I grabbed my speedo and towel and took off out the door. I was running late, but hey what’s new? My friends would be in the pool swimming laps when I arrived.
It was my first time to visit a pool in Marseille. Arriving, I was slightly apprehensive, but excited for the workout ahead. I entered the building and the cramped welcome area, paid my admission fee, and shuffled over to the equipment vending machine. Having never before owned or used a swim bonnet, I was thankful for this machine that replaced snickers bars and cherry cokes with swim caps, bikini bottoms, and nose clips. Bonnets and speedo-like suits are required by the standard pool dress code. I bought my cap and stood up to enter the changing rooms and showers. I never saw the “Men’s Room” sign and arrow pointing directly behind me.
In the changing room area, I stood in a long hall. At the end of the wall were shower heads and then an opening to the pool. Along one side of the hallway were individual changing stalls. The other wall held two large common changing rooms. I’m not sure what led me to believe the left one must have been the men’s room, but that’s what I chose. I dressed, and was stuffing my winter clothes into a backpack when two ladies walked into the room I occupied. “Oh, pardon!” they exclaimed, clearly surprised to see me there. Then I looked up and noticed the word “femmes” written on the door. Aargh, I’d chosen poorly!
I evacuated, essentially ready. I passed what I presumed must have been the men’s room and entered what I presumed to be general ‘get-wet-before-you-enter-the-pool’ showers. I was a bit surprised when hot water hit me. Then I stepped out into the pool area, where I stood at one end of the pool. About 40 people were swimming laps on their lunch breaks, and I was a late arrival. Along the wall behind me hung bags of the various patrons. So I hooked mine up too. Then I noticed bags on the far wall. “Odd,” I thought, “why would someone walk the full length of the pool to hang their bag when there’s hooks right here by the exit from the showers?” Never did I notice men’s changing rooms and showers which opened up directly to that far wall.
The only person in the pool area and not down in the water, I stood my 6’3” frame by the pool’s edge, fully above everyone else. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was standing where only women who had just exited or were about to enter the showers would have stood. I was looking for my friends and shocked that no one was hoisting themselves up out of the water and waving emphatically at me.
Finally I found them, hopped in the pool, and began my swim. It wasn’t until about halfway through my workout that I noticed the full and proper layout of the place and the mistake I’d made. All the men finishing their swim hopped out on one side of the pool, grabbed their bag, and disappeared into the showers. The women did the same on the opposite side. And there sat my sack of clothes, right in the middle of a gaggle of women’s bags. The only question remaining was when to get out, take my affairs, and walk the full length of the pool, announcing again to everyone what I’d done.
And that’s how I spent my lunchtime swim.
Oh yeah, I later discovered that I’d been wearing my bonnet sideways the whole time. Smooth.