The pool shop man sighed. “Ok, let’s go over this one more time.”
He’d been trying to explain how I needed to remove my pool pump. He may as well have been asking me to memorize the Space Shuttle’s flight plan.
I realised there was a problem in the cement swimming hole, when the water turned vomit green a few days ago. It’s quite possible that Shrek is enjoying some quiet time at the bottom.
My routine to test if there’s a problem with the filter is a time-honoured one. I turn the control switch to ON. If nothing happens, I rush to the pool shop.
I explained to the pool shop man that I might not be able to complete this task he was setting me. It sounded… technical.
Easy, he said. Even for you. And we can only fix it if you bring it in to us. The pool shop man is kind and patient. And rich, from all my visits.
I went home, and did what he said. He now has my pump, which may or may not be repaired by the next state election.
Of course, pool pumps never fail in the dead of winter. They are designed to turn up their metal toes only in extreme heat.
In the meantime, the family has no-where to swim. Which is why we decided to join the masses at the public swimming pool. And that’s when my nerves surfaced.
The first time I went to our local pool, all those years ago, Dad couldn’t come. So Mum took me by bus.
She wanted me to learn to swim like the other kids. Dad couldn’t understand the fuss. He worked out the swimming caper in the surf, and thought I should do likewise. As was usually the case, Mum won the day.
I remember spotting the bloke they claimed was the Swimming Teacher. It was an interesting description. He was a successful swimmer. He wasn’t a teacher.
It was a weekday, which meant the pool was all but empty. He told me to take my shirt and thongs off.
Mum hadn’t even taken her seat in the stand, when he picked me up, and tossed me into the deep end of that pool. I was about 6 years old.
His method, a long-standing one apparently, was to MAKE me get to the pool’s edge. The true definition of sink or swim. Sadly, I embraced the sinking part of the equation.
After thrashing around for a bit, I sank like a stone. Mum told me later that the more she screamed, the more he laughed. Maybe he didn’t realise that she couldn’t swim either.
Someone else jumped in to save me. Safely out of the water, I coughed, and spluttered, and cried.
My mother was not a woman to be messed with. Especially when it came to her children. The so-called teacher had just landed himself in a world of hurt.
Years later, I asked what happened. All she would tell me was that they stopped letting him teach small kids after that. I’d always suspected that his bigger problem was the visit Dad paid him the next day.
My greatest recollection of that terror, was the smell. Chlorine. I suspect that the pool had just been given a healthy dose. It’s stayed with me ever since.
Whenever I returned to that pool, or any other public swimming facility, the mere sniff of the stuff saw a wave of panic wash over me. Even when I could swim. Which, I might add, was the result of lessons from a wonderful, caring teacher soon after.
It returns, that feeling, for just a few brief seconds, even today. When I walked into that crowded pool on the weekend, I picked up the chlorine the same way as large hungry men detect a pie stand.
We move on, of course. My greater fear now is re-connecting pool pumps. If it ever gets fixed. Now that’s really being thrown in at the deep end.