Swimming in a pool... of MUCUS!
December 31, 2018 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Is it acceptable practice to empty one's sinuses into the trough that borders the swimming pool?

This morning I was swimming at the gym pool where I have swam several times a week for the last probably 10 years. This morning I was horrified to see/hear something that I have never encountered before: a young man who appeared to be vigorously emptying his sinuses into the trough that borders the inside of the pool, loudly blowing air through his nose such that it could be heard throughout the pool room. I observed him do this twice, and then another time he hocked up a snot ball and spat it into the trough.

I went to the front desk of the gym and told the manager, who merely chuckled. When I continued to stare him down in hopes of a better response, he chuckled again and said "I'll say something to him." I went and sat in the hot tub in the pool room for a bit (no more swimming for me this day!) and expected the manager to come in with at the very least a "dude, not cool!" for the guy. But he never came in to speak to him at all. I was and still am angry and disgusted at the response of the manager and had visions of slapping the rest of the snot out of Mucus Guy.

It occurred to me later that maybe this is a thing (a disgusting thing) that it is ok to spit/snot into the troughs because that takes it harmlessly down the drain or something. Googling turned up a couple of message board threads in which this question was asked about spitting, but not specifically about spitting/blowing mucus. And in those threads there were a lot of responses on the order of "dude, the entire pool is full of urine and dead skin and poop particles and snot, this is why chlorine exists."

My question is, is there an official stance or known custom where this is an ok thing to do? Do I just need to suck it up (har har) and trust the chlorine to make everything ok? Or do I need to go all over the internet leaving shitty reviews on the gym, and/or contact the hotel manager to tell him his gym guy is a useless turd of a manager?
posted by Serene Empress Dork to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Whether this is technically a good way to dispose of bodily fluids, I could not tell you. But whether it is rude to hock up a loogie in front of God and everybody, that I can tell you: yes. Yes, it is disgusting, and it is totally natural that you are disgusted. I don't believe that "locker room" rules apply at a gym pool, and personally I think that even in a locker room there should be a minimum of effort to protect others from your horking up, such as using a wad of paper towels or a toilet in a closed stall.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:01 PM on December 31, 2018 [11 favorites]

This is gross but typical behavior for people who have been on swim teams. If you have a pool that’s more of elderly aquacise I’d be very shocked to see it but it’s par for the course for a true lap pool.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2018 [14 favorites]

There are two aspects to this - etiquette and hygiene.

It is probably mediocre from a hygiene perspective, but the chlorine is there for a reason.

From the perspective of manners, it is disgusting.
posted by mai at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2018 [6 favorites]

As disgusting as it is, I echo raccoon409 that this is not an unusual practice for competitive swimming.
posted by dpaul at 12:07 PM on December 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

posted by jgirl at 12:17 PM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thirding raccoon409; I was on the swim team for 10+ years and saw this all the time. It's fucking gross, and you're absolutely right to be grossed out by it, but it's not at all uncommon.
posted by saladin at 12:19 PM on December 31, 2018 [8 favorites]

posted by clseace at 12:29 PM on December 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

Back when I was on the swim team it was considered a badge of honor to swim so hard you’d puke in the gutter and then continue with your workout. Nowadays I think that’s pretty gross but back then I didn’t think much on it. I think that the amount of snot people blow during a hard swim workout is not insignificant - and he was at least blowing it into the gutter so it would presumably run through the filtration system rather than blowing it directly into the pool.

While I do things like pointing out that there are disgusting bandages in the pool to the lifeguard - someone hocking a loogie into the gutter might not even register for me as a former competitive swimmer. I would probably not even notice it much less bring it up to a manager. I think you should chalk this up as unfortunately gross but not particularly out of the ordinary and that’s why we have chlorine.
posted by rdnnyc at 12:29 PM on December 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

If I saw this, and saw no action taken by pool management, I'd cancel my membership. I mean, damn.
posted by uberchet at 12:51 PM on December 31, 2018 [6 favorites]

Maybe the gym manager had a word with this young man when you weren't present? After ten years of membership, you can certainly follow up with that manager, or kick it upstairs to the hotel manager. I wouldn't escalate to negative reviews (and switching gyms) unless the hotel manager proves indifferent as well.

(Competitive swimmers on a team can be made aware that there's a different etiquette required when using a hotel's pool.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:53 PM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

As disgusting as it is, I echo raccoon409 that this is not an unusual practice for competitive swimming.

Ugh. That is what I was afraid of. The pool does get some use by competitive swimmers, so I guess that's why he's not concerned.


I should take a crap in the trough on my last day, see how funny he thinks that is.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:54 PM on December 31, 2018 [22 favorites]

I mean, I won't, but... lord.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:55 PM on December 31, 2018 [10 favorites]

The thing is, that water has already gone through that person's sinuses, and it's going to come out either slowly or quickly, as is the case for everyone swimming in that pool. The loogie is kinda nasty, but hell is other people.

And the hot tub is less hygenic than sitting in a rusty barrel of ambergris.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:21 PM on December 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

Eh, people with colds or nasal drip/allergies get to go outside too, folks who are horrified at seeing a sneeze or blown nose perplex me (this is aimed at Hot Toddy, not the OP). The issue here is location. I would not find the momentary decision to sneeze into the trough or cough into it to be exceptionally horrifying, compared to the time needed to get out of the pool, dry hands, find a towel etc. I do consider spit to be a bit different but know that's pretty variable in terms of "what do you do when you've just involuntarily coughed a wad of mucus into your mouth?" Some people find it grosser to spit and some find it grosser to swallow.

Also, I sympathize with people with water up their noses, in the case of swimming. If I get chlorine water up my nose, I remember that burning feeling, no force of manners or man would be more important to me in that moment than removing that water from my sinuses.
posted by Lady Li at 1:56 PM on December 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

After all the horrified reactions in this thread I will of course refrain from admitting to doing anything of the sort, but merely say that when I swim, my nose gets full of pool water all the time and I need to get it out some way or another. So, while I do of course not empty it into the trough, God beware, if I did, I would justify it by pointing out that it is 90% chlorinated water.

I mean, I'm sticking my face in the same water that everyone is dipping their genitals in. How is this more disgusting!?
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:10 PM on December 31, 2018 [8 favorites]

There is a little old lady at the Y pool here who brings an empty tub with a lid to spit into in between laps and I always thought it was revolting but now I see that it could be much, much worse. (In actual answer, I have never seen anyone spitting there apart from this woman and her tub, but there aren't so many competitive swimmers there, either.)
posted by little cow make small moo at 2:11 PM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

[Folks, let's rein in the general "that's gross amirite" stuff, which is understandable but isn't what AskMe's for. Please stick to pool-knowledgeable answers about relevant pool customs/norms.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:15 PM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is super disgusting but is also normal for swim team people. When I was a kid who swam, some of us did this, in the same way that the kids who did track/cross country thought nothing of launching a snot rocket onto the ground in the middle of a training run. At least they didn't have to be submerged in the germs, though.
posted by zdravo at 4:19 PM on December 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

I saw a middle-aged dude hock up a giant loogey into the pool while doing laps, and I just couldn't. I had to stop swimming for that day. just hit the showers feeling morose that I never thought to think this was a thing. think I've spent way too much time in yoga classes vs. not enough on soccer teams etc. for it not to bother me.
posted by speakeasy at 4:58 PM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

IMO the difference between competitive swimmers and more casual swimmers is how loudly you blow your nose. As a casual swimmer I have done this but I do it as discretely as possible. Clearly competitive swimmers don't care. Per ClarissaWAM it's mostly just water really.

If you've never seen anyone clear their nose in a pool you were in all I can say is that you weren't looking.

I should take a crap in the trough on my last day, see how funny he thinks that is.

As a lifeguard I only had a kid take a crap on deck once because they thought it was funny. I did not find it funny, honestly the kid thought it was pretty great.
posted by GuyZero at 5:20 PM on December 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

The public pools I use in Beijing solve this problem by putting spit buckets on the deck at either end of each lane. They can get pretty musty in the summers, though.
posted by zhwj at 6:05 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]

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