Unsung Heroes Of The Pool Industry
I was pondering life in the swimming pool industry and thinking back to a time where things were simpler. Before cell phones were a thing you would drive out into the world every morning and simply just disappear into the ether. Nobody could find you. Nobody could bother you with anything until you decided you were ready to head back to the shop at the end of the day. Hell, you didn't even need to go to work if your company was big enough or busy enough (or you can fast talk your way out of anything). Just drive straight to the bar, or home, or even to another job because unless your boss drives right by you then nobody would ever know.
Within one generation the entire landscape (pun intended) of the swimming pool industry has changed. The level of competency of the average worker is, for sure, at an all time high. As a forgotten industry we tend to drag our feet behind other more mainstream industries, but technology is catching up and we are entering a golden age for swimming pool systems. I think 30 years from now new systems and processes will be unrecognizable to the modern day equivalent, and so too, today as compared to only one generation ago when I was getting started.
Modern day life for pool technicians
Boss - Bill, have a seat right here because we need to talk. In the last hour your truck GPS reported four separate events where you were exceeding the speed limit in excess of fifteen percent - once while in a school zone! There was also one event reported where you decelerated at almost four G's...how many times have we talked about defensive driving habits while in a company vehicle Bill? Seven. Here are the dates, times and minutes of those conversations, along with your signature here, and here, saying that you understand that any GPS reported events are a fireable offense. Honestly Bill, I was willing to let all of that go but I see that you stopped the vehicle at home again for 12 minutes before you came back to the shop tonight. I can only assume that you were stealing company property with such a stop, and so I will need you to turn over your company keys and we need to do a complete inventory account of everything in your truck, right now, to see if we need to get the authorities involved or not. What do you have to say for yourself Bill?
Bill - I shit myself. I had to go...and...I didn't make it. I was behind and didn't have time to stop for lunch today and I thought I could make it the rest of the day. I was going to tell you that I need to take the truck to get it detailed...but I guess that is your problem now. Here are your keys. I appreciate the employment opportunity you have extended to me and I regret that our working relationship must end on such a sour note. Get it? Sour? No? It will be funny later - trust me. PEACE!
All of this could have been avoided in the old days of the pool industry. I am not even joking that only 30 years ago you could literally drive into town with a cube van that said "magic pool beans" on the side of it. If you were convincing enough you could swindle an entire town by selling them the magic solution to all of their problems. If you doubt this claim for even a second you clearly are unaware that, until this day, "magic pool beans" are still being sold. As are pool rocks, and special magnets that magnetically align the water, man, (which might mean something if water was made from metal). Buy the all-new "Aura Blaster 3000" from Scamco if your pool has a negative chakra and you need to align the charged ions in the chi-chamber. Or just use chlorine. It's up to you.
30 years ago life for a pool technician
Boss - Where is Bill?
Luigi - Dunno.
Boss - Dammit he has my truck and I haven't seen him in two days...and how drunk are you? I can smell you from across the room - go get yourself a sandwich before you drive home.
Pool industry workers of today would not even recognize the industry of even one generation ago. Two generations ago swimming pool builders were largely just a cover for organized crime needing a way to dispose of bodies and underneath a concrete pool is apparently a good place to put them...or so the story goes. Over time some things have stayed the same, but much of the way the industry operates has changed. The biggest problems of a pool builder in the 70's are non-issues for a modern day builder. So what changed? What every day items have permanently changed the face of the pool industry forever? Without further ado I present to you, the "Inanimate Carbon Rods" of swimming pools and spas - Unsung Heroes of the pool industry that have changed the way we work on pools.
Coffee Is For Closers
Coffee tops my list as the true unsung hero of the pool and spa industry. If you don't agree because you prefer tea, or you are too healthy to drink coffee, then I don't even know what you are doing working on pools. I think you are supposed to be an insurance adjuster or flower arranger or something. Coffee is for closers, and openers, and maintenance crews, and construction crews, but most of all, coffee is for business owners. Being numbers oriented I once calculated that I spent more at Tim Horton's getting coffee at my college campus than I spent on my tuition. The professional swimming pool industry worker in me looks back on my coffee drinking habits at the time and considers them "cute".
By year 25 my coffee had devolved into a jet black swirling abyss of darkness that not even the fattiest or most chemical rich creamer could lighten. The harsh sting of the first cup as the acidic brew heats my throat and I instantly feel the buzz of 1000mg of caffeine going to work and short circuiting synapse responses throughout my body. If coffee ceased to exist then the pool industry would simply grind to a slow, cranky, halt. I think it would also be fair to say that the quality of customer service, in general, would decline.
What Are Banker Hours?
I live in a small town. The bank that I use for business is open from 10am until 4pm Monday through Friday. Wait, what?. 4pm is the latest they are open and they are closed all weekend, every weekend. As a business owner this is massively inconvenient to me, but one of the prices that you pay if you choose to escape big city living. However, if you are an employee for a business, and your regular shift has you working Monday to Saturday from 7am until 7pm, or later, then how are you supposed to even cash your checks? 24 hour banking. It is a fantastic thing - and it is not to be taken for granted.
24 hour banking is a luxury that you have now, or even more likely, electronic banking with automated deposits and an app at your fingers that lets you do anything with your money, instantly, any time of day or night. Getting money from a client, and getting it to a bank, and then having access to that money, used to be one of the hardest parts of the job. This is why the pool industry became a cash only industry and still to this day has a lot of cash based transactions happening. Pools and pool equipment are very expensive and a busy company can have hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up every month in deposits, banking holds, 30 day net accounts, supplies for current projects, payroll, lease and vehicle payments...having the ability to bank so easily is a huge asset to making the pool industry function smoothly. It was a lot less smooth without it.
Out Damned Spot, Out I Say!
Hand sanitizer is an unsung hero of the swimming pool industry, because without it there would probably only be about half of us left. I first was introduced to the idea of alcohol based, no-water hand cleaners around 30 years ago, and I am never without it. A cold garden hose can only get your hands so clean...and I routinely touch things that smell and/or look like "death", whatever that is, and I still need to eat my lunch every day. Hand sanitizer helps to keep some of the really nasty bacteria at bay, which is great, because a nice sink with hot water and soap are not always right next to you. Sure I would expect you to put off eating a sandwich until after you can wash up if you accidentally touched the inside of a bloated possum corpse with your bare hands...but even if you are not getting ready to eat, just rubbing your eye, or having an open wound, can result in deadly infection.
Since writing about diseases you can get from dirty water I have been contacted by dozens of pool workers who have been seriously ill, or hospitalized, from nasty infections from pools and stagnant water. Don't become a statistic. Use hand sanitizer and live to fight another day! Also, hand sanitizer into open wounds...good times. A great and fun way to test your mettle. Hand sanitizer into a fresh fistful of shoveling blisters is about the worst that I have personally experienced. I was expecting it to be bad, and it was much worse than I was expecting.
The Miracle Of Modern Medicine
There were a lot of items that I considered adding to this list of items invaluable to the pool industry, and there were so many that I decided to group these together under medical aids. Not medical A.I.D.S, but medical aids, as in medically related items which assist you in improving your day to day quality of life. For me, a very light skinned person, sunscreen has kept me alive up until this point, as have Advil and Tylenol for all of the physical abuse the body takes while running the gauntlet (working on pools).
Having chaffed hands (or anything else) really sucks and makes it hard to work productively, and I make it a point to tell other pool workers about Bag Balm, which is a silly sounding product that is an absolute godsend if you suffer from cracked and chaffed hands (or any other chaffing). If you or someone you know has a real problem with their hands splitting open on them convince them to use this product and it will improve their life. I think we can also safely include antibiotics in this list of unsung heroes of the pool industry since, like the example above, half of us would be dead from Naegleria Fowleri or Necrotizing Fasciitis or something equally as insidious without them. Maybe one day medicine will invent a way to stop hapless customers from giving me a headache, but probably not.
Let Me Take Care Of That For You
Since we are talking about hapless pool owners, you need to acknowledge that the swimming pool industry could not exist as it does now without overwhelmed customers by the millions paying us to build, maintain and repair their pools. I know water chemistry for a swimming pool is complicated, but it is not that complicated...at least it isn't to the average swimming pool industry worker. But to the average pool owner you look like a damned wizard out by the pool opening up muriatic acid bottles and pouring them bubbling and steaming right into the pool! Truth be told we would all be out of a job if pool owners ever figured out that chlorine is 9/10ths of the equation and skimming debris is not all that hard once you have a good net and develop a little technique. We should all be thanking pool owners for not taking the time to bone up on water chemistry or finding the time to vacuum their own pools!
With the way that automation systems are headed over the past 10 years alone it would be easy to see that 30 years from now pools could be almost entirely self sufficient. That does not scare me, because I will be a million years old by then, but if you are young in this industry you should invest heavily in developing skills with automation and control systems. You would need to put in a lot of time to get better on a trowel than me by this point, but by next weekend you could be a master of an app that I can not get my phone to install and load properly. Old world skills are important, but the future of this industry is in the technology.
The Drink That Champions Prefer
Hose water versus Gatorade...which do you think the pool industry drinks more of by volume? I am going to guess the answer is hose water by a large margin. Do you think there is any other industry that drinks as much hose water as we do? Pool workers probably drink more hose water than all of the normal people of the world put together. Like what if you found out, strangely, that over 90% of the water that humans drink out of the toilet is from lawyers, specifically. That would be weird right? No wonder we are considered a fringe industry. We probably come off as a bunch of Neanderthal maniacs with no sense of self preservation to the rest of society.
As for the Gatorade, the amount of Gatorade that the pool industry alone consumes must account for a respectable portion of global Gatorade sales. Hose water is not good. Nobody is proud about drinking hose water, but you can either hydrate or die when it comes to working in the summer sun. This is why both hose water, as well as Gatorade, receive top honors on this list of unsung heroes of the pool industry. Honorable mention goes out to energy drinks for increasing dramatically both employee efficiency, as well as the rate of renal failure in failure in pool workers.
Three Cheers For Lightning!
There is no day of working on pools that ends faster, or more permanently, than when lighting strikes. I know there are a bunch of you out there reading this that work right through the lightning, but that is only because you do not respect yourself. Lightning kills, and no pool is worth my life. In fact, pools have been conspiring to kill me for years and I will be damned if I am going to let one get an easy sale on me by vacuuming a pool in a lightning storm. In some areas lightning is exceedingly rare, and so I expect you can relate least of all, but in areas where storms are common you will probably get a handful of lightning based days off every year.
I think we can all agree that sudden and unexpected days off where you simply could not go in even if you wanted to are the best. No choice but to rest and relax...and catch up on three months worth of backlogged paperwork most likely. If there is thunder, there is lightning. Thunder equals lightning, which equals no working on pools. If your boss does not agree I would be happy to speak with them for you and explain the importance of valuing the life of your employees, and you know, not being a deplorable dirtbag of a human being. Your lack of an understanding for meteorology and appropriate risk acceptance is no excuse for someone else to risk even 1% of their health and safety to help you make more money. But go ahead and argue how it is not really dangerous, even though lightning kills over 24,000 people every year. Go ahead. I am waiting...
Don't Wait Up - I Am Stopping For Tacos!
The amount of food that I have eaten out of a gas station in my life is staggering. I am not proud of this. I actually consider myself to me somewhat of a foodie and yet have eaten more fast food burgers and pizza than one man ever should. Do you know why? What do you think is open and ready to serve me food at 4:30 in the morning? Not a lot of places...and so you get used to the late night and 24 hour fast food and restaurant options. I think Subway was about the best I did in terms of quality of food, which is not saying much, and I personally have contributed too much to the further development of the McDonalds megapoly...but again it is a matter of convenience.
After a 15 hour day troweling concrete my desire to go home and cook a meal is very, very low. Typically speaking in my career as a pool builder I would have enough time after work to eat, or shower, but usually not both. Pick one, do it fast, and then fall asleep because tomorrow comes early when you wake up before the sun. Without these ultra-late-night and early morning establishments I suspect that the pool industry would convert over to those bankers hours I was talking about earlier - Monday to Friday from 10:00am to 4:00pm only! Of course if we all did that then the average rate for a pool worker would go up to around $1000 per hour from simple supply and demand. Actually, if we all just stopped working ridiculously long hours at the same time we could all work less and make more. Who's with me?
If you enjoyed this lighthearted satire about working in the pool and spa industry then be sure to check out some of these other popular and funny articles from Swimming Pool Steve:
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Famous people who could have been great pool builders
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