I’ve been going to the same public baths for about seven years, and I’m very much a creature of habit. I put my bag down on the end of the bench, whichever end has the least people near it or least used lockers, open the door, put my shoes in the bottom of it, then get changed into my skin. I put my clothes in the bag, then put the towel on top of everything, lock the locker, and tie the key to my ankle. Then I get a quick splash under the shower (The only person who actually takes notice of that bit of protocol…) and get into the pool.
On the way back out I get into the showers again, strip down, wash the chlorine off myself and wring out my fastskin, then return to my locker, get dressed, and leave.
The changing room has cubicles, about five metres away from the lockers, which I don’t use.
I don’t change at my locker out of some kind of principle, I change at my locker because it’s unsafe for me to use the cubicles – They’re small locked boxes with no grab-rails, no room to balance properly on a crutch, and if I fall I’ve not got the space to catch myself before I hit the ground. Plus, if I faint or injure myself in the main room, I’m able to easily get help – This isn’t a complete hypothetical, this has happened more than a dozen times since I started coming to the pool in 2009. Not to mention that carrying a towel, a rucksack, my coat, my boots, a water bottle and a bottle of morphine back and forth from a cubicle to the locker over a series of trips would probably knacker me out before getting in the pool, and likewise would make getting changed back at the end of the session impossible. Try doing all of that one-handed whilst balancing on an elbow crutch.
In the showers, I take off my fastskin and rinse, because washing whilst wearing it doesn’t adequately rinse the chlorine off my skin. I’ve got incredibly sensitive skin, so letting dirty pool water dry on it under the water-resistant fastskin makes it dry, itch, then sometimes flake off entirely. It’s not a matter of principle, again, it’s a matter of staying healthy.
The baths don’t really have disabled changing rooms, or rather the ones they do have are on the other side of a freezing corridor, behind two heavy doors, and don’t have lockers in them. The shower also, on the one occasion I tried to use it, had no water pressure and ran cold.
Today, after my swim, I saw a new sign up in the changing rooms;
“Would all customers please change and shower discreetly when schoolchildren are present”
I gave it an eyebrow raise, and finished getting dressed, then caught the duty manager on the desk on the way out.
“So, I just saw the sign in the changing rooms” I said, more than a bit nervously because frankly this conversation could never go well. “I think this means I can’t use the changing rooms anymore, since I can’t use the cubicles and I can’t not shower in the showers”.
“Yes,” he said “But it’s because of the changing rooms…” he trailed off, and looked embarrassed, and as if there should be some shared cultural understanding that changing rooms were not places where humans should get changed in.
“So, can you look up when there’s going to be a swim where you can guarantee there being no schoolchildren in the changing room, then?” I asked, trying to see if he could see the problem here.
“Oh” he replied “Well, you can just go to the adult swims, then.”
I thought for a second, then got the timetable from the desk between us, and read it slowly.
“But,” I said eventually “They’re always bookended by club sessions and things, which are full of bairns, so I’d still be sharing the changing room with them.”
He looked again, and highlighted the sessions, then started writing on them;
“Well,” he said, explaining what he was doing “You can just come up fifteen minutes later to the sessions, they’re usually gone by then.”
I looked at the paper as he handed it back to me. I could go to five sessions, all of them now cut short by fifteen minutes at least, turning a sensible hour-long session into a forty-five minute one, and presumably into a half-hour one if there were any children in the pool (As there often are after club sessions, when they want to stay on and keep training beyond the end of their allotted time).
I thanked him, turned away, and went home.
Upon getting home, I started explaining the issue to Dearest, and he confirmed to me that there was nothing unusual about changing at ones locker, indeed that everyone in the men’s side did that.
There are two problems here;
- If I do go back and change as normal, now that I’ve “been warned” so to speak, I feel like there’s a chance I’d end up on the sex offenders’ register.
- If I start this fight, I will always be the one that had a mardy about not being able to get changed in public.
There are a couple of advantages here;
- I could use this to get the boot in the door about the baths getting better disabled changing, since ideally there’d be accessible changing for disabled people, which I would much rather use than having to make-do in the general population room.
- I’ve got an In with the local council.
- The Equalities Act is probably on my side.
Right now though, a lot of crying and bemoaning the loss of the last vestige of my physio plan is in order.