Friday, 30 March 2007

A Swimming Cap on a Bald Head

"I'm sorry," said the polite young man behind the reception desk of the Kamagaya Municipal Swimming Pool. "Rules are rules. Your husband will have to wear a swimming cap."

"But, he's completely bald!"

"Rules are rules. If we change the rules for one person --"

"You'd have to change them for everybody," I said through gritted teeth.

The receptionist nodded, looking relieved. "I'm so glad you understand."

I didn't, though -- not a bit. Swimming caps are to keep hair out of the swimming pool and to keep your hair out of your face while you swim. A swimming cap on a bald man is about as ridiculous as you can get.

"I'm sorry," I told my husband, who had been trying to follow our conversation, "he says he can't bend the rules."

When we saw the sign that said SWIMMING CAPS MUST BE WORN BY ALL SWIMMERS we had laughed at first. Neither of us thought that a bald man would be required to wear one. I'd asked the receptionist if my husband also needed to wear a cap partly as a joke. Now I had to give him the bad news. "He says you'll have to buy a swimming cap or you can't go into the pool."

"Oh, for God's sake!"

"I know, I know. It's ridiculous. But rules are rules."

"But what's the point?"

"Honey, I didn't make the rules!"

"Jeez, it would make more sense to insist that I wrap my body up in cling film."

I sighed. "Look, let's just humor the guy and buy a swimming cap for you, okay?"

It had taken us an hour to get the kids' swimming gear together: the goggles, the suits, the inflatable arm bands, the towels. It had taken another hour for us to get to the pool. The temperature was close to 40 degrees, the humidity near 85%. The kids were hot and cranky and I was tired and in need of a swim, and frankly, I would have done just about anything to get into the pool at that point. Even if it meant buying a completely superfluous swimming cap.

Rules are rules in Japan. Sometimes, they are 100% practical -- no shoes in the house means a lot less vacuuming; washing before you get into the bathtub means the water stays much cleaner and can be used again by others. Sometimes, though, they don't make a lick of sense -- like a swimming cap on a bald head.

My husband grumbled, but he finally went and bought it. A flashy green and black number it was. Somewhere, we've still got it.

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10 comments:

Brian said...

Laugh a minute , Mary . I have just sent an email that echoes some of the annoyance that you must have felt

Actually a bald old coot like me would look like a boarding house pudden in a bathing cap -- but let's face it -- my skull looks like that anyway . I am not cranially deprived as for size -- but I wish my generally gorilla like hairiness extended to my bonce , even though as one student once told me -- But sir , bald men are virile !

Kim Ayres said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Ayres said...

Wonderful!

I've given you a Thinking Blogger award by the way - check my site. It's an opportunity to highlight 5 blogs that make you think, although there's no pressure and you don't have to take part. Rules are just made up and don't have any inherent meaning or Truth...

Mary Witzl said...

Thank you, Brian. It is funny remembering this incident, but we were so irritated at the time. I used to feel frustrated in situations like this, because although I did not agree with the rule, my job was to interpret the language and explain the situation. I often felt like the proverbial messenger who was destined to get shot.

And it really made no sense at all. My husband has a beard and a mustache and a fair amount of body hair, so having to put a swimming cap on his shaved head was absolutely ridiculous...

And thank you, Kim! Boy, am I honored. Imagine how happy I feel to be chosen as a 'Thinking Blogger' when all I'm doing is talking my fool head off through my fingers. Now I'll have to start writing more thoughtful pieces, though. I might even have to learn to spell Wittgenstein.

Eryl Shields said...

Hello,
I come to your blog by way of Kim Ayres and his award. In fact Kim is my one and only link to the online world, every blog I read is accessed via his. Anyway, he did good: I really enjoyed reading your stuff especially the piece about men, women and breakfast. How true that strikes me as being.

Mary Witzl said...

Hello, Eryl, and thank you for your comment. It is great to have another blog guest; I've been feeling a little sorry for Kim and Brian, my only visitors so far. I have no other blog friends myself, and so cannot reciprocate and recommend any other Thinking Bloggers. I feel like a kid who has just moved into a new neighborhood and cannot find a soul to invite to her birthday party.

Eryl Shields said...

I have the same thing: Kim and Carole are my only visitors and only Kim is regular at that. I feel rather like the neighbourhood geek. And lucky that the most popular boy in the school says hello.

mary.whitsell@virgin.net said...

Well, I'm more than happy to share class nerd status with you, Eryl!

I've just left a comment on your blog -- I hope -- so maybe I'll see you over there again, if not on Kim's blog or here . . .

Carolie said...

I LOVE this post. You've just described my biggest frustration in Japan...when I'm told something senseless must be done for no good reason other than "it's the rule," I want so much to argue! But when in Rome (or Sasebo...)

Mary Witzl said...

I got arrogant enough to argue about certain rules after seventeen years in Japan. Some people gave in more easily than others, and I learned when I could manipulate those who were more logical. At the YWCA, I brow-beat one of the lifeguards into letting me keep my wedding ring on when I used their pool. I argued that I was so heavily pregnant, taking it off was difficult. Later, they just gave up telling me to take off my wedding ring before getting into the pool, and I think they started bending the rules for others too. But the swimming cap man just wasn't going to bend...