the scorching summer weather, which lasts roughly from Easter to Thanksgiving
in East Texas, if you
want to avoid morphing into an extra-greasy (and slightly hairy) strip
of bacon, escaping the heat and humidity is a necessity. Although
the air-conditioning at Walmart can be quite exhilarating, you can
only browse through the mouthwash and processed meats for so long
before you raise the suspicions of store management - and they threaten
to hire you. Therefore, several years ago, in a spasm of financial
self-flagellation, my wife and I decided to transform our backyard
into a chemically enhanced tropical paradise with the installation
of an in-ground swimming pool, complete with real live palm tree thingies.
As we soon discovered, though, pool ownership can present several
challenges. One example is the mysterious phenomenon in which the
pool water creates its own gravitational field, attracting every leaf,
insect, frog, squirrel (usually dead), snake (usually alive), and
annoying neighborhood kid within a five-mile radius. As the pool owner,
you are responsible for removing these contaminants (mainly the annoying
neighborhood kids) and buying expensive chemicals to protect against
them. Also, depending on the type of pool you own, you'll also be
tasked with cleaning the filter. Once you've done this for the first
time and witnessed the unidentifiable sludge that comes out of it,
you'll likely decide to purchase additional cleaning equipment. I
recommend an encapsulated hazmat suit and a flamethrower.
With whatever is left of your time and money, you may choose to host
a pool party. At our home, pool parties always include a number of
various and sundry children (in addition to our own three daughters).
Depending on the age of the children (and some adults) present, there
is the ever-present paranoia about the potential urine-to-chlorine
ratio in the pool water. Despite these apprehensions, though, I seem
to be the usual go-to parent whom the children request to get in the
pool and play the straight man to their shenanigans. My wife assures
me that this is because I'm so good with the kids, but I suspect that
they consider me a larger version of themselves - just with more ear
and nose hair.
One pool game that can provide minutes of fun is Sharks and Minnows.
In our version, I play the shark (more like an elephant seal with
low T) trying to tag the minnows before they can swim from one side
of the pool to the other. For some reason, the children often up the
stakes by assaulting the shark immediately upon being tagged. The
game can get pretty intense, and it inevitably ends with someone's
feelings getting hurt (usually mine).
We then transition to a game that is less likely to involve having
my eyes gouged out by someone in a Hello Kitty swimsuit - the repetitively
annoying Marco Polo. After years of playing, I'm convinced that Marco
Polo was invented specifically to irritate nearby adults to the brink
of insanity and to allow children to hone their advanced cheating
and arguing skills.
Once everyone is so upset that they won't speak to one another, it's
time for snacks. Nothing awakens the savage beast of childhood "hangry"
like swimming, so it's important to be prepared with enough refreshments
to satisfy a large sleuth of grizzly bears just after hibernation.
At our last pool gathering, the kids cleaned out every last Cheese
Nip and then resorted to eating an entire box of stale Saltines left
over from the Great Tummy Virus Epidemic of 2016.
As the sun sets and we light the citronella Tiki torches (so the mosquitos
can see better), I often sit back to enjoy the tranquility of the
evening, interrupted only by the occasional shrieks of five adolescent
girls trying to cram themselves into a quickly deflating $25 pool
ring. At these moments, I realize that even with all of the extra
work and financial sacrifices, the pool has been a great investment.
So if you ever decide to put in a pool, and you find yourself gagging
while cleaning the filter, just reflect upon the sweet times spent
with family and friends - and switch the flamethrower to turbo.
© Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" September
15, 2018 column