The Kindness of Strangers

A 2015 study, citing sentiment analysis of social media posts by tourists, rated Chicago as the most tourist-friendly city in the US. Now, I'm sure many people would argue for their city, but my recent two-day business trip to the Windy City provided two great examples of strangers coming to my aquatic aid.

I landed on a Thursday afternoon and had a very short time window in which to fit in a workout. I was staying in the trendy River North area at a Hyatt Place that had a smallish gym, but no pool. I knew I could pay an exorbitant daily fee and drop into the nearby East Bank club, where I had swum in their very nice pool back in December of 2014, but I both wanted to conserve some cash and notch up another pool. Less than a mile from my hotel was the Park Hyatt, which purported to have a 25 yard pool, but was pushing $400 a night (well out of my non-profit company's travel policy).

In the spirit of, "It never hurts to ask," I asked the very friendly front desk staff at my budget Hyatt if they could get me a pass to go swim at the fancy Hyatt. I could tell she thought my request was a bit odd, but she smiled and made the call. Thirty minutes later, after a nice walk up part of the Magnificent Mile, I had this pool all to myself, an interesting three lane pool with two lanes at 25 yards and one at 20 yards long:

I had enough time for 1,500 yards and a little less than 10 minutes in the hot tub, making it back to my hotel in time for a key conference call and freshening me up before a dinner later on. Thanks, Jesenia, for pool #343!

My conference on Friday morning started at 8am and, as I was speaking, I really wanted to get in a good swim beforehand. A solid swim is the best way I've found to take the edge off any public speaking nerves; I wanted to get into a "real" pool where I could go hard. While I really love downtown Chicago, especially in the summer, it's not the best locale for great pools. I imagined the University of Chicago would have a pool, but their Masters program only worked out at noon and it looked like you needed to be brought in as a guest to take advantage of their daily pass.

In the joint spirit of, "It never hurts to ask," and "Go to the top," I emailed the Head Coach, explained my ambitious 1,001 pools quest, and asked him if I could swim first thing on Friday morning. He quickly and graciously agreed to sponsor me as his guest and I had my own lane in this fantastic facility:

And, even though my body felt like it was 4am when I dove in, I had one of my best workouts this year, cranking out 2,500 yards in about 45 minutes. I made it back to my hotel in plenty of time for my conference. Thanks, Jason, for pool #344!

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