🌊 pee in the pool


The cluster we live in doesn’t have its swimming pool yet. We were promised ours would be finished in November 2018, but it got delayed by four months. And now we’re here, in June-almost-July, and the pool is still half-built.

We don’t complain—my husband and I—because we’re lucky to be getting a pool at all. The neighbors might, but we wouldn’t know because we almost never talk to them.

To solve this no-pool problem, we go to the cluster next door. The cluster next door has two-story houses, most of which are still empty, and its pool is open everyday from morning until six pm, when satpam promptly arrive to kick everyone out. Kids ride their bikes around the streets, unaccompanied by adults, and we wave at them as we pass by.

I didn’t grow up with pools, which is funny because I lived in suburban America and isn’t that what people expect? Pools and barbecues and steaks and suntans? My friends had their pools and star-spangled banners. We didn’t have either. There was a community pool which we had to drive fifteen minutes to get to, and there was also a pool at the Woodbridge Sports Center, which we had to drive thirty minutes to get to. That was the best we could get.

In Texas things became a little easier because the cluster we lived in back then already had its pool—had two, in fact. The larger one was never locked and there were no security guards to chase you out at six PM, so no one would stop you from going for a late-night, early-morning swim.

I went there once while running away from home for the second or third time. My hair kept getting into my face and I had to spit it out and drag it off my cheeks, but as I dipped my toes and eventually my calves into the neon water I forgot about all that and instead took time to appreciate the smell, the cool air, and the solitude.

The scent of a clean pool—that sharp, almost-clinical smell—reportedly only arises when people have peed in it. You can measure the amount of pee in a pool because as humans, we tend to consume a lot of artificial sweeteners in our daily life. These sweeteners (one is acesulfame potassium, or Ace-K) pass through our digestive system mostly unchanged, and a Canadian scientist reasoned that you could calculate the pee-to-pool water ratio by measuring the presence of Ace-K in two local pools.

From her study, she found that a 220,000 gallon commercial-size swimming pool would contain about 20 gallons of urine; a residential pool would contain about 2. (Two gallons is about seven-and-a-half liters, metric friends). Can you imagine? A hundredth of a percent of pee in the pools you visit every now and then.

We’re inclined to fear urine, the same way we fear most bodily emissions. It makes sense because urine is a waste product; if you leave it for too long in the toilet without flushing it starts smelling awful. On top of that, urine that comes into contact with the chlorine in pool water creates potentially toxic compounds. Think chloramines, which give off that familiar and well-loved pool smell. Think nitrosamines, which are said to cause cancer. Think cyanogen chlorine, supposedly classified as a chemical warfare agent.

But does that make us love the pool any less? We still splash around and accidentally drink some of it and the smell stays, forever, pungent in our memory. We, ourselves, still pee in the pool, and in doing so, contribute to a new generation’s poolside memories.

Even on the brightest days, weird stuff lurks in your periphery, follows you around. Does that make the day less beautiful? Does that make it less tragic? Does that make anything less brilliant?

Probably not.

Notes: You can always listen to this instead if you prefer by following Indoor Picnic on Spotify. Thank you so much for reading, for listening, for supporting in every way. I love you!