Honolulu Lite: Drain the Natatorium idea now

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Honolulu Lite
by Charles Memminger

LET’S stop this Natatorium foolishness before this albatross permanently affixes itself around our tax-paying necks.

A saltwater pool is a concept whose time has come and gone. Back in the days before environmental impact studies and when our basic understanding of bacteria and microbes was in its infancy, having a saltwater pool on the ocean’s edge was a grand idea.

Back then, people weren’t so hung up about germs and health hazards. In restaurants, dishes were washed by hand and not always thoroughly. Smoking was allowed everywhere, including on airplanes and in office buildings. There were no paper toilet seat covers or garbage disposals in kitchen sinks.

We’ve come a long way, baby. We’re not as paranoid about germs as Howard Hughes was, but we’re getting there. Did you ever think you’d see your neighborhood sandwich-maker wearing rubber surgical gloves? And let’s not even talk about sex. With AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases rampaging through the land, it behooves participants in the love game to shellac themselves with a construction-grade sealant before jumping in the sack.

Nevertheless, the city is pushing forward with its plan to rebuild the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, even though experts concede this relic of the past will be something akin to an enormous petri dish in which all manner of germs and diseases will percolate.

AND if you don’t believe that is true, just look at the proposed regulations regarding use of the pool: A huge number of people will be banned from using the pool, even though they pay the taxes being used to refurbish the facility.

Those banned include the old, the young, people with AIDS or liver disease or skin infections or staphylococci, which is a fancy word for the germs that cause pus. If this turkey is built, people will have to undergo full body searches before they will be allowed in the water. This will be the only swimming facility in the country with a doctor on staff to screen everyone coming through the memorial arches.

I’m not sure how the great minds behind this white elephant plan to identify AIDS sufferers who attempt to use the pool. Will everyone have to present a note from a doctor certifying they don’t have AIDS or HIV? I know a few lawyers in town who will have a ball with these regulations.

Last time I checked, I think people had a right to privacy about their personal medical history. And Attorney Lunsford Phillips in particular has developed a pretty healthy law practice suing people, businesses and the government over the accessibility rights of the disabled.

If the natatorium is ever rebuilt, it is going to be one high maintenance bugger, what with the water testers, lifeguards, scab screeners and health document processors.

I just don’t get it. Why do we need to go through all this humbug simply for a swimming pool? Hawaii’s World War I veterans would be suitably honored and remembered if the distinctive arch simply is restored. The money that will be poured down this rat hole (and, believe me, the $11 million is just a beginning) could be used to build parks that would be open to everyone.

It just makes no sense to build a salt-water swimming pool on the most famous beach in the world.

Besides, Honolulu already has a huge saltwater pool. It’s called Hanauma Bay.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards in 1994 and 1992, writes “Honolulu Lite” Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802 or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or 71224.113@compuserve.com.

The Honolulu Lite online archive is at: http://archives.starbulletin.com/lite