“Don’t drink the water and you should be fine,” I said to my kids as they tightened their goggles and jumped into my “great idea” that hasn’t felt so great since I unpacked it.
A month ago, I convinced my ex-partner that we should purchase an above ground pool for our three children, ages nine and seven — the seven-year-olds are twins. Between the pandemic, the heat, and the kids being home all the damn time, I thought one of those large inflatable pools that come with a small pump would be a great summer addition.
The sprinkler and baby pool are great, but we would save so much water by having a pool filled with filtered water all summer! The kids could swim! The pool is only about 10 feet wide and two and a half feet deep, but still. I justified the cost by acknowledging that we weren’t getting season passes to our public pool, and it could be a present for the twins who had a June birthday. My enthusiasm was strong and my skeptical ex agreed to the purchase. My ex and I still live together, so this needed to be a joint decision.
With too much assurance, I added chlorine tabs and a pool cover to the initial cart of purchases. Since then my confidence has been shaken and “joint” is a loose description of how this project is going. I have never been one to call something regrettable, because everything is a learning experience and making mistakes is part of the process sometimes. However, the lessons don’t seem to be ending, and I am starting to rethink my stance as I stand alone in the backyard looking at my suburban nightmare.
I didn’t really think setup would be 10 minutes, despite the product’s description. But I didn’t think it would be three weeks, either—excuse me, four weeks. I am on week four of “enjoying” the gift that keeps costing me money. Taking the pool and pump out of the box and placing them on the ground did take 10 minutes, but the leveling of said ground before filling the pool took several hours. Again, my enthusiasm got the best of me and by the time I realized the pool wasn’t actually level (eyeballing a project like this isn’t as precise as eyeballing the straightness of a picture frame, FYI) I had hundreds of gallons of water to release back into the ground. I know. This is awful, and water was most definitely not saved. But I did swear a bunch, and a very specific section of the field behind my house is properly saturated.
I pumped some money into our local economy, however, by buying $100 worth of soil and mulch to properly level the ground. I use the word “properly” as a suggestion here. I did more than guess this time, but did less than what is likely suggested or required when it comes to grading a surface. I sort of used a level, but mostly I spent several hours tweaking sections under the pool after I filled it with a few inches of water to make sure the slope of my (apparently very uneven) backyard wasn’t pulling the water in one particular direction.
Success! I filled that pool like a champ, added the chlorine tab, and assumed my work was done.
This is where I began to wonder if I did, in fact, have regrets. If nothing else, I was very naïve in that assumption. After a couple of days of use, I noticed the water wasn’t as inviting as it had originally been. I cleaned the filter and decided that to really get the pool clean, I should let the pump run for hours at a time. I also needed replacement filters, but while searching for them I read reviews of the pool I had purchased and learned I needed to get pool chemicals and a skimmer (!!!) to keep things tidy and fresh. The sinking feeling really dropped in when I realized the pool filters I need won’t be available … until Labor Day. Sweet. But I was a gambler, too far into a game of poker to just fold.
Listen. Perhaps I should have known all of this or figured it the fuck out before I made the original purchase. But let my failings be your knowledge.
I put on a smile and decided to visit a local pool supply store to get what I needed. According to the woman who helped me, I wasn’t the only one who was “getting on the pool bandwagon.” She didn’t have the filters I was looking for, but she did have a spray for the filter I had that was supposed to extend its life until I could find replacements. The idea of extending life on any of this was both promising and painful. $90 later I also had chemicals to balance the pH, and a mini vacuum to keep the bottom of the pool clean.
And clean that pool was — for about three days. Then it was cloudy again. But I had found filters on eBay, so it was just a matter of holding on. Within another few days I was holding a box of filters that were not the right size, and a pool pump that was no longer working. According to a lovely sales rep at the manufacturer’s help line, I can only run the pump four hours a day when the sun isn’t out. These small pumps are apparently nocturnal, and mine overheated because I didn’t change my sleep patterns to manage a filtration system.
Let’s recap: Open package, level ground. Fill pool, drain pool. Spend money and time you don’t really have and level pool again. Joy! Spend more money and time on accessories for pool maintenance. Become nauseous when some vital accessories can’t be found. Relax when they are. Calculate that you have spent more money on extras than on the original pool. Put your head through a wall when everything shits the bed that seems to have always been fitted with the wrong sized sheets. Realize you should have just lit money on fire.
I am too far in to quit, though. I finally found a new pump and with any luck it will be here before Halloween. That is a small exaggeration. It’s supposed to arrive between July 17th and August 30th.
The upside is that the kids haven’t been bothered by any of this. They have enjoyed the fuck out of the pool, even if it has gone from expensive bathwater to stagnant pond water. Despite my latest request to not ingest the water, I finally decided it would be best to drain the pool. Yes, again. The weird pudding-like skin across the top got me worried about diarrhea, and kids with explosive poo is the last thing I need right now. I have had enough learning experiences during this summer adventure.