“Don’t wish too hard for anything,” said chere Grandmere, “Because you just might get it.”
She was right. She almost always was.
All my life from the moment I first dipped a toe in water, I’d wanted my own swimming pool. Even when I lived in a waterfront home, which I did for 17 years, I persisted in thinking a pool would be the proverbial icing on the cake of blissful bucolic living, even though the ocean was quite swimmable out front.
Later, when I was first living with the person who was to be my second wife, we decided that we must buy a house together. A ‘love nest’, as it were and one that would feature all our domestic fantasies to accompany the fulfillment of all those other fantasies. We looked at many houses one long Saturday, and then the realtor showed us one with a pool. A POOL! I tell ya, I thought my dream had come true.
I could picture rollicking poolside parties with generous libations, bikinied ladies, and perhaps even birthday-suit (and nothing more) romantic moonlight swims when daughter was away. It would all be good.
There it was in the back-yard (indeed it ‘was’ most of the back-yard); a large kidney-shaped (notice how pools are never liver, spleen or heart shaped) pool, filled with lovely azure water, and beautifully landscaped around. We, needless to say, fell in love with it. Added to which, we had a 12-year-old girl, who also fell in love with it. To complete the picture, we could actually afford the place. Well, we couldn’t really afford it as such, but we could meet the mortgage qualifications.
We bought the place, and I was just longing for the day I could take my first dip in ‘my very own pool.’ One Friday we moved into the house and then Saturday dawned ever-so-brightly. Look out pool, here I come! We walked out onto the patio, my new lady looking ever-so-scrumptious in the new swimsuit she’d bought for the occasion – and then we gazed out at the pool.
Something was very, very wrong. Half the water was missing! We were aghast. We phoned the pool guy who had checked it out for us. “You must have a leak in the vinyl lining,” he said. “These things happen,” he added, showing an utter lack of concern. I asked him what I should do. He suggested hiring a diver to find the leak and then patch it.
Divers are very costly. I thought I could don mask and snorkel and find it myself, since the pool guy said I’d be able to hear the water whooshing out. I damn near drowned, and gave the task up in short order. We hired a Scuba diver at $100 per hour. He found the leak and patched it, all in about 10 minutes. He still charged the C-note.
And so it began. We filled it up with the garden hose, and that took a while. But, truly, that first swim was heavenly. Daughter put on her new little white bikini for the occasion. She dove handsomely into the water and then emerged. As she climbed up the ladder mother and I realized that the swimsuit had turned utterly transparent and you could see her birthmark and every other little bit one doesn’t normally offer for public scrutiny, in fine display. Mortified she ran into the house and refused to go back in the pool for days, even when wearing an alternative and non-revealing suit.
Other things I found out about pools:
- They’re hideously expensive to operate: You have to heat them in chillier climates, like ours. You have to maintain perfect balance or they go all murky and disgusting. Then when you dump heavy chlorine ‘shocks’ into them – known as burn-out – you can’t use the pool for a couple of days. Days that tended to be the two warmest days of the year, we found. And, those chemicals cost a king’s ransom.
- They get plugged up with leaves and other bits of effluvia, and so they have to be skimmed.
- They get dirty with cruddy stuff that settles on the bottom. So, they have to be vacuumed. Adolescent girls, even under threat of loss of pool privileges, never want to vacuum the pool. Ours would have been quite content if the pool’s condition was the same as her bedroom’s – disgusting.
- They attract frogs. Cute little frogs regularly found their way into the pool. Once in, they couldn’t climb up the steep and slippery sides to get out. They’d end up in the skimmer reservoir and I’d rescue them and liberate them. But, if we went away for a few days, it would be too late for them. I’d find them in that same skimmer reservoir, bleached white from the chlorine, with eyes that looked like the ones possessed by the demonic kids in Village of the Damned. I still feel bad about those poor frogs.
- When the pool is started up in the spring the pump has to be primed to get it going again. This is an agonizingly frustrating task that always seemed to be on a complexity par with launching a space shuttle, and was often less successful.
- People pee in pools. Mainly kids are to blame for this. But, there is a natural tendency when immersed in water to have an urgent yearning to also pass water, even with adults. That used to thoroughly piss me off, if you’ll pardon the expression. You can’t really ask visiting adults to make sure they visit the toidy before going in the pool. But, if you had any sort of social gathering, you knew the next day was going to be a write-off as far as pool-use was concerned because the balance would be screwed. It doesn’t take many parts per million of urine to water to change the whole chemistry. And most, no matter how urbane and cavalier about body functions are loath to actually swim in pee.
- Eventually the thrill is gone and you end up using the pool simply to justify owning the sonofabitch.
- Pools actually detract from the value of a house. When we split a few years later and were selling the place, it took us ages to find a prospective buyer. “Most people simply don’t want pools,” the realtor said.
“They’re very wise,” I replied.
Today, if I were terrifically rich, I might own a pool again. But, that would only be if I could afford somebody to care for it on an ongoing basis and I lived in Palm Springs. Otherwise I will continue to heed Granny’s wisdom on the matter.