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 door.
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 pool.