Don’t Pee in the Goddamn Pool

March 26, 2014 | Andy Cush

Despite what the weather would have you believe, spring is officially upon us, so it’s as good a time as ever to issue a gentle PSA: peeing in the pool is weird and gross, and unless you’re a helpless baby, you shouldn’t ever do it.

As with any other public space, sane entrance into the lukewarm body soup that it is a public swimming hole requires an implicit agreement with your fellow human beings. It’s an unspoken treaty that began when early man realized his cave-dwelling neighbors weren’t prey to be hunted, but friends to be protected and loved — one that’s essential to the very fabric of society itself: don’t be an asshole to me, and I won’t be an asshole to you. Keep your urine to yourself.

(Photo: @Matthew C. Wright)

No less a mind than Jean-Jacques Rousseau laid out the principles for a good and healthy swimming experience back in 1762: “The aggregate of the common happiness furnishes a greater proportion of that of each individual, so that there is less for him to seek in particular cares,” he argued. And as such, if I may paraphrase a bit: “as soon as any swimmer says of the cleanliness of the pool, ‘What does it matter to me?’ the pool may be given up for lost.”

If you can pee in the pool, so can I. And if I can pee in the pool, so can the guy next to me. If the guy next to me can pee in the pool, so can his wife, and if everybody’s peeing in the pool already, why not poop in the pool, too? Hell, why not poop on each other?

(Photo: @ericland)

If goodwill and respect towards your brothers and sisters isn’t enough, or you’re a Randian monster who believes only in his on right to piss whereever he damn well pleases, there’s also cold, hard, science. According to a study published recently in Environmental Science & Technologyurine and common pool chemicals make for a potentially dangerous combination. PhysOrg explains:

…adding chlorine to pool water is the most common way to kill disease-causing microbes and prevent swimmers from getting sick. But as people swim, splash, play—and pee—in the pool, chlorine mixes with sweat and urine and makes other substances. Two of these compounds, including trichloramine (NCl3) and cyanogen chloride (CNCl), are ubiquitous in swimming pools. The first one is associated with lung problems, and the second one can also affect the lungs, as well as the heart and central nervous system.

By mixing uric acid — found in pee — with chlorine, researchers were able to form NCL3 and CNCl with an hour. Say goodbye to your nervous system, pool-pissers.

(Photo: @Néric Blein)

“But Olympic swimmers do it,” you’ll argue. “What could be so bad?” You’re right; they do. But according to Carly Geehr, a former U.S. Olympian who addressed this very issue on Quora in 2012, competitive swimmers operate under a different social contract from us ordinary pool-enjoyers.

After claiming that “nearly 100%” of her peers do the deed, and outlining a few situations in which elite competitors may relieve themselves — warm-ups, apparently, are prime piss-time — Geehr argues that “as a [competitive] swimmer, you just have to accept that you’re swimming in pee.”

The society of Olympic swimmers is a society that, in Rousseau’s words, may be given up for lost. Like the children in Lord of the Flies, they’ve abandoned order — or been abandoned by it — and are contented to live like barbarians, bathing in each others waste and deifying rotten animal carcasses.

But it doesn’t have to be like that, and there’s still hope for leisurely swimmers like you and me. When you feel the urge, just take a moment to get out of the water and stroll over to the public restroom that’s almost certainly within spitting distance of the water you’re swimming in. Once you’re there, piss to your heart’s content. The yellow stream’s arc is long, but it in your hands, it may still bend toward cleanliness and civility.

(Top photo: @kwikrick)