Sunday, January 25, 2009


It was freezing in the locker room at the indoor swim center on Wednesday night. I was there with my four year old, who has finally started to like his swimming lessons because he wants to swim like Qi Gonn and Obi Wan swim in The Phantom Menace. I don't think that the Jedis yell "cannonball!" while they jump into their mothers' arms from the side of the pool, but even Jedis have to start somewhere.

When you walk into the swim center on a freezing evening in January, you're thinking only about why someone didn't force you to put down the crack pipe before you even thought about putting on a damn bathing suit and getting into a pool. Then it's a little warmer in the vestibule, and you think it might just be bearable. As you sign in in the front lobby, your shoulders unclench a little more. You walk into the locker room, and it feels quite comfortable, even balmy right near the sauna. Then you enter the glass enclosed natatorium, and it's a tropical haven of rest. The swim lessons take place in the "leisure pool", which is heated to about 80 degrees or so. Orchids would flourish in there. You spend 30 minutes or so in the lovely warm water, helping your four year old paddle with a flotation device under his arms, then catching him as he jumps, then bribing him with potato chips if he'll try to float on his back. Then the class ends, and the gradual entry into the humid warmth of the natatorium is reversed. First of all, despite the signs EVERYWHERE imploring people to PLEASE, for GOD'S SAKE, come into the pool area through the locker room and not through the emergency doors, because anyone walking past those emergency doors in a wet swimsuit will be assaulted with a blast of frigid air, someone always comes clomping through the emergency doors just as we're walking past them in wet swimsuits and damp towels. Then, the locker room that seemed pretty toasty when you were entering it from the cool lobby which you'd entered from the freezing cold parking lot is suddenly not so delightfully cozy anymore. It's like a walk-in at a slaughterhouse. We shower, and start to feel our extremities again, although the four year old's lips have turned bluish purple. Wrapped in towels, we find our locker so that we can get some damn clothes on.

Here's where it gets funny. Something you should know about me is that I'm RIDICULOUSLY modest. (Shocking, right?) I'm totally fine in a bathing suit, and in fact, I spend a good 30% of the summer dressed in little else. But naked in public is out of the question. Out, I tell you. And the women's locker room at an indoor pool totally counts as "in public". So getting out of the wet swimsuit and back into my clothes always presents a challenge. On Mondays, it's not so bad, since there aren't many other things going on at the pool and the locker room is relatively quiet. On Wednesdays, however, there are Masters' Swimming classes and practice for high school teams. Meaning that the locker room is FILLED with people when the 4yo and I are ready to change.

The first order of business is to get 4yo dressed and warm, so I have a few minutes, surrounded by chattering teenagers and unabashedly jaybird-naked older ladies, to remain securely wrapped in my towel. Maybe they'll get dressed quickly and get the hell out! And maybe monkeys will fly out of my (decently covered) ass! These people are in NO hurry WHATSOEVER, and I can't just stand here. I'm near hypothermia. So I resort to The Procedure.

The Procedure is performed as follows:

1. Re-wrap the towel, ensuring that it is firmly fastened, but not so tight that mobility is restricted.

2. Take off the bathing suit. This is a Procedure within a Procedure. You must first take the straps off your shoulders. Then, ease the suit downward so that it's entirely below the towel. Checking the towel once again, you then slip the suit off altogether. Now, you're dressed in just a towel. Check the towel again.

3. Put on underpants and pants (underneath the towel, of course). This part's pretty easy.

4. Slip a bra on OVER the towel. When you're sure that you're covered, you can allow the towel to drop a bit so that the bra can be fastened.

5. Put on your shirt. You're dressed and no one has seen a thing!

The Procedure is adjusted as needed. Key to the effectiveness of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is the ability to recognize areas for improvement, and to incorporate those improvements in revisions. I realized on Wednesday night that if you wear a zipper hoodie, of which there is no shortage in my dresser, Steps 4 and 5 are noticeably easier. Thus, these steps will be updated in SOP Version 4.1.2. I will alert all readers when revisions are approved and finalized. Meanwhile, Version 4.1.1. will serve you adequately should you find yourself cold, damp and nearly naked in a wide open locker room. You're welcome.


christina said...

hah! this is hilarious! while i don't mind being naked in front of other people [although this has taken a long time to be able to do] i hate running into people i know who are naked. one day at the y i showered like i was being chased b/c i knew someone who was probably going to be in the locker room in a few minutes. ugh!

Lisa said...

Your procedure is very useful. I'm glad to know you'll be working on updates to the SOP.

I'm wondering if you're missing work just a little?

P.S. I take my clothes into a bathroom stall to change because I would hate for someone to see me naked.

Freida Bee said...

I bring my bag to a shower stall and rinse off and get dressed in the semi-secluded alcove between shower and public view. I'm just too lazy for the towel trick, but I haven't tried this with a four year old. Surely that would add to the difficulty level of my technique. In the summer, I wear women's suit with men's trunks.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Too funny. I can imagine your discomfort as you wait for those people to clear out. Good luck getting dressed next time!

enc said...

CDP, you have mastered the Surf Change. This is how people change into their street clothes after a surf session. This procedure is done on the street, beside one's car. Much worse than in a locker room, eh?

(I've done many Surf Changes.)

MichaƩle said...

Hee hee! This brings back memories of when I was a gym rat and from 8 to 10, Monday through Friday, I was at the gym, working out my 13-percent-body-fat physique. Oh the days. I was so skinny and in shape and STILL horrified at some of the ladies, the old ones (you know, the ones over 40!) who walked around with their flabby bods all over the locker room like it was such as normal thing! Naked is not normal, IMHO, says the wife who after 18 years STILL likes it with the lights off.

CDP said...

Christina--I just KNOW I'm going to run into someone I know when I'm trying to change at the pool. Maybe I'll just drive home in the bathing suit if that happens.

Lisa--that's crazy talk!

Frieda--I'm thinking of bringing one of those little nylon collapsible tents. I'll let you know how that works out.

Dr. Monkey--I'm thinking that maybe I need to act crazy to scare some of these people out of MY locker area.

ENC--I've seen that! I lived at the beach and saw the surfers changing behind their cars. I was lucky; I lived within biking distance so I just put my tshirt back on and rode my bike home.

Michaele--don't you think that there's a REASON why God created cotton? Naked is for the shower. Sheesh.

FranIAm said...

Despite your modesty- this act of physical challenge needs its own you tube, please make one!!

You can black out your eyes or something, ok?

3carnations said...

My 4 year old's swim class is without parent participation, so I don't have to get changed, but I am also ridiculously modest. I mastered the ability to change clothes without ever being naked in the junior high locker room.

Incidentally, the place my son has swim class has a family locker room that has little "rooms" closed by a shower curtain where you can change yourself and your family with privacy. Yay!

Matty Boy said...

I don't have anything germane to add, but my word verification is "sestive", which I just couldn't let pass by. A cross between "siesta" and "festive"? Sounds wonderful.

Stephanie said...

Ha! I cannot tell you how many times I've performed a similar procedure. For a few years, I performed alongside my husband -- the lockerrooms are male-heavy, so I was forced to really perfect the "change clothes while never actually disrobing" thang.

CDP said...

Fran--you're quite mad.

3carnations--we have them, too, but no shower...just changing room with toilet and sink.

Matty--excellent word!

Stephanie--holy cannoli...if this was a mixed locker room, I'd totally have to break out the collapsible tent.

3carnations said...

Mixed locker rooms? Oh man. No. Way.

Sauntering Soul said...

I'm very modest too. I haven't been to the gym in, uhm, a while, but when I've gone I always shower, get out and grab my clothes, return to the shower and dress in there.

dguzman said...

Um--isn't there a bathroom stall in there somewhere!? That's where I always change when I (used to) go to the gym. I will NOT even be seen in undies (boxer shorts, actually) and bra, not in public.

Still--I'm memorizing 4.1.1. Let me know when the update is done! And your commitment to process improvement is impressive, young Skywalker.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why I come here!

pistols at dawn said...

When I was a kid, we used to belong to the YMCA, where I learned that old men really love engaging you in conversation while reclining in a position where you can check out their freshly-talcumed, withered sac.

And it was about then that I learned that I never, ever wanted to go to the Y or the pool ever again.

WendyB said...

I don't have qualms about being naked in the locker room, but it only applies when I'm using a hotel gym anyway. I never use the locker room at my local gym -- it's SO disgusting!

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