The water was a gleaming turquoise yesterday at the swimming pools of metropolitan Baltimore. The breeze was gentle. and caressing on the skin. The temperature couldn't have been more comfortable and the humidity took a holiday.
So where were the swimmers?
Elsewhere, for the most part. Despite near-perfect weather for waterside lazing, yesterday was just another slow pool day in the unusually cool and rainy summer of 2000.
For the lifeguards and managers of area public and private pools, that meant a relaxing day that didn't test their skills or their patience. But for many, it's beginning to be too much of a good thing.
"We haven't been getting much business, so everything's been boring," said Tara Gantt, a Western High School student who's working this summer as a life-guard at Milford Mill Swim club.
Things couldn't have been much safer yesterday at the privately owned club. At times in the early afternoon, there were three lifeguards on duty for each person in the quarry swimming hole. In the adjoining pool, eight children and two adults played under the watchful eye of three life-guards.
For lifeguards, yesterday's blue skies and fluffy white clouds at least broke the pattern of hazy days cut short by late-afternoon thunderstorms. When the storms come, lifeguards say, the swimmers go -- and don't return even if the weather clears hours before closing time.
The result is that many life-guards are sent home early, costing them summer earnings.
The losses are shared by pool operators, whether public or private. Attendance is off, and so are revenues from concessions.
Bill Walker and his wife, Gail, operate the Milford Mill club. After buying the business last year, they've been working to polish the reputation of the venerable swim club, which is open to the public. They say this year's weather isn't helping.
"lt's been a klller." said Bill Walker. "Weatherwlse, it has to be the worst summer for pool people in history."
He said part of the reason for yesterday's sparse crowd is that August is vacation season. But another big factor was that yesterday's weather was a bit too perfect.
"You get people lying out when it's sticky. I don't know if we've had a sticky day yet," said Bill Walker. He'd prefer a day in the 90s, with a touch of humidity. And he'd like it to be hot early in the morning, when people make their plans for the day.
The temperature yesterday broke into the low 80s by late after-noon, but people who ventured out early found conditions in the high 60s and early 70s.
Those who did show up at local pools were surprised to find so many open lounge chairs and nearby parking spaces.
"It's a great day for swimming. It's perfect," said Susan Denchfield, who drove to Mllford Mill from Chevy Chase yesterday with her husband, and two children.
"I was absolutety shocked that I didn't find more people," said-Manny Denchfleld, who has been going to the club for 25 years.
Business was only a little better yesterday at the Baltimore City swimming pool in Druid Hill Park. At about 3:30 p.m., the peak of the swimming day, manager Jimmy Hayes estimated he had 60 swimmers in the pool and nine life-guards on duty. He noted that Red Cross guidelines call for one guard for each 30 to 50 swlmmers.
One part of his business that has seriously declined is the evening crowd, especially those who stop on the way to their Baltimore County homes to avoid the Interstate 83 rush-hour traffic and take advantage of the adult swim nights on Tuesday and Thursdays. It's a great bargain at $1.50, Hayes said, but late-afternoon storms have kept them away.
But Hayes wasn't complaining yesterday. "This is ideal summer weather to me - because it's cool enough to get a breeze, he said.
So why weren't the crowds out in force?
"That I don't know," Hayes said.