On the benches in the McAuley locker room

Photo by Brenda Lin

In building its Olympic pool and aquatic center, Georgia Tech has surpassed all expectations. Its lanes are wide and long. They allow for multiple swimmers to circle-swim. Its lifeguards, kind; showers, hot; lockers, numerous.

In fact, the only place Georgia Tech falls down, skins its knees and whimpers is in its provision of a scant two changing benches per locker room. There are precisely two in the men’s room and two in the women’s. This latter I know not through firsthand encounter, nor through peephole, for I’d be jailed, but through verbal confirmation of a trusted female confidant.

The benches: each bench measures approximately 14’’ by 48’’, sufficient space for two seated swimmer-sized buttocks, which spares room for one set of swim gear (hastily folded wet towel, speedo, goggles — still wet; dry socks). Humans, especially pool-wet ones, are mightily skeptical of sitting beside someone they don’t know. It’s said that cooties, or worse, mumps, spreads through proximity. So, in fact, each bench holds one proud individual.

That the individual is proud is fact. Here we have a sportsperson-specimen who has won, over all other athletes, their space on the bench. I have oft entered the room to change from my suit back into street clothing to find a circle of swimmers surrounding two, or sometimes three, fellows sparring for the coveted bench. Once, the loser was made to use the water-clearing centrifuge as their seat. Another time, I witnessed a skinny swimmer sprawled out flat on the bench with two other people sitting atop. One fellow was putting on his socks and the other, idling. I doubt they knew they were sitting on anyone. How, I wonder, does this injustice persist?

At first, I was suspicious that Georgia Tech’s security team observes the changing-room bench tussles through closed-circuit video. That’s what I’d do. I’d bake some popcorn, add a pinch of butter, a very slight amount of salt (for flavor, you know), a little paprika, and then bet for beers over who would win the seat tussle. I’d root for the skinny guy, the underdog or the older professor. How high would this betting go? My bet: to the top. There could be a departmental pool pool. “Sink or swim,” it’s entitled. Indeed, in this rough world, who will?

My better sense tells me otherwise. There is no pool pool. Nonetheless, this unpleasantness does not belong at Georgia Tech. Therefore, if the administration wishes to reduce hypothetical illegal gambling, assuage those psychologically challenged to sit adjacent to someone whom they don’t know and increase the general comfort of the changing rooms, I strongly recommend the addition of several more benches. Two additional benches per room would suffice, though there’s room for four. And, if my plea doesn’t work, perhaps we’ll organize a sit-in!