RIP: Being Cooled Off By Fire Hydrants
For the annually under-consumed holiday week print rendition of Washington City Paper, I wrote about the various ways the city lets kids gets wet. This issue is suddenly hotter than July, what with the Grinches of Summer—otherwise known as D.C. Water and DCFEMS—having teamed up to ban the opening of fire hydrants for cooling off. Humbug!
The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has attempted to fill the void left by the hydrant prohibition with various new get-wet options.
DPR is my favorite branch of government at any level. I simply cannot deny that the agency has improved the quality of my life in recent years. I'm a regular user of its facilities, particularly the pool at Upshur Park.
And while there seems to be some backsliding at that pool this year—the water and locker rooms were dirty as hell yesterday, and there hasn't been soap in the bathrooms since the opening weekend, and while I'm at it, what the hell's with that bizarre new no-kids-in-the-pool rule that's put in play for 15 minutes every hour, or 25 percent of the operating times?—things are still a heckuva lot better than they were just a few years ago, back when the pool water was off-brown and the bathrooms had the aura of a Porta-Johnny in the Preakness infield at every day's end. Even when it stinks these days, I leave Upshur happier than when I entered.
But, big a fan as I am of their work, it seems like the folks at DPR try too hard to please sometimes. The so-called "state-of-the-art" water parks cited in my story are one example of this. The way I see it, these over-designed facililities ignore the moral of fire hydrants: Kids just want to get sprayed. So there's no need to spend taxpayers' money on contraptions with moving parts or to put buckets on poles that might or, more likely, might not spill water on little people's heads at prescribed intervals.
Just put in something that soaks everybody, for crissakes!
This same overeager-to-please mentality can be found in the locker rooms at Upshur Pool, where all the showerheads were upgraded this year. Gone are the unmarked metallic showerheads that spewed water with enough pressure to remove body lice and a top layer of skin, the kind of industrial spigots that neither a nuclear holocaust nor several generations of wiseacre kids trying to break them could do in.
And in their place, and no doubt at some expense to taxpayers, came, well, state-of-the-art plastic shower heads with a bunch of entertaining water-flow options, including something called “Niagara."
Like the poles with buckets installed at the city's new water parks, these showerheads look good on paper but flop in the real world. As of two weekends ago, four of the seven new shower heads in the men’s locker room were already broken.
“We rely on the residents to take care of the equipment,” DPR director Jesus Aguirre tells me when I whine about the Upshur showerheads to him. “We have a lot of faith in our residents.”
Faith in humanity is a wonderful quality. But, Mr. Aguirre's not from here. He'll learn.