Having spent nearly ten months in France, it's become easy to feel like we really understand the country and how things work. On Saturday, however, we had an experience that reminded us how green we really are. In many ways, this beautiful country is just as enigmatic to us as ever--and probably always will be.
Yesterday the weather was beautiful but hot--a perfect day for swimming. Much to our daughters' delight, we promised them a trip to the pool. I'd done some research and discovered a place that had just opened on the banks of the Rhone, overlooking the city center. A couple bus rides and a metro later, we discovered a gorgeous pool with crystal clear water--but nobody in it. A passerby saw our confused faces, took pity on us, and informed us that the workers were on strike. While I'm not sure what they were striking for, I wish those responsible could have seen the crestfallen faces of my daughters. It was truly heart-wrenching!
Fortunately, in researching the perfect pool, I had learned of another pool quite a distance away. And so, two more metro rides and one bus later, we found ourselves at a fun aquatic center, Aquavert. Congratulating ourselves on our resourcefulness, we led two ecstatic little girls into the changing rooms to get suited up. While things went fairly smoothly for the women, Jason was unfortunately not as lucky. A couple of lifeguards stopped him on his way into the pool area and told him that his bermuda-style swim trunks were not permitted--they claimed it was a matter of hygiene. They positively would not let him in the pool! What was he supposed to do? Go without? Apparently, only skin-tight speedo-style briefs or super-short bikers are permissible. Jason ended up having to purchase a new swimsuit from a vending machine. Luckily, we just happened to have a lot of loose change!
I confess that I was absolutely livid about the whole incident initially. I could have spouted off quite a few choice remarks centering around a bunch of really stupid rules. With a little bit of time, however, we started to relax and enjoy ourselves in the beautiful facility. By the time we left, the reject swim-trunk incident was starting to become rather funny. After all, I never imagined to see Jason dressed as such, and we'll have a nice souvenir to take home!
Surprisingly enough, while the swimming pool entry-protocol was extremely stringent, many other rules seemed surprisingly lax. For example, there were two big water slides without any sort of lifeguard patrolling at the top. They had no problem with Jason going down the slides with both Brooklyn and Talia. While I didn't test my theory, I'm quite sure that they would have let me on as well, pregnant and all--something that would certainly never "slide" in the States.
While I haven't tested my theory, it seems that when it comes to a matter of public health (such as lengthy swim trunks polluting the water...), the French are extremely careful, but if it's a matter of personal safety, the rules are lax. Break your own neck if you must, but don't contaminate the rest of us in the process!