Houghton Mifflin English

Compare-Contrast Essay

The Swimming Pool? The Lake? An Expert Tells All

By Susanna B.

It's a hot summer day, and you've spent the morning mowing the lawn. Needless to say, you're ready to cool off and eager for some fun. Nothing fills that order like a swim, but will you head for the neighborhood swimming pool or someplace in the great outdoors, such as a lake? These two settings differ in many ways.

First of all, swimming pools contrast with natural bodies of water because pools have been created with one purpose in mind: to make swimming, sunning, splashing, and diving just as fun and safe as possible. You won't bump into slimy fish or water weeds at a pool — nothing gets in the way of exercise and relaxation. You'll find slides, a diving board, wading pools for little kids, lounge chairs, and maybe even a toasty whirlpool. Also, the water is treated with chemicals to keep the pool clean and safe, and nonslip surfaces alongside keep wet feet steady. You won't find these features at the seashore. For maximum convenience, some pools are built indoors, so you can swim even if a thunderstorm is going on outside.

A swim in a freshwater pond or the salty sea is a whole different experience. Humans did not create these places, and each is unique (most swimming pools, by contrast, look as if they rolled off the same assembly line). You can feast your eyes on nature at a sandy beach with crashing waves or at a rock-edged lake. As you wade into the water, you'll feel grainy sand or squishy mud on your toes, not the artificially smooth floor of a pool. In addition, water temperature is not controlled; it may be warm or icy. Oceans and ponds also differ from swimming pools in the variety of activities they offer. Once you've beat the heat with a dip, you can try boating, surfing, or fishing — don't try those at the town pool! On the other hand, weather can dampen the fun. A stormy or cold day can make it impossible to swim outdoors.

Yet with all their differences, these two settings are alike in many ways, and swimmers find both attractive. For example, activities such as swimming lessons and junior lifesaving classes are available at city pools as well as rural lakes. In both places you can get a real workout in the water or just take it easy. Go ahead, work seriously on your backstroke or just playfully dog-paddle. The main goal of a summer swim is easily met at an Olympic-size pool or a local swimming hole, despite their differences. They both provide a great way to cool off and enjoy the company of friends and family.

Most important, at both swimming pools and beaches, swimmers have responsibilities. They should show courtesy and common sense. At these places signs are posted to explain rules for safety and polite behavior, and they should be heeded! Lifeguards or other adults need to be present wherever people enjoy the water. Guidelines like these are a feature of all swimming places.

As you can see, swimming pools can provide a wonderful recreational experience for swimmers, and so can lakes, streams, and oceans. These settings differ in some features, yet they resemble each other in some ways. Take it from someone who loves to swim — it's hip to dip in both places!

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