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Sunday, Aug. 04, 2002
My idea of the proper use of a swimming pool can be best summed up by the observation of just two simple rules.

1. Go to someone else's pool. If you use your own, you have to clean up before and after, you have to have lots and lots of food and drink available, you have to act as lifeguard for kids and/or inebriated adults. So, be selfish. Sponge off someone else, BYOB, and offer to man the grille once in a while.

2. Make sure they have noodles. Not the sort used for the preparation of pasta, either. You know, noodles. Pool noodles. Those spongy, 5 foot long tube things that you stick under body parts enabling a certain level of personal floatation when in contact with large amounts of water.

I happen to love noodles. I take two of them and stick them under my armpits, around my chest and drift down to the deep end and just kinda hover there. Feet down, arms spread. Floating. It's wonderful, it's a weightless feeling that you could achieve if you happened to be on the space shuttle. But then, the shuttle doesn't offer poolside beverage service. Nor does it have, as far as I know, long limbed bathing beauties to serve them.

The reason I use two noodles is specifically a matter of mathematics. Using one, I have found, does not afford the proper ratio of surface counteraction to an application of mass. In other words, I sink like a freaking rock, with ponderous belly leading the way like a sinker on a fishing line.

Using two seems to work fine, as long as I don't get too hyperactive and tip the apple cart so to speak. Three would just be a waste of resources. I'd end up looking like one of those fluorescent wiener dog balloons tied by a street vendor.

Yesterday I managed to meet all my specific goals by going to Stu's pool, knowing that he has an endless supply of noodles set aside on my behalf. Ally came along, taking but a single noodle and proceeding to perform her usual water ballet. Where I am content to float slug-like, gaining or losing position in the pool in time with the filter jets, she enjoys acrobatics. She stands on a single noodle in 10 feet of water, balanced by light arm motions, her head clearing the surface easily. She sits on one, swingset fashion, she floats on her back with one tucked under her knees.

I watched her do all this, turning my head carefully so as not to disturb whatever universal physics were keeping me afloat on my two noodles. My wife, the lithe and trim one. "How the hell do you do that?" I asked.

"It's very simple", she replied. "Didn't you learn how to float when you were a kid? Or have you just forgotten how?"

I held back relating the oft-told tale of my childhood swimming experience (negligible, growing up in Western New York offers more in the way of ice skating than pool time, their 45 day summers not lending home owners much incentive to install thousands of dollars worth of backyard pools, unless of course they could be frozen over in the winter as a hockey rink). But truth be told, I had very little pool time even when in school, with their super chlorinated Olympic sized units. I learned, grudgingly and not a little scared, how to swim. But I'm not prepared to go diving off a sinking ocean liner and expect to last much longer than it would take for a waiter to swim by with a pitcher of Mimosa's on a tray.

So I envy the water wise. My kids swim like fish, my wife like a graceful dolphin. Me, like a large piece of industrial equipment.

But give me my noodles and I hang suspended, the very picture of accessorized water nymph you might see on a pool sales brochure. Give me my noodles and I am set free. Forget those floating rafts, those slimy things you have to wrestle yourself into, flipping spectacularly to a cacophony of hooting from the patio. Feed me noodles, the simple and the effective.

If I could work a can holder into them, I'd be all set.

Slightly unbalanced, but all set.

I just love summer.

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