Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 06.22.04
Stanstead, Quebec


Sucking it up in the good old summertime

STANSTEAD, QC | I rented the film Swimming Pool the other night. I thought it was a how-to video on pool care and maintenance but it ended up being about a frequently nude sex kitten. I was very disappointed.

I had hoped the video would offer me some insight into the question that plagues most pool owners, namely, "Why the heck don't I take an axe to this thing?" It's sort of a "Zen and the Art of Filter Cleaning" question.

Our pool - or as I like to call it, "our !@*(#*$|?#!! pool" - is an above-ground variety, the same as the neighbor's to the right of us and the neighbor's to the left. In fact, if we could somehow get hold of some trained dolphins, we could make a killing charging admission as they leapt from pool to pool to pool. Humans could leap too but that would be far less graceful. (Of course, maybe with a couple fewer tequila shots I wouldn't have looked so clumsy.)

I was generally against the idea of putting a pool smack in the middle of our beautiful wide-open back yard. I prefer my green spaces free of water-filled lawn-mowing obstacles.

I figured the simpler, cheaper solution was simply to suck up to one of the aforementioned neighbors.

Deb argued that it was a way to keep the kids amused during those long boring summer days, which begin about twelve hours after school closes. So we compromised: I agreed to put in the pool and the rest of the family agreed that I should be the one to clean it.

And that's when the pool became "the !@*(#*$|?#!! pool."

To be fair, I ended up responsible for pool maintenance because I broke the first rule of manhood: "Do something well once and you'll end up doing it forever." That's how we got stuck with barbecuing too.

The pool-related aggravation begins when the kids start pestering me about when the pool is going to be ready. This usually begins sometime in February.

When the ice finally melts, I start scooping out the dead leaves, Barbie parts, and tricycles. Then it's time to vacuum out the gunk that has settled over the winter. I'm not sure what the gunk is but it has the same consistency of the stuff you scrape off your teeth when you wake up on a strange couch in an apartment owned by a guy named Arvin.

It takes about five vacuumings to de-gunk the pool entirely and on some days, it is a hot, sunburn-inducing task.

Now, before any of you women readers start fantasizing about romantic liaisons with the pool boy, let me inform you there is nothing sexy about being covered in pool scum while trying to yank a snorkel out of a skimmer. Go ahead: picture Antonio Banderas. Now imagine him saying, "Good afternoon, my lady. Would you care to help me… backwash?" See, just doesn't do it for you, does it.

All this work wouldn't be so bad if I actually swam in the pool. But generally I get in maybe three or four times a summer. It has to be somewhere just under 100º F before I'll swim, which is a bit odd, since I grew up swimming in the frigid waters of Nova Scotia. That's the province with the license plate "Canada's Ocean Playground" though it actually should read "Some Shrinkage May Occur."

And then there are all the chemicals: chlorine, algaecide, pool clarifier, pool emulsifier, pool polarizer, pool equalizer, pool excalibur, pool softener. I don't know what half the chemicals are for. I only know that after I get out, I glow in the dark for a good ten minutes.

This year, it's taken weeks to ready the pool. It's just barely swimable and a long way from being warm enough for me. Maybe it's because of the cold weather, but I just can't seem to muster the enthusiasm to get the liner as spotless as I usually like it. I'm sure I can get away with it though: "That's not dirt, kids. That's a sandbar. Jump in. It's just like Nova Scotia!"