I'm sprawled on my belly at Ten Thousand Waves, languishing in The Fountainhead, milking these last few moments of mid-fall sunshine for all the vitamin D they're worth, while my boyfriend's eyes are glued to an old man's scrotum.
"I can't figure out how he does it," boyfriend announces for the zillionth time, entranced as the spread-eagle dude he's dubbed "Captain Winky Ball" jerks his left testicle skyward, again and again and again. "It's not possible. There are no muscles that would allow him to do that."
I have no comment because I have no balls, no understanding of their mechanics, nor any interest in this inquiry. I'm reading.
"Should we report him?" he wonders aloud, referring to the sign posted above the water fountain, the one that encourages pub-tubbers to "Please Report Offensive Behavior Immediately to the Front Desk."
"Why?" I ask, thoroughly disinclined to steal Captain Winky Ball's glory out from under him just because his talent happens to lie between his legs. True, I was initially shaken when the bouncing scrotum caught my eye as I was scanning the deck for a place to sprawl. But upon continued observation, I realize Captain Winky Ball isn't, in fact, singling me out and is, instead, performing his magic sack dance for any wandering eye he can catch; and so I opt out of caring. Besides, I'm reading.
It's not the first time that said boyfriend has taken issue with questionable pub-tub behavior, like the time a man winked at me in the sauna, and boyfriend urged me to tell him to stop.
"But that's wrong use of will," I said, defending the leering man who was creeping me out. But was he really creeping me out, or were his innocent, if presumptuous, actions just triggering a latent shadow that was already lurking beneath my tan lines, patiently awaiting its someday unraveling? "He's allowed to wink, and I'm allowed to move away. I'm the chick in the pub-tub, for Chrissakes."
The sauna allows for even more intimate forms of self-amusement.
"Should we report him?" boyfriend asks, (finally) connecting the noise to the action after I whisper-ask if he notices the rhythmic slapping sound that has served as our in-sauna soundtrack for the last five minutes. To be fair, it's hard to decipher beneath the grating drone of a pair of disgruntled postal workers who seem to have missed the "Please Respect Others. Speak Softly" sign outside.
It's not the first time I've clued in to the faint but distinctive thwack, thwack sound that, on at least two occasions over the past six months, has accompanied my supine sauna stints. But, I rationalize, I'm prone to overheating; so who am I—of the nine-minute-max sweats—to impinge upon a hardcore sitter by asking him to adjust his self-massage regimen in honor of an aqueous concept of "appropriate"? Besides, what do I care? My eyes are closed; I'm enjoying my internal space; and I have compassion for public masturbators who are necessarily dependent upon the cooperation of a kind and nonjudgy few to turn the other cheek so that they can find their autoerotic groove.
It all prompts the question: What is offensive? And when is "offensive behavior" really my issue to sit with and quietly unravel, as opposed to the other person's allegedly inconsiderate or inappropriate actions? And are any of us objective enough to know the difference?
If Captain Winky Ball gets his thrills by wowing otherwise unsuspecting pub-tubbers with his testicular tango, which he so obviously does as evidenced by his tan, his stance, his shades, his shave and the ubiquity of his performance, then who am I to "report him"?
Uh, front desk? Yeah, there's a guy up here winking his sack at me. I'm offended. Deeply.
And, if the perv in the tub is creeping me out with his lengthy stares and his twitchy eye, can't I just avert my own or move?
The truth is, I'd much rather share the sauna with an otherwise silent and unobtrusive masturbator then with those ever more annoying postal clerks complaining in the tub, and the sauna,
and on the deck, and loudly. They've been at it
all afternoon—assaulting my peace with their incessant whining, projecting, backbiting and gossiping. It's like a thousand jagged nails screeching their way down the world's longest blackboard, and it's the closest I've come to telling anyone at the Waves to knock it off.
I'm offended. Really. Truly. Finally.
In response to this column, Ten Thousand Waves owner Duke Klauck writes in an email to SFR:
Sexual activity of any kind is not OK in any public area at the Waves, including communal and women’s baths. About ten years ago the communal tub became something of a cruising spot after dark. It was at that time that we changed our policy and started to require everyone to wear bathing suits after 8:15 pm. This cut down the activity greatly.
Our public baths do have attendants checking for dirty towels and trash, and checking water and sauna temperature approximately every 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is enough time, however, for people to get into mischief.
We mainly rely on our guests to inform us when they witness undesirable behavior—ideally coming down to the front desk when they see it, rather than waiting ‘til they check out... When we hear at the time of occurrence, we can immediately send security up to the bath to remove the offender. We put that person on a persona non grata list and refuse him/her admission if he/she tries to return.
These days, this is not a common problem, but it does happen. People using the public baths need to realize that they are using a public facility, and similar to walking on a public street or using a park or trail, they might be subject to others acting inappropriately. The difference at the Waves is that help at the front desk is only a minute walk away, whereas they may wait an indeterminate time for the police to respond in another public setting. For real emergencies, there are intercoms at all baths, which will bring a response from us within seconds.
What’s the alternative? Post an attendant at each public bath at all times? Take away the public baths? Run a background check on all guests? We feel that we have found a decent middle ground. We realize that it may be embarrassing to the person spotting the behavior to report it to us, but feel that they do have some responsibility in helping us eliminate it.