Location: Long Island City, Queens
Configuration: 6 lanes of 25 yards
Total to Date: $55.33
Knowing when to go is key for most pools, and 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night is apparently not the best time to swim at LaGuardia Community College. It was a chore getting there by bike, with the rush-hour traffic heading toward the Queensboro Bridge, but once I hit the bridge I was home free on a dedicated bike path going practically to the door of the college. Then, the pool had a rush hour of its own. It turns out that only one of the six lanes was available for laps; four others were in use by a kids’ team, and the last one had private lessons. I would definitely try this pool again, but I would call in advance to check on lane availability first. Everything else was perfectly fine–water quality, temperature, locker room, showers.
A bike buddy, Zoe, gets points for suggesting this pool and also for being the first friend from outside swimming to participate in the project. I was glad to take her suggestion and try somewhere totally new, particularly after last week’s nostalgic return to Poughkeepsie Middle School. Zoe works right across the street from the college and had swum here once before. I recommend going with someone who knows her way around, since first you have to find the fitness office, where you buy a pass, and then you go to the pool. (Hint: Follow the signs that say POOLSIDE CAFE.)
LaGuardia is part of the City University (CUNY) system, a vast public university consisting of two dozen college and institutions scattered throughout New York City, all with very low-priced tuition. Nearly half a million students attend CUNY, and I myself graduated from an MA program at another campus. It’s pretty amazing. Luckily for swimmers, many of the schools have regulation-size pools that are available for public use. My third pool was at a CUNY school, and I expect that several others will figure in this project. At LaGuardia, anyone can swim with a $5 day pass, and there are also membership plans for repeat visitors.
The team in the middle four lanes must have been the LGAC Twisters, and I think it would have been fun to swim with them; they seemed very well-mannered and enthusiastic, and not yet big enough to be insanely fast. Their parents sat in the bleachers on one side, and one of them took the picture of me and Zoe.
The lap lane, meanwhile, had a real lack of etiquette and mix of abilities, maxing out at eight people at once and including three guys in long trunks who were mostly just playing; a water-polo player doing a lot of sprints and treading water; and a woman who I’d peg as a triathlete if I were to stereotype based on her tattoo, low body fat, and dislike of putting her face in the water. I navigated as best I could, but after nearly an hour and a half I’d barely done half the yardage of my recent Hour Swim and decided to call it a night.
The bike ride home was well after rush hour and featured one of my favorite views–the Manhattan skyline all lit up as you sink down into it from the heights of the Queensboro Bridge. It’s a nice warm night closing out a January, and I’m glad to be ending the month with a pool tally already at seven.