Response: That may be the most rediculous comment of them all. The Goodwill Games could never and would never be held there. The pool doesn’t even have blocks which is one requirement. Backstroke flags? None of those either. In fact, the way the black lines are oriented would mean they would be diving in a 5ft deep area at the most which is definitely against rules. Even if he was meaning we had the Goodwill games at UW, that’s like saying just because the Olympic swim meet was held in Atlanta (1996) that all pools in atlanta are also certified to hold the Olympics.

    Pool Man: “If your too fast to swim in this pool you shouldn’t swim here”
    Response: Nope, you broke another equal rights law. All students and faculty at UW have an equal right to swim in the pool and “inclusion” is mandatory.

    CONCLUSION: Pool man needs to read two documents;
    1. Pool Safety Handbook
    2. The Equal Rights Portion of the Consitution and ADA Ammendments

  8. The set-up is temporary. Why don’t you ask questions in a polite way, maybe you’ll get the response you’re looking for.

  9. I like the emoticon for an author name…

    “Why don’t you ask questions in a polite way?”

    That’s kind of the point of the post title “A Lesson in Diplomacy”. My lesson was that as much fun as I had arguing with the pool staff, I probably could have had a better response by being polite.

    Then again, Aaron tried being polite, and a week later, there is still no orange cone on the bottom of the pool (which as my sister pointed out, is a valid basis for filing a complaint with the ADA). So my manners were one problem with this situation, but my feeling is the underlying problem is management staff that are too stubborn to listen to their patrons, and too lazy to make small changes, even when it is in the interest of pool safety.

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