Essay: One Bad Floater

Rules are made to be broken. Except for those at the community pool.

Another summer has come and gone (nearly), and I’ve managed once again to avoid getting booted from our community pool. But it was close. The Pool Hag nearly sunk me.

The thing about my pool is that you’re not allowed to bring in your own food. But all the food that issues forth from the “cantina,” as they call it, is deep-fried in lard rendered from the livers of geese that have been force-fed seasoned french fries from Burger House. That’s my understanding. It tastes wonderful. But because I’m Catholic, I walk the earth and swim its pools while wearing a weight belt loaded with guilt, and some of that guilt comes from knowing that I should feed my kids food that’s more wholesome than the trans-fat-saturated stuff I put in my own lecherous, slothful body. Right?

Early in the summer, My Fair Lady packed a cooler. That’s where the trouble started. The cooler was small and contained a few simple, healthy foodstuffs that we could feed our children between cannonballs and trips down the waterslide: melon, grapes, cottage cheese. And I should mention, on the day in question, I’d been drinking—or had consumed drinks. The cantina serves beer, and a bucket of six runs something like $15.

It’s like this, then: I’d had exactly three beers. I was eating a hamburger just off the grill. The Pool Hag spotted the cooler.

She: “You know, we don’t allow food from the outside. That’s the rule.”

Me: [holding burger and 18-month-old daughter, whose nipples are way less hairy than mine] “You’re serious? We’ve got a bag of grapes here. And, sure, maybe some fresh basil and mozzarella and crackers—but mostly grapes and whatever because everything here is fried and I don’t want my children to die of arterial sclerosis before the age of 10.”

She: “No outside food. That’s the rule.”

Me: [really settling in for a good argument, which I always love, but especially when I’ve got an audience, which in this case consists of other poolside parents wearing looks of disapproval—but screw them because they’re just jealous that they didn’t bring their own canapés] “Come on. Are you guys just trying to make money? Because I bought all these beers here and this burger!” [brandishing burger]

She: “That’s the rule. I don’t make it up.” At this point, it seemed like the people in the pool actually stopped splashing so they could gawk at the loud guy with the spider legs sprouting from his nipples and the little girl in his arms, shouting at the pool staff. Someone turned off the music. I had everyone’s undivided attention.

Me: “That’s the rule, you say?”

She: “Yes. No outside food.”

Me: “Okay, but it’s a stupid rule. And as good Americans—and as Christians—we’re duty-bound to disobey rules that are stupid and, really, immoral.”

She: “I’m just telling you that’s the rule. You need to take that food out.”

Me: “So let me ask you: they make a rule that every 10th kid through the front gate has to be shot in the head. They give you a gun. Do you follow that rule?”

She: “Well, that would be a stupid rule.”

Me: “Exactly!”

She just stared at me with this blank look that suggested pressing the matter would bring satisfaction to neither of us.

So there it was. I trucked our contraband to the car that early summer day and thereafter did what I could to steer clear of the Pool Hag. We transported our grapes and mozzarella in the diaper bag and ate furtively.

Now fall is upon us. The pool will soon close, which will give them a chance to drain out all my vengeance pee.

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