How To Humiliate People 100 Years After Your Death
The village where we live now, Mougins (pronounced "Moo ZHAN"), is in the extreme southeast of
We've been in Nantes for a few weeks and I really like it. I can't understand the traffic patterns, I get lost every day and nothing anybody says makes any sense, but the summer weather is great and there's lots of good stuff to see within reasonable driving distance. Like this. And this. And this. But there's only so much touring around the kids can stand, and so yesterday instead of visiting castles and Roman ruins, we took the kids to the main public pool in Nantes, called the "Piscine Jules Verne". Piscine is swimming pool in French and Jules Verne was a 19th century author from
The kids are so used to swimming every day in Phoenix they've really missed it. I hesitated to go a public pool because I didn't really know where it was (so we would get lost going there), it's indoors, it's expensive, and public pools kind of creep me out, but of course we eventually do what they want because they're kids and we're parents and that's what happens when they keep asking for something. Boy was I in for a treat.
We arrived at noon, when they open. No business establishment in F
We stood in line, paid our money, and went in to the locker room. It was like a room with a bunch of secret doors that didn't lead anywhere. The entire room seemed like just a bunch of thick yellow and blue melamine from floor to ceiling. Each cramped changing room had one door on each end, and the changing rooms were everywhere, so walking into the locker room was like walking into a maze of doors and walls. I couldn't figure out where I was. I couldn’t tell where anything led. It was very confusing.
Then, when I walked into the changing room (you couldn't get to the pool, which was in some unseeable, unknowable place very far away and very mysterious) I couldn't figure out how to lock the door. Turns out the door lock was by one's FEET. Sam found it. It was this long pole-like structure the same length as the length of the changing room. It had three fat dowels on each end attached to a circular piece of plastic. You had to grab one of the dowels and turn it counter-clockwise and it would partially cover and therefore (b)lock both doors (on each end) at the same time. It was seriously ridiculous. I mean absolutely ludicrous. But it worked.
So we changed into our swim trunks. I put on my very fancy, long polka dot twister swim trunks that make the ladies crazy. Sam was wearing his long Spiderman trunks. We looked tremendous. We found Stasha and the girls in the maze and blindly followed one corridor after another until we found the entrance to the pool. At the end of the maze, when you make it out, they give you a piece of cheese. I'm just kidding.
So I was trying to figure out where to go. There were four or five pools of different shapes, sizes and heights, and they were all connected. And when I say "height", I don't mean "depth", I mean "height". One pool was here, another one was there, connected to it, but was set five or ten feet lower. The next one was the same way. There were big portholes in the side of this one or that one so you could see various people's legs showing up here and there (not as interesting as it might sound). The pools were apparently all supposed to serve different functions (i.e. lap pool, tide pool, waterslide pool, baby pool, etc etc), but everyone was everywhere doing whatever they wanted so it was all the same. Oh, and every pool was a different temperature. Hmmmmmmmmmm, I wonder which one had the most people in it?
I started walking toward one of the pools with Sam when an official-looking man stopped me. I could tell he was saying 'You can't go in the pool', it's "Interdit" (forbidden/prohibited),' but I had no idea why. When the French say "Interdit" it sounds a lot like "On dirty" so I looked down at my trunks thinking, "What, are they dirty? Did I have a very bad accident and not realize it?"
Then the guy proceeded to explain in English, to my absolute horror, that swimming trunks are not allowed. This not a joke. You can't wear swimming trunks at the Piscine Jules Verne in
I could tell that arguing would only make me look like the ugly American, and he wasn't going to change his mind anyway, so I just slumped my shoulders and hung my head. He explained that neither Sam nor I were allowed to get into the pool, which was going to be a big issue for Sam. But then he said, "You can't even stay in here because you're wearing trunks, and other people will see you. We can't have that. So you must leave." Sam was about to cry because the man in charge had just he couldn't swim.
I'd already paid my $87 to get into the pool area, so I was thinking ‘how am I going to get my money back?’ when the guy held up one finger and said "Attendez". I know this means "wait a second", so I continued to stand there. He said"asdpiuqerkjafd" to a minion standing next to him, who promptly left. He must have understood the man. I sure didn’t.
About thirty seconds later the minion came back, holding two of the smallest, tightest, revealingest, mostly oily-bohunk Speedos that have EVER been made. And they're someone else's. Other men's penises have been in these Speedos. There's no way to know when or how often, but oh they've been there. Touching the very spots “I” would soon be touching. If I remember correctly, shortly before I vomited then fainted he said something like, "Put these on and you can stay".
Did I really have a choice? The kids had been crying for two weeks to go to the pool and now we were standing at the water's edge. So I took Sam's hand and we went back into the maze and found another changing room. This time I remembered how to lock the door. You just kick it.
I put Sam's Speedo on him. He was not happy about taking off Spiderman but he knew it was the only way to get into the pool so didn't say much. His suit was a hot little black number that was just a bit too large for him so there was some room between where the legs ended and where his privates began. You know, sort of like the dudes that wear those threadbare, stretched out tighty whities where the legholes have become too big for the legs that get put in them? Once, on a business trip, both my 55 year-old boss and I stayed at the house of a colleague who lived in the country we were visiting. One morning I was walking to the bathroom and my boss was walking back into his own bedroom. He was wearing nothing but a pair of old, yellowing tighty whities and the legs were all stretched out. To see that on a grown man was more than I could handle. That was a bad trip for me. My boss lost his job about four months after that. I've never quite recovered. Anyway, with Sam it was sort of like that, only this Speedo was a lot smaller.
Then I put on mine and walked out. It was kind of a blue color, but not just the boring regular blue that those doped-up, greased-up, hairless champion swimmers always wear. It was a gussied-up version with a little design that had varying shades of blue with daring green and red streaks on it. And it had been worn a LOT, so the fabric on the back wads fraying and had those tiny balls of fabric that form on any old piece of clothing. It was very soft to the touch. It's times like this that one wishes for dea…sorry; I mean acutely realizes that one's legs are similar to those of a fowl, why one never became an underwear model, etc.
So I walked out to swim. Since all the other guys out there were wearing something similar (although I can honestly say that - because they knew this was coming when they left their homes for Piscine Jules Verne, they had prepared and that – therefore – mine was the absolute worst suit in the whole place) and since I'm an adult, I said to myself 'OK I'm going to pretend this is normal and will not show my pain to the world lest I draw attention to it.'
This became difficult as soon as I saw Stasha. Her uproarious laughter and pointed finger drew more attention than I was looking for. I quietly asked her to stop and just turned my back on her. Sam ran off to go down the waterslide as I slinked into the nearest more-than-waist-deep pool, where I elected to remain for virtually the entire time. I did get out at one point, to go down the enormous indoor water slide. When I was standing in line for it Abby stood behind and looked me up and down. She didn’t say anything for what seemed like a long time as she stood there dripping and shivering, holding her hand to her mouth deep in thought. Finally, this: "I don't like that bathing suit. It looks dumb," she said. Great minds think alike, I guess.
By the way, I was also dripping and shivering, which further reduced my chances of looking like an underwear model. Sam, of course, forgot all about Spiderman and was having a great time. I didn't know where he was most of the time because it was a big place. However, several times during the next 90 minutes, which incidentally seemed like maybe twenty - or forty five hundred and twenty - hours, Sam ran by and said stuff like "Hey dad this Speedo isn't bad", then later, "Hey dad I think this Speedo is cool", etc. I think he thought he looked like "Dash" from The Incredibles. I disagreed.
At 2pm we had to leave. I got out of the pool and found Sam and the girls. We all walked back into the maze. I went into a changing room with Sam. I took off my Speedo and was about to put on my clothes when Sam started whining that he couldn't take off his suit. If you know five year-olds you know that voice that says "Dad it's time to drop everything and help me right now. RIGHT NOW." So there I stood, naked and shivering, kneeling on the freezing infested tile trying to undo the knot that had cinched itself in the drawstring during the last 90 minutes. It was cinched really tight and I was really hoping to get it undone quickly because I wasn't wearing any clothes and it was cold and I was in a maze in France and I'd just had to wear a Speedo for 90 minutes. In front of my children. In public. I got the string undone and was pulling the suit off his five year-old body and he looked down at me. "Dad", he said. "Can you buy me a Speedo?"