As I hurtled through the air, about to make contact with the water, my mind processed the thought that goes through the mind of most modern humans just before they escape underwater from the cruel heat of summer: “Did I take my phone out of my pocket?”
The phone was safely tucked away in a towel, but as I emerged from the water too late to do anything about it anyway, I still had to pat my pocket to be sure. My son, Zack, took that moment of distraction to blast me in the face with a two-foot long, pump-action water gun, the kind you could use to power-wash the mildew off your deck.
“Zack, dude, not in the face aga…” I said as he blasted me if the face again.
“I have a surprise for you!” he yelled, waiting for me to move my hands so that he could hydro-exfoliate me one more time. Instead, I swam underwater to join my wife, Kara, on the other side of the pool. Kids buzzed around in all directions, the next generation of troublemakers gathered for a pool party at our friend’s house.
“This is nice, isn’t it?” Kara said, and I could tell that she was thinking about it again. Pools. She wants one. I try to remind her that we already have one hanging on the wall in our garage, and that I would gladly take it down and spray out the spider webs whenever she’d like. Then she could cool off by submerging four inches of any body part of her choosing. For some reason, though, that doesn’t end the conversation.
Never mind the expense (though I do mind it), I feel like it might be helpful if Kara would recall that we had a pool once, at our previous house. Because it sat under a dense leaf canopy, it saw less sunlight than Donald Trump’s tax returns. For three seasons, its primary function was to serve as a convenient receptacle for our trees to store their leaves. For the other season, it perpetually stayed an interesting shade of green, which might have made it suitable for hosting the Olympics, but since nobody was offering us any medals, we weren’t sufficiently motivated to risk going in.
To open the pool in the spring, I had to remove the cover that sat under two feet of rotting detritus. After scooping bucket after bucket of tree sewage, I would spend an hour heaving and pulling and tugging and hugging this disgusting, Honda-Odyssey-sized bag of putrid leaves until I could finally wrangle the thing over the edge of the pool.
The experience wasn’t quite as traumatic for Kara, because she was inside watching Project Runway at the time.
A pool has the same work/fun ratio as a newborn baby. Sure, you can have fun with it sometimes, but mostly it just takes lots of work and all of your money. If you have friends with pools, though, the baby isn’t your responsibility. You can be the cool uncle who comes over and whoops it up all day, then hits the road when the meltdown starts.
“Yeah, it sure is nice. Seems like it’s working out pretty well for us to have a friend that has a pool, right?” I said.
“For now,” Kara replied, and a chill went up my spine.
Just then, our other son Evan leaped off the diving board with a huge smile on his face. All around the pool, people actually talked to each other, in part because their phones were stashed safely away from the water, which is perhaps the most underrated feature of the swimming pool.
Behind me, a voice said, “I have a surprise for you.” I turned around, slowly.
Even now, I bet you won’t find any mildew on my face.
You can do a cannonball next to Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.