There are two kinds of people in the world: pool people and beach people.
Memorial Day weekend here in Chicagoland, one could hear the call of marine mammals migrating to their native habitats: "Pool passes or beach passes?" they cried. It was a welcome sound, heralding the arrival of summer.
I grew up in Michigan, which is bordered by four of the five Great Lakes and boasts 11,000 inland lakes and more than 3,200 miles of shoreline. We spent every summer of my childhood playing in those lakes on those beaches. How, then, did I become a pool person?
First, you can trust a pool. You don't have to worry that the bottom will suddenly give way to muck or rocks. There's no sand to get stuck in uncomfortable places, like contact lenses or bathing suits. And you don't have to rub against slimy fish or seaweed. Plus, packing for the beach is like packing for vacation: coolers, chairs, umbrellas, blankets, toys — the list is endless. All you really need for the pool is a towel and some sunscreen.
dead alewives and live, biting flies. That was also the last time we went. Fortunately, the city has made a deal with a couple of landlocked suburbs, so we can go to their pools and they can come to our beaches.
The constant closing of area beaches due to "unacceptable" levels of E. coli is not a big draw for me, either. According to the EPA, Cook County's 55 beaches closed an average of seven times last summer, and that was a good year. To be fair, I can't even count how many times our pool closed due to some toddler's potty accident.
It's not just swimmers who are divided between the pool and beach; it's sunbathers, too. At first blush, you might think they would have a clear preference, but I know sun worshippers of both denominations. Beach buffs come with those funny little chopped-off chairs planted in the sand, while a pool-side tanner will head straight for the chaise lounge. They both worship from spots that offer maximum exposure, devoutly rotating every so often to promote even bronzing. And though neither type of tanner may ever touch one toe in the water, both are passionate about their choice of watering hole.
Through friendships and marriage, I have learned that émigrés from the East Coast are the true fanatics of this watery debate. One summer, we took a trip to my husband's beloved Jersey shore. Ah, the Ocean! (Capital "O".)
"Isn't the boardwalk great?" he asked. Sure, if you like splinters and the smell of tar. "The sand is completely different," he marveled, picking up a handful. Sand is sand. You still have to watch out for cigarette butts and pop tops. Excuse me, soda can tops. "Now those are waves," he exalted, watching as our children emerged choking from the salt water, only to be smacked down again. Like they say, it's a nice place to visit.
We Midwesterners take umbrage to this narrow-minded ocean view. After all, when they called them the Great Lakes, they weren't kidding. These are BIG lakes, true inland seas that form international boundaries. You can't even see across them! We have sand, we have white caps, but according to the sea snobs, Great just isn't good enough.
Long after I became an adult, my parents bought a lake house — not on a Great Lake, but on a pleasant lake in Michigan. Sandy bottomed, with no public access, the lake is big enough for ski boats, but small enough to keep out the riffraff. My kids practically live in the water, which is bathtub warm by mid-June. Even I have been known to swim out to the sandbar now and again. That was until ... the leech incident.
That day, my son had been playing peacefully at the water's edge. During one of many sunscreen pit stops, he looked down and said: "Mom, I've got blood." I followed his glance to an enormously engorged leech attached to his leg. Not wanting to disturb his calm, I swallowed my panic and hit the leech off with a stick. Turns out, that's not the best approach. It took wads of paper towels and four bandages to stanch the bleeding.
On our next visit, when my dad invited me into the lake for a swim, I was somewhat less than enthusiastic. "Come on!" he coaxed.
"I'll pass," I said. "The whole leech thing has me pretty grossed out."
"God invented leeches, too, you know," he said.
"Not my God," I retorted. "My God is the God of indoor plumbing; the God of cell phones and hot tubs. My God is the God of caffeine-free diet beverages."
"The lake is caffeine free," he replied.
Right. I'll stick to swimming pools.
How about you? Pool pass or beach pass? Or perhaps you are one of those sea snobs? Dive in by clicking here or email me at 2KoPeople@gmail.com.
Photo credits: beach thanks to Maltaguy1 via morguefile.com; pool thanks to wipeoutpdr via flickr.com.