I was sitting in my office when a lap swimmer knocked on the door. She’d had surgery on her hip and
wondered if she could use the door leading to the parking lot.
Normally, patrons had to change in the locker rooms, go back
through the lobby and out the front doors to the parking lot. I
only allowed managers to exit that door at night, as the last door
they went out and checked before leaving.
We couldn’t allow patrons to use the door because there
was no way of having them pay at that door or check in.
Additionally, keeping those doors closed is important to keep the
pressure and flow of air correct in our aquatics facility.
My standard response when patrons ask to use the door is that it
has an alarm on it. However, I was in a giving mood and
didn’t see the harm in letting one person with a medical
issue exit that way.
The next week the woman stopped by my office again. She had an
assistant with her, to help her get in and out of the pool, and
could this person assist her out the emergency exit door as well?
Now I was in a pickle. One seemed OK last week, but two this week?
I felt I had no choice but to say “yes.”
As the weeks went on and my staff caught wind of this exception,
I noticed guards exiting through the door. Then staffers started
propping it open and using it as an entrance.
At in-service that month I lectured on the importance of keeping
that door closed at all times. I discussed the reasons why and even
while I was on my soapbox, I could feel the staff looking at me
with one burning question: “Why does the ‘hip’
lady get to?”
But it wasn’t just the staff.
Patrons also heard that the door could be an exit. First, it was
a few lap swimmers who had noticed the woman exiting with her
assistant. Then it was my entire AM swim team followed by their
parents. This was quickly getting out of control!
I talked to the coaches of the swim team, made an announcement
to the parents — and spoke with my staff again, explaining
that it was only the one woman who was allowed, not every patron of
our pool. Then, the million-dollar question: “Why?” I
had no answer for that. They were right.
The next week I talked to the hip lady. Needless to say she was
disappointed, but understood.
The problem ultimately took years to correct and hasn’t
been the same since. Managers have accidentally left the door ajar
overnight. I had to have a sign shop come in and stencil large,
red, block letters “Emergency Exit ONLY” on the door.
And still we have patrons and staffers exiting through the
What started as a kind act ended up costing much more, teaching me
my lesson: If you give them an inch, they’ll take the whole