When Your Pool Leaks, Admit NothingApril 3, 2010
It rains heavily in Bali, which means that plants which are less than robust get quite a battering. Maybe one is supposed to leave them to collapse in some Darwinian version of tough love, but I find that hard to do. A particularly spindly specimen near the pump end of my pool had all but given up, leaning almost parallel to the ground. I could have ignored it, but on reflecting that it may not be all that long before I too am likely to need external support to stand up, I resolved to help it.
My horticultural skills are hopeless, but I can wield a hammer, so I found myself banging several long stakes into the soft Bali soil. I met resistance once or twice, but when one has a hammer, one tends to apply the philosophy of “if it won’t go in, hit it harder”. My plant was soon restored to approximate verticality, but as I had already used up my entire monthly quota of personal exertion on this task, a quick segue to less taxing pursuits, like eating and drinking, was necessary for the rest of the evening.
The next morning, at a suitably civilised hour (I find that dawn +3 hours is acceptable), I awoke to the sight of the water in my fancy clean-edge pool gently lapping 30 cm below where it should have been. You have to understand that it takes me until noon to complete my personal start-up sequence, so I wasn’t thinking too straight. My first thought was that my pembantu (who likes the water, but finds my pool frighteningly deep) had bailed it out to a more manageable swimming level. OK, OK, a bit far-fetched. Then I suspected that the maybe the minor tremor we had last week had somehow cracked the pool, or broken the pipes … oh no, the pipes! With startling clarity, the memory of driving stakes into the ground suddenly surfaced, complete with the sensation of temporary resistance as the metal plunged into the earth … no doubt, I thought, straight through some critical pipe.
Fortunately, I am not only a consummate problem-solver, but a veritable dynamo when it comes to taking decisive action. So I called my pool guy, Dewa. He was somewhere on the East coast of Bali, but promised to come and see me within 2 days. Great. Meanwhile, my pool was quietly emptying itself despite my attempts to explore every permutation of the numerous tap and valve positions in the pump chamber. Without actually telling Dewa about my destructive gardening efforts (no sense in upsetting him), I casually asked him how much it would cost to repair a broken underground pool pipe. I could hear him screw up his face over the phone. “Ooh, big, big job.” My heart sank. “Must dig.” Yes, I had already figured that part out. “Fix pipe. Pressure test. Replace garden. New, trees, new grass”. Oh no. I had forgotten about those green things on top of the soil. My heart sank more. “Maybe 4, no 5, maybe 6 million”. My heart bottomed out. I could see my savings doing the same.
One discovers things about one’s own psyche when one is under stress. I had always believed I was honest, and willing to take responsibility for my actions. But this was different – this could cost me big money, so surely I was entitled to slightly modify my non-core beliefs? Perhaps even shade the truth a little? Maybe if I told my landlord about the earthquake, she would assume that was the cause, and pay for the repairs? Wait – what if I hid the ‘evidence’ by pulling out the stakes? But then the mental picture of a huge gusher in my yard, triggered by removal of the only thing stopping the flow from the hole, made me re-think that tactic.
So while I waited for the pool guy, and watched the water level keep dropping further, I came up with a brilliant reason why I shouldn’t have to pay to fix this problem. But I’m not going to tell you what it was, because it would reflect badly on my integrity. And I might get into trouble. But most of all, I won’t tell you because there was no need to use any excuse at all.
You see, the pool guy finally arrived, took one look, jumped into the filter pit, unscrewed a small in-line valve and from its innards, pulled out … a twig. “Jammed open”, he said. “Water run out of pool to holding tank. Fixed now”. I couldn’t resist it and told him about my garden stake fears. I mean, I could afford to be honest now. He laughed. “No pipes there”, he said. “If you broke, yard would be full of water …”, which of course, it wasn’t.
So what have I learned? A few things: Pools are more complicated than I thought. Think before hammering things into the ground, because there might be stuff underneath. Don’t assume things. And never, never take responsibilty for things that you didn’t do, just because you feel guilty. It messes with your head when you do.