Bodhisattva: A person who has attained prajna, or Enlightenment, but who postpones Nirvana in order to help others to attain Enlightenment.
Alan is the man. A true swimming pool bodhisattva if there ever was one. Alan is (I’m guessing) in his late mid to late sixties. Used to be a corporate guy in an earlier life who did pool maintenance on the side before he decided to retire for the first time, doing pool consulting work for a local firm, Cactus Valley Pools, before they got bought out by a company called Poolwerx. Not wanting to get caught up in the mumbo-jumbo of corporate takeovers, Alan then decided to retire for a second time, only to discover yet again that one can only do so much traveling, gardening, and golfing before you miss being in the gameaction. When Poolwerx encouraged Jeff, the manager of the old Cactus Valley I used to frequent, to take over his old store, they asked him if there was anyone else he’d like to bring back. Alan was the first name off his lips. Alan accepted. He was back in the game.
It was Alan who drained our pool for the first time a decade ago. Alan who replaced our old cartridge filter with a sand media filter three years ago. Alan who saved us a thousand bucks by suggesting he could caulk the big cracks that appeared in the pool’s decorative border where no one could see and came by on four successive days at the crack of dawn to add a new layer of caulk so it could dry before the heat came up. Alan who suggested how much the pool water could be safely drained two summers ago before it was covered over when we had our bee infestation.
And it’s not just us: Jeff at the Poolwerx store estimates that there isn’t a pebble-tech pool within ten square miles of the branch that Alan hasn’t either seen and serviced. And given the value a well-maintained pool means to one’s property here in the Valley of the Sun, someone like Alan is right up there, somewhere behind your A/C guy and next to your landscaper. He’s invaluable. And, as a result, expensive. Because owing an in-ground swimming pool is just like owning a boat. Expensive to operate, expensive to keep up. And, like a boat, you have to keep it up and stay on top of it; if you don’t both can get away from you and real fast.
In the grand scheme of the swimming pool universe, there are lucky pool owners and unlucky ones. The unlucky ones find themselves battling with one problem after another: green water, gray water, black water, chlorine and acid level imbalances, filter issues that never seem to go away. Fortunately, we’ve always seemed to live on the charmed side of that coin: outside of the occasional chlorine shock and going through several incarnations of pool vacuums (all expensive) before finding the right one for our particular size and shape, the pool basically runs itself. Keep the chlorine container filled, add a cupful of phos-free every week once the real heat comes in, and the water always looks good. For whatever reason, our pool light has never worked longer than a month or so after replacing the bulb (another expensive item!) but that’s never been a big deal. A lot of it is just being lucky and being diligent when it comes to sweeping the floor and the sides of the dirt that accumulates, but I have to think a lot of it also has to do with being able to rely on Alan’s expertise.
I usually see Alan every two years on the odd year, because it’s every two years we replace the water and start all over again. This past Tuesday was our day, which meant two things: 1) an enjoyable conversation by the pool catching up on things, and 2) lots of money about to be spent. That’s just the way it is.
First on the list was the pool water level regulator: I could never figure it out, and had resorted to using the garden hose to fill the pool to its normal level after the one that had worked so damned well for ages finally gave out last fall. Alan took one look at it, had it properly adjusted in a minute’s time.
Alan then noticed that the pool vacuum seemed to be only doing one section of the pool. “How long has that been happening?”, he asked. I told him I couldn’t remember. “It probably needs its bearing and runners adjusted”, he says. “I have the same model and mine goes all over the place. I’ll take care of that when I drain the pool.”
I wanted Alan to take a look at the calcium ring where an older, higher water level used to be. “I can get a guy to bead-blast (how’s that for a term!) it for you. It’ll cost, though…”. “What doesn’t?”, says I. “He won’t be able to blast the calcium line on the pool deck surface, it’ll rip it all to hell”, Alan cautioned. I told him that was OK, we’ll leave as is – pool deck resurfacing is on the backyard to-do list for next year.
Alan remarked how good the pool looked overall and said I wouldn’t need to have it acid-washed once the water is drained, which was good news – $130 that won’t need to be spent. He asked how often I backwashed the filter, and I told him every 3-4 weeks unless things get really dusty during the monsoon season. He gave a nod. A good sign, until I casually mentioned how, after my last backwash this past weekend, a stream of dirty water went back into the pool after I had started the filter back up again. Alan frowned. Not a good sign.
“How long did you backwash it for?”
“Well, I’m going to have to check your filter pipes.”
Alan proceeds to tell me there are three sets of O-rings (I immediately start thinking of the space shuttle Challenger and what bad O-rings did to that) and how they probably need replacing. Not big money, fortunately, but time, and Alan’s time is, of course, money. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to swimming pools and Alan: if he advises something, don’t think, just grab the check book.
We arrange for Alan’s planned visit next week to recheck the water level regulator, drain the pool, take the vacuum back for servicing, and check the filter O-rings. That’s enough for this year, I think. When all is said and done, we’re probably talking a grand. But a grand well spent in the grand scheme of things. Because, just like just about everything else, there is no cutting corners when it comes to swimming pools. It’s either pay me now or pay me later.
And if Alan says pay me now, well, that’s the way it goes. Because that’s the way the game is played when your house comes with an in-ground swimming pool in the Valley of the Sun.