Lord knows, I'm not a ranter. And you would think that after six years here, I would be inured to the somewhat arbitrary nature of the District's laws and regulations.
But after yesterday, you've won again, D.C. You've managed to surprise me.
Sunday afternoon, Father's Day, the mercury was pushing 90 and I decided to take my 2-year-old daughter Kate to the public pool in Georgetown for the first time. Kate was understandably excited, with the word "pool" up there with "park" and "woods" as absolute show-stoppers. (And of course, "Elmo" but that's a different story.)
We arrived at the crowded pool on Volta Street and walked inside. Immediately we were stopped by a teenage lifeguard as if he were a border guard. He was staring at Kate's bright yellow swimsuit, which came equipped with small floaties sewn inside. "Is that a life preserver?" he asked, pointing to my daughter.
"Is what a life preserver? The suit?"
He nodded. "Every life preserver has to be approved by the US Coast Guard."
"Well, it's not really a life preserver. See, she's two and I'm not going to let her swim. I'm going to hold her in the water."
"It has to be Coast Guard-approved. It probably won't be a problem," he said. "Go talk to the manager."
(Kate's yelling. "Water. Water. Agua. Agua.")
We hauled back up the ramp to the manager's office. I asked him if it's okay for Kate to swim. He said, "Has that life preserver been approved by the Coast Guard?"
I told him I didn't know. He said he needed to check and asked me to take Kate's suit off to examine it. I peeled it off Kate and handed it to him.
"It hasn't been," he said with finality. We both had known where this was going.
"She can't swim?" I ask.
"Not in this."
"So let me get this straight," I said. "If she was wearing a swimsuit with no floaties in it, that would be okay. But this suit, which is safer, is not okay."
(Kate: "Water. Swim, Daddy. Water.")
"That's right," the manager said. "This is a government pool and that's the D.C. government."
"They don't want you to swim, Kate," I said to her. (I'm not above expoiting my child for emotional effect.) Her blue eyes grew larger with concern.
As I pulled her suit back on, I realized what I had to do to save Kate's day. We went down the ramp to the pool and I grabbed my keys from the beach bag. Holding Kate still, I made two small incisions in the fabric with a key, one in front, one in back. I pulled the plastic floaties from the suit and tossed them on the pool deck at the feet of the teenage lifeguard.
"There," I said. "We're good to go." And indeed we were. I had made Kate suitably unsafe.
The lesson: There's nothing that the District's government can't ruin—even a little girl's yellow swimsuit.
Post by James Oliphant