Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Deadliest Pool

Sometime last winter I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I ended up as the general manager of the private pool we belong to. That part of the story isn't really the point here.

Skip forward to the summer of 2012. Teenage lifeguards, on break from public schools where the main objective is to teach children to dutifully submit to state-approved authority, are surprised by a visit from the local Environmental Health Technician* (this title should have your Orwell sensors lighting up). According to the list written up by the inspector, the pool was just barely on the safe side of being shut down. The list included lethal items such as missing skimmer covers (we didn't have any missing, by the way) and no separate filter shut off thingy for the small pool (the reason for that is because the water in the big pool and the water in the small pool is the same water. Very observant, Inspector Clouseau!). A former manager informed me that the list was just a list of recommendations, and there was no threat of the pool being shut down, despite the inspector's notice that the items should be fixed within 24 hours or else. For the remainder of the summer we suffered exactly zero drownings, zero illnesses from contaminated water, zero limbs amputated by missing skimmer covers, and zero injuries unrelated to the idiocy of the injured person.

The other day I got a letter from the county health department concerning the pool. My pool, a private pool for members of the pool on private property, run by members of the pool privately for their own private use, and also not open to the public under any circumstances. I'm quoting now: "This letter is a follow up on the routine inspections of the above referenced facility's pool performed during the 2012 season." I'm flattered! Continuing: "During these inspections the following item was discussed and must be corrected to maintain compliance with WAC 246-260 prior to opening your facility in 2013." Egads, bold letters! The words "must" and "compliance" were used, this must be seriously official! But it gets better, and then it gets even better after that. The item to be corrected is the obtaining of a chlorine test kit, which can be found by any blind moron in the pump room of the above referenced pool. We have a test kit, which is how the lifeguards tested the water multiple times everyday for the entire summer. But it seems that our beloved inspector deemed our kit inadequate. Whatever shall we do?

Here's the even better part. Quoting the, uh, technician again: "Please note this item is a central component of a safe and healthy facility. It is your responsibility to ensure that your facility remains as safe as possible. It is important to fix this item prior to opening in 2013, as failure will result in closure of your facility until corrections have been implemented." This small group of sentences really made my day. There's so much there. Failure will result in closure. We must recognize the stringent standards set forth by the state. Failure is not an option. These people run a tight ship, and there is no room for sloppy or inaccurate water testing. Yes, the state demands success, no failure allowed. Those with a bad attitude toward authority might point out that the state itself is the source of more failure than any other single source, and that the state fails at everything it ever attempts to do, aside from fleecing the general population and creating an endless and metastasizing labyrinth of bureaucracies. But I'll refrain from that. The other thing I noticed was the very clear assignment of responsibility. "It is your responsibility…" Well, if it's my responsibility, then why have I been sent a letter about this problem? Why not mind your own business, county health department? By your own admission, it is none of your business, because it's my responsibility. Wherefore do you concern yourself with my pool, Inspector/Technician? It is not your responsibility, after all.

At this point some may be wondering what purpose the county health department serves at all, what with no responsibility whatsoever to oversee the correct testing of pool water. Well, plenty of purposes, that's what. It even says it on the letterhead: "Always working [sic] for a safer and healthier community." See? That's gotta be a purpose, right? So while they're out working [sic] to save the community from the community's own dumb non-self-preservational self, I'll be responsible for the safe operation of the pool, even though I didn't need them to tell me I needed to do that in the first place. Maybe the department will be in your kitchen next, testing your knives to make sure they're clean before you cut vegetables with them, or maybe making sure there are no dangerous tree branches in your back yard. And did you flush the toilet? Inspector, where are you when we need you? Community safety first!

So I'll close with some words from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an invitation to the technicians and inspectors down at the county health department, and personal pledge to never deserve what happened afterward: "And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward."

*This guy could be different from the actual field inspector. I don't know, but does it really matter?


NaDell Ransom said...

Does this mean that you are the pool president again? Sounds like an awesome way to be annoyed all the time...maybe not though. Good luck!

isaac stanfield said...

No, still the general manager, and still annoyed when some idiot inspector comes around and bothers the lifeguards for no reason.