If you were to ask me, “What does your ideal Sunday afternoon look like?” I would never respond, “Why, waiting in line to hang out with hundreds of teenagers, of course!”
And yet, this past weekend, I found myself in a 45 minute queue around the block, to do exactly that. You see, while I hate crowds, lines, and people between the ages of 12-17, I could not resist investigating the most exciting new attraction in my neighborhood, the infamous McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn.
Although the pool had only been open for three days when I visited, there had already been two major fights. One started when some teenage boys threw a lifeguard into the pool, and the other resulted in a few arrests. It is like the quintessential New York movie Do the Right Thing; when it gets crazy hot in the city, people go nuts. Also, the pool has a capacity of 1,500, which makes it vulnerable to spontaneous brawls. As they say, two is company, three is a crowd, and 1,500 is a total clusterfuck. I thought about all the drama as I arrived at the scene promptly at 11am on Sunday.
As I scanned the crowd, I was surprised to discover that 99% of people waiting to get their “swim on” were either moms, toddlers, or high school kids. I thought I was in Williamsburg! Where were all the Millennials? Me was confused. The good news is that the pool provides an awesome free resource for families, and the bad news is, who cares? Where are the hot guys? Basically, unless you are attracted to pregnant moms with ankle tats, this pool is a zero cruising zone. Thumbs down.
As my friends and I got closer to the front of the line, we were confronted with a major “prison vibe.” Suddenly, more and more security personnel were shouting at us about various pool rules. It turns out there are more rules at a public pool than a cuddle party. No cell phones, no food, no iPads, no cameras, no games, no smoking, no making out. Having fun at this pool was like trying to get laid at a Mormon prom.
As soon as we entered the facility, we were separated by gender. Men had to go through one entrance and women through another, Orthodox Jew-style. Then you have to lock up all your belongings (BYO lock). The next phase in the anti-fun ritual is you have to literally take a shower in front of pool security. Fortunately, you are allowed to keep your bathing suit on (thank you Big Brother!). But it still feels creepy. During my washdown, I asked the female security guard about the whole process.
“So, why exactly do we have to shower before going into the pool?”
“To get rid of the chemicals,” she replied.
Oh yeah, of course, the chemicals. What? I don’t know what she was talking about, but I was actually glad that they made everyone scrub down. It mellowed the yuck-factor of essentially taking a bath with hundreds of strangers. After the public shower, there was one final round of humiliations before being released into the wild. You have to shake out your towel in front of security to demonstrate that you aren’t trying to smuggle in any illegal contraband like chips or a frisbee.
By the time I finally got to “the other side,” I felt ecstatic. I passed! And that’s when I laid eyes on the pool. A massive, gorgeous, Olympic sized stunner, it truly is a sight. I spread my towel on the concrete and started to chill out. The weird thing about not having a phone, internet, booze, or food, is it really forces you to “relax.” I personally hate relaxing, so I decided to get my taut bod in the pool. I chose the least crowded area, which was the serious swimmers zone. Here, people wore goggles and swim caps and it was very no-nonsense. I started doing some fancy swimming when after exactly one lap I decided I had enough.
After my rigorous exercise regime, it was time for some hard-hitting investigative journalism; get down to the nitty-gritty, talk to “the people,” get some answers. I approached a young hipster dude.
“Do you think this pool will be your summer jam?”
“Cool, good talk.” I was getting closer to the truth.
Then I went up to the only adult male wearing a speedo.
“What’s your name?” I asked the speedo.
“Sebastian DeLaCoui. I’m Danish.”
“Yeah, obviously. So tell me about the speedo.”
“Well, speedos are more practical for swimming, they make the most sense. Shorts drag you down, it’s simple really.”
“It’s a bold move, I respect that. What are you reading?”
“Sounds like a fun book! Have a great summer, stay European!”
Then I talked to a bunch of families and asked them if there was anything they think could be improved at the pool. While most people were very impressed and satisfied, a common complaint was the lack of food. You aren’t allowed to bring your own food and they don’t have any concession stands, so it’s a food-free atmosphere. If you hate eating, this is your Shangri-la.
I left at approximately 1pm, spending a total of two hours at the pool (although it felt much longer). Overall, I would say the McCarren pool is awesome if you have small kids or you want to do something free. Otherwise, it’s too rules-y. Call me a wild eagle, but I don’t like people telling me when to shower and what to do with my phone, unless it’s part of some fun S&M game. For me, the McCarren Pool is like Medieval Times, fun one time, but never again.
Photography by Allison Riegle