Monday, September 03, 2007

Float like a canoe, sting like a bee

After I wrote last week’s column about planning to remove the above-ground pool in my backyard, a reader (we’ll call her “Anne,” because that’s her name), wrote to say that she had a similar situation in her own backyard, and likewise found the work/fun ratio of owning a pool to be just slightly better than the work/fun ratio of mining salt. Anne found herself dreading both spring and fall, two otherwise pleasant seasons that prominently feature trees dressing and undressing themselves while Gap tries to figure out how it can possibly persuade you to buy more khakis. Of course, you don’t notice these things if you own a pool, mostly because you’re too busy trying to tell if the underwater vacuum is sucking anything other than the joy out of your life.

Faced with the toil of opening and closing the pool each season, Anne would have been driven completely off the deep end, saved only by the fact that above-ground pools don’t have deep ends. Circles don’t really have ends at all, actually. Perhaps she would have just been driven to an area of uniform depth within the confines of the pool walls. Regardless, things had gotten so bad that Anne, moved to desperation, considered solving her temporary problem with a permanent solution: real estate. “I have thought about moving just to get away from the pool,” she wrote.

Luckily, the internet offers an easier solution. If you removed whatever you have right now in your bellybutton and offered it for free on Craigslist, somebody would come and take it from you. You probably wouldn’t want to invite them in for cookies, though.

I don’t mean to generalize too much; pools are great for some families, mainly other people’s. But if you’re thinking about getting an above-ground pool, you might want to pause and consider Anne’s story. There are many things in the world that would be more fun to get than a pool, like a Nintendo Wii or typhoid fever.

Our new friend Steve from Craigslist was as excited to get the pool as we were to give it to him. It was a joyous, cathartic demolition, like taking down a mean kid’s sandcastle or the Berlin Wall. As Steve was taking pieces of the pool around the house and loading them onto his trailer, my wife Kara and I raked over the crater where the pool had been. Just as we were finishing smoothing out the dirt, I noticed a bumblebee flying around Kara’s shirt sleeve. All of a sudden, the bee disappeared.

I should interject here that when my dad and I used to take canoeing trips with the Boy Scouts, there was a kid named Chris who gained fame over the years for his prowess at navigating through the more difficult rapids. Instead of yelling useful information back to his dad, such as “There’s a rock coming up on the left!” or “We’re about to go over a waterfall!” Chris would just yell, “Rock!” Every night at camp, his dad would say, “Chris, when we’re in the rapids, you need to tell me more than just ‘rock.’ Try to tell me where the rock is, or which way we should go to avoid the rock.” The next day, you’d see them colliding with half-submerged boulders as Chris yelled, “Rock!”

I was every bit as helpful as Chris when I pointed at Kara’s sleeve and said, “Bee!”

Kara suddenly looked as though she had a bee in her bonnet, and by bonnet I mean T-shirt. She ripped off her shirt and ran around the yard yowling in her bra, the first bee sting of her life fresh on her shoulder. Steve suddenly remembered that he’d left something in his truck, retreating from Kara’s impromptu exhibition.

“Ow! That really stings,” she said later, fully clothed.

“Yeah, that’s why they’re called that,” I said.

Now, whenever a bee comes within twenty yards, Kara runs around in circles yelling, “Babe! Babe!” as if I’m somehow responsible for the goings on. It’s not like I’m the one chasing her. I caught her years ago.

You can remove Mike Todd from your backyard at


  1. One time my mom was in the yard at the side of our house hanging out laundry. She stepped on a bees nest and up they flew, under her "housecoat" which is something that housewives USED to wear, and thank God I've never owned one in my LIFE. Anyways, there were neighbors out in their yard, so my mom calmly walked to the rear of our house, where she commenced to screaming and stripping off said housecoat. Poor thing was stung like 10 times and just stood there and took it, so as not to alarm the neighbors...

  2. Dude, your mom is hard f'ing core. I think we probably alarm the neighbors on a daily basis. I gotta get me one 'o those housecoats, too. Getting dressed is such a hassle.