So last night I was at my New Local Pool, where the lockers never cease to delight with their personal-changing-room ingenuity, the stylin wooden doors and shiny metal hardware, the white tiling, and the sassy rounded corners. They're so retro they're modern. Anyway, after another satisfyingly uncrowded swim (tip: 8pm or later is the best time to avoid crowds at Sundhöllin), I headed for the roof, where the hot tub crowd was all guys and me. Opposite me were two men in their forties, one with the neckless build of a former weightlifter who'd gone a little soft, the other scruffy and long-haired. Weighlifter man was talking about music- Joan Baez and the like, an unlikely pairing that had me listening in more carefully than usual, while the other guy performed his já-man functionalities (this guy in such a hot tub conversation just says "yes" and nods gravely). Then, weightlifter guy decided describing music was not quite enough, so he started singing softly, melancholy Irish tunes, while everyone else in the hot tub looked on in bemusement. He was obviously not disturbed by the onlookers, as he sang a few more tunes before the pair of them headed to the steam room. It's the first time I've had live performances while in a bathing suit.
This pool is a different flavor from where I used to go. This one's all about the individual bather, although the old guy pairs and trios are always a constant in any Icelandic pool. I've started to know some of the regulars, who even seem to be more conversational than the Vesturbær lot. There's the Ice-Pavarotti guy whom I had a nice chat with in the steam room, my former Icelandic teacher who was also a good 15 minutes of conversational practice, the bathing-cap lady who does her majestic laps in bright red lipstick. This is also the pool of tourists and foreigners. More than once when a conversation has started tub-wide, it's been one Icelander, an American (me), and a smattering of eastern Europeans and Thai. The foreigners are taking over Reykjavík, one hot tub at a time.
If there are other Americans, it's often because they're tourists, since this is the closest pool to most of the hotels and guesthouses, and thanks to its proximity to a can't-miss landmark, is easy to find. It seems that in the last week or two Tourist Season has begun, so I'm experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of people who don't realize that a pool is divided into lanes for a reason here, and all those people going backwards and forwards would like to keep going backwards and forwards. So here is my message to those who are coming to visit Iceland this year: If you're swimming and are participating in the clockwise lane-arrangement, we love you, especially if you're giving way to the faster people at the end of laps. You are the best kind of lane-companion. However, if you wanna do your deep-sea diving practice along the bottom of the pool, your water-pirouettes or express how hot you are for your girlfriend thanks to the trip to Iceland, do it in the open part where everyone else is messin' about and let me and bathing-cap lipstick lady have our lap lane. Otherwise, enjoy Iceland, try out lots of hot tubs, and don't forget to sing in a few of them. I've often had the urge but never been brave enough.