When I took my boys to the indoor swimming pool in our town in Poland, I saw this notice emblazoned above the cashier.
From this sign, even us foreign-types could understand that boxer-type bathing suits would not be permitted at this facility. A bespectacled woman behind a pentagon-shaped glass booth, who had just removed the handwritten cardboard “Przerwa” (“Break”) sign and flopped down into her chair, overtly refused eye contact with my sons and I. Head down, she muttered the hourly rate and waved her limp wrist – throwing her hand like a frisbee – towards the time schedule on the opposite wall.
I stared at the large schedule for a second or 3, uttered one of those human sounds that denotes a limited form of comprehension, and thanked her for the robust information. Fully aware that my gym bag held 2 ‘murican-style bathing trunks that went gangsterishly past the knee, I bent down a bit and delicately inquired about the swimsuit mandate in my best Polish accent. This woman, who appeared to me as a sort of unapologetic Polish pool-bouncer, promoted her already-overpowering blue eyeshadow when she rolled her eyes theatrically.
“Yes,” she stated firmly in Polish. “They are required to wear speedos.”
On this particular afternoon, more than one unhappy woman sat behind the glass pentagon. One by one they began to lift their heads to the irritated tone of their colleague, and I quickly realized I was outnumbered. Regardless, I considered myself sufficiently annoying, and thus mustered the courage to inquire:
“May I ask why they have to wear speedos?”
Her tone when from cross to downright ‘duh,’ when she said:
“It’s for hygienic reasons.”
Before I could even begin to assemble enough Polish to inquire about the sanitary benefits of brief swimwear, her tone rose to a tenured condescension and she added:
“It’s for aesthetic reasons too.”
The woman pushed her glasses back and got huffy now:
“Yes. Anyway, these are the rules. They have to wear swim caps too. You can buy everything over there (right hand tossed). They can’t swim without them. Madame, do you want to buy tickets now to swim…or not?”
As I had no decent argument against the aesthetics of the speedo itself, I merely accepted the fact that Poles take their kielbasi seriously.
Smiling, I paid for a time slot, and proceeded to purchase some teensy speedo-type swimwear for the boys at the pool shop. The woman working behind that counter was equally unenthusiastic when I asked for suggestions. As a novice speedo-buyer, I figured I could use all the help I could get. I mean, should you be able to make out all the jewels at a glance, or should the speedo be roomy and allow sufficient space for everything to move – or in this case – float around? Did their stuff usually float around in the American boxer types? Doesn’t that net keep everything contained and guarded against jellyfish? Selecting speedos was taxing. I never had to consider such issues before.
Minutes later as we entered the pool area and waded through the heavily chlorinated air, we saw the senior swim lessons underway. I imagined I was attending some wonderfully indiscriminate and remarkably non-competitive Olympic tryouts. It helped.