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Oldie, 7/11/09: Swim Caps: A Short Story


In the bland little suburb where I grew up, the planners had seen fit to install Olympic-sized swimming pools every 20 blocks or so. As in many such places, they also saw fit to compose a broadsheet's worth of rules for proper conduct. None of them made any sense. One was "No suntan lotions or oils in the water." In today's sunscreen-obsessed culture, that one certainly wouldn't go over very well; I doubt it did even back in the mid-1960s. The lifeguards could be shits when they wanted to be, but most of the time, as long as they had other lifeguards to flirt with, they didn't much care what you did once you got past the Gatekeeper, who checked to see that your pool tag was current and listed in the master database, and that you had an actual swimsuit on (she made you strip off your outer clothing so she could check). She, too, was a shit, but she had no one to flirt with, you see.

One of the rules everyone remembers was (and I am quoting accurately here): "All females must wear swim caps while in the water."

That was fine, up until about 1969 or so. Then, of course, the entire world turned upside down and "our boys" started growing their hair long, like "those hippies."

Immediately, a controversy ensued. If girls (even with very short hair) had to wear swim caps in the water, then long-haired guys should have to, as well. The purpose of the rule, after all, was to prevent long strands of hair from clogging the filters.

I'm sure the Pillars of the Community would have really preferred simply to ban those dope-smokin' war-protestin' hippieboys from even entering the pool enclosure, but that was not to be. In the spirit of fairness, the rule was amended to read "All persons with hair over 3" in length must wear a swim cap while in the water."

I heard tell of one young man who chose to comply with this rule, but he disappeared the next day and was never seen again.

By 1975 or so, there was no longer any swim cap rule at our local pools.

And the persons rejoiced.

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