Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pool games and how to die from them.

Long before video games and the Internet, children used to swim in pools. I was no exception. I'd strap on a pair of DTs and launch myself from the roof of the shed into 4 feet of water with nary a thought for my spine and/or skull.

Most kids would play games in their pools but swimming in our pool was always more of a science experiment. We'd run around the pool and create a powerful vortex. We'd experiment with waveforms with such enthusiasm that the pool would always need a refill of at least 20 centimetres. If we'd had access to an elephant you can be assured that we would have known its mass by the time the sun set.

The problem is that this is only an option for half the year. Only lawyers and doctors could afford heated pools. But, as it turns out our doctor was a family friend. My younger sister grew up with his daughters and so occasionally we'd get to fight back against nature and its wretched claws of Winter.
I've heard it said that Australia doesn't have a class divide like in other countries. That there's something in our culture that prevents us separating along those lines but I know the truth. There are above-grounders, and there are in-grounders. Those uptight 'toffs' who are too good to suffer from the common man's problem of climbing the side of the pool and balancing their genitals on the dull rim of the pool edge before dropping into the water. THEY THINK THEY'RE BETTER THAN ME?!!

I digress.

So it was that we'd revel in the warmth of that pool. The heating system was quite clever. It was thick, strong bubble wrap that floated on top of the pool. As a child I assumed that the bubbles worked like tiny magnifying glasses, concentrating the sun's rays on the water. It was only considering this article that I realised that this wouldn't work at all because there wouldn't be additional heat. It would just be concentrated into tiny spots.

Turns out it basically works like a blanket, allowing radiant heat in and then preventing it from leaving by convectional means. You can buy huge sheets of the stuff and then cut it to fit the shape of your pool.

My mother, always on the lookout for a deal, snaffled up the offcuts to use on our pool. And so it was that our circular above ground pool became heated by a landscape of giant triangles of plastic. It looked like the Arctic ocean in the summer.

Sans Ice-breakers
There was a lot of horseplay around that pool and there were the occasional accidents. Most of mine tended to involve the last desperate struggles of a drowning bee and an immune system that was far too excited about being let out to play.

But one afternoon my mother decided it would be fun to lift me up and throw me into the pool fully clothed. I'm a pretty decent swimmer and it was only 4 feet of water. What wasn't considered is what would happen if I managed to flip as I hit the water and what if I hit the dead centre of the biggest triangle of bubble wrap?

I hung in the water, completely cocooned, bound up like a house fly in a spider's web. My arms were crushed up against my chest and my attempts to reach the surface and it's precious, precious air supply looked for all the world like a T-Rex doing doggy paddle. I inched upwards towards the light and finally breached into the tiny transparent cavern of air bubbles at the top of my own personal lamination.

I sucked in just enough air to pump out a desperate "elp!" before dropping straight to the bottom of the pool like a stone. I think it was at this point that my mother realised she'd inadvertently tried to murder her son. As my vision got dark I dimmly remember hearing a splash.

I was plucked out of the pool and unwrapped like a Nintendo cartridge on Christmas morning. (ie. with haste and the knowledge that I'd have to be forcefully blown into if I didn't work). I was cold, wet but I'd learned a valuable lesson.

No matter how much someone cares about you, they're probably going to kill you.

Photo: Mariko on beach by Mash Potato - Arctic Intersection by US Geological Survey

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