Chicago family learns lesson from too much chlorine in the hotel pool

There was too much chlorine in the hotel pool, and our skin was red, tight and itchy when we emerged from the water. My 3-year-old son Andy cried out, “My legs hurt!” and showed us his patchy shins. Alex, 19-months-old, cried out, “Ball! Ball!” and gestured frantically at the basketball afloat in the deep end of the pool.

Throughout our weekend trip, Alex’s only communication regarding the quality of our stay was that somewhere deep inside the walls of this hotel, there lurked a ball. Had he been able to log into, he would have rated the place five stars and issued the following informative, helpful comment: Ball!

“It’s a good thing I brought the big thing of lotion,” my husband said semi-smugly. There is always a battle on what’s appropriate to bring on a trip and what’s not. My husband is a pack rat at home, unable to part with the most useless of items, and an overpacker on two-night trips away. He insisted that in addition to the iPad, we should also bring the laptop with mouse and maybe even our older, clunkier laptop just to be certain that we all had plenty to do in our little room. He is also the kind of guy who brings his own sour cream to Burger King because the Burger King tacos don’t come with any sour cream. But at least he tries to keep the sour cream tub semi-hidden in fast food wrappings while he slathers a couple spoonfuls onto his bizarre hamburger taco to keep the social mortification level to a minimum.

Andy started crying a little, plaintively asking why his legs hurt so badly. “There was too much chlorine in the pool,” my husband explained as we headed back into our room. “But don’t worry, I have 32 ounces of intensive care lotion that’s going to fix that rash right up! Here it is! Oh, wait, that’s just my travel jug of sour cream. HERE it is! Lotion.”

The family moisturizing session commenced. Our skin was wrecked, and while the chlorine was mostly to blame, the extremely low dew point in the subzero weather outside was also a major factor.

In our first night at the hotel, while Alex opened and closed and opened and closed the hotel room microwave, Andy played on the iPad, and my husband used the computer, I’d found myself with nothing better to do than to listen to the TV weatherman explain the travesty of the current dew point. Yep. Should have brought the 20- pound laptop.

Yet the lotion didn’t immediately help Andy all that much, who was stuck on understanding the situation. “Why did they put too much tambourine in the water?” he asked. “Who did that?”

Sometimes Andy hears one word and spits out another, and it always provides an entertaining visual. Suddenly, I could picture the hotel pool manager unceremoniously dumping a huge garbage bag full of rattling tambourines into the deep end of the pool, a splintered drumstick stuck behind his ear.

“There was too much tambourine in the water because the pool guy didn’t pay attention in preschool or while watching Team Umizoomi and never learned to measure,” I explained to my son. “Do you know what that pool guy’s name is?”

“No, what is his name?”

“They call him Big Andy.”

“Big Andy?” my little Andy repeated, furrowing his brow. “No! Stop it! There’s no Big Andy!” Now my son was really starting to get distressed. He hates to be teased, and yet it’s so much fun to (lovingly) tease him. “Big Andy didn’t put too much tambourine in the water. Why do you say that?”

I kissed the wrinkled part of his forehead and retracted my story. “They have to put chlorine in the pool to kill all the germs, but sometimes it’s too much and it irritates your skin. But don’t your legs feel better now that they have lotion on them?”

“No, they don’t feel better. I mean, yes, they feel better. Can we go swimming again now?” Hearing his big brother’s question, Alex, who was in the middle of opening the microwave door, ducked down his head and barreled towards the door with a mighty holler. “BALL!”

We didn’t go swimming again that night, choosing instead to play air hockey, order a pizza, read the 10 library books that I had packed (I guess my husband isn’t the only overpacker), and run up and down the hotel hallways in search of Big Andy and his too many tambourines.

Later, when we were home and it didn’t matter anymore, I did a Google search. Should you be heading out of town to a hotel with a pool, here’s a way to treat a mild tambourine rash: a compress consisting of ice cubes in a towel followed by some hydrocortisone cream. Go ahead and throw the hydrocortisone cream right into your bag; it barely takes up any room and doesn’t technically count as overpacking.

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