No Tools Required

poolrealenoughThe pool broke. It was sometime probably in March when I walked to the backyard and noticed the pool cover drawn like a funnel down towards the center, like the vortex into a black hole. I had the urge to roll a penny and watch it go around and aroundpenny till it dropped through the middle like an interactive display in some science museum … this was due to shock. Afraid as I was to see it though, I still undid the edge of the cover and peered under. There I found a large doughnut of ice, but a doughnut far less than one which could fill the pool, and the lining shredded beneath it as if a tiger had tried to polish it with its claws out and no rag. I could see sand. I felt like a beached whale. A day or so later, adding salt to my wound, I then noticed a break in the metal pool wall. “Oh no.” I’d just mentioned about the busted liner to a friend, who said he could help me with a new one, and that it was an easy job … that is … unless the wall was cracked. “No worry,” I’d assured him. “It wasn’t,” and I’d been relieved to think that too … but there it was now like a crooked smile on a corpse resting on its side … a crack.

I did a search on the web for the means of fixing an above ground pool wall, and stopped at the first one I found. I mean it’s like putting on a shirt and asking someone what he thinks and he says it’s ugly, so you ask someone else, and she also says it’s ugly, so you ask someone else, and he says he likes it, so you keep the shirt on. It makes sense … right? Well once I found someone who said it could be done, what need had I to look any further … or to check his credentials for that matter? So … what was the suggested means of fixing a pool wall? Use aluminum flashing and rivets.

Okay … aluminum flashing … okay … I could take a guess of what that looked like, so my son and I headed for the hardware store (Of note: It had taken me days to work up the courage to get to this … no, no … yes, I knew what I was doing).

“Look at that,” I said, once I’d found an aisle in the hardware store with something shiny. Metal can be shiny … right?

My nine year old son pointed. “That’s it?” he asked.

It looked like a crushed pie tin or something whose edges could be folded up to roll paint in, but it was aluminumnum … mum … num-ish.

“Yes … yes, that must be it,” I said … but then I thought about my wife when I’d initially told her that I was going to fix the pool and she’d said, “Why don’t you ask for help?” Well the easy answer to that was obvious … because I don’t want to admit I don’t have a flipping clue what I’m doing. And so, having not read the sequel to the book “Failing To Get Out Before You’re In Over Your Head,” I replied, “I can do this.” I don’t think she bought it. It might have been the quivering in my voice. I’ll need to learn how not to do that.

Of note: My wife doesn’t repeat herself too often. I believe she has an idea of how much rope she can allow me before I hang myself.

Well anyway, her little voice was on my shoulder like that little being that sits there telling you what is right and wrong. “Okay, I’ll listen to her,” I thought, just to prove myself right, and told my son standing next to the aluminumnum … mum … num-ish … thing, we’d ask a store attendant where the aluminum flash was, so that we’d know for sure this was it … and then stepped away from the item and the aisle. I didn’t want to come across as a fool when the man came over and told me it was right there in front of me and would have bitten me if it had had fangs. These guys know handyman stuff. I didn’t want to come across as wet behind the ears, though I knew with those drippings I could fill the pool, probably even with the lining missing from it, but I didn’t want them to know that. So standing there in the main aisle with the flattened trays behind me and down an aisle off to my right, and not really believing I needed to do it, though reminding myself that it had taken days for me to get this far, I asked an attendant, and lo and behold, he said, “Aluminum flashing? Sure,” and took me off to somewhere in front of me off to my left.

“All right …”

There were a few rolls of this stuff, but fortunately they all seemed to be the same except for quantity. I was pretty sure I could handle that.  I bought the cheapest and smallest … and went home.

Now I’d ordered a new pool liner, further committing myself to this headache … I meant project … and it had taken me even longer getting to do that than it took getting to make the trip to the hardware store. I’d bought it online, and you might have thought I was contemplating the fallout of a nuclear detonation the way my finger procrastinated over the “Place Your Order” button. But I clicked it … eventually … and then peered out the window for a mushroom cloud, and realized I was still standing. “Okay … baby steps,” I told myself, “I just have to take little baby steps … put on the kid gloves … and … diapers? No … no, I could do this without the latter.”

Note: Do you realize you do a lot of talking to yourself when you really don’t know what you’re doing … or … or when you do know … like … like me?

So what else was needed? Rivets … okay, what is a rivet? Isn’t that what holds pockets on your denim pants? Well I didn’t own rivets, and that’s probably why I had and still have holes in my jean bottoms, just at the corners of my pockets. Either that or it’s because of my fat wallet I shove in them, and no, and yes it would be nice, it doesn’t have money. What it does have is a yearly collection of store receipts I always put in, but never take out. Oh look, a China King receipt for sesame chicken, 2012. What? You don’t like sesame chicken?

Sorry … back to rivets … um … okay … so I thought, don’t you need rivet toolsomething like a hole puncher or pliers to get those things on? Yeah, I think you do. But how do you do that in the middle of a wall? This is insane.

Okay, I’d made a change of plan … I decided I was going to go with nuts and bolts, or screws … but I needed a drill. That was a problem. The only electric tool I owned was a weed Wacker. Well this granted a stay of execution for another two weeks.

Note: I should get a job in government. I think it’s clear by now that I fit all the criteria required.

The new pool liner arrived. “Install liner when it is at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside,” the directions said. The weather was up and down, so I figured while I contemplated the crack that needed to be fixed, I would place the box with the seventy pounds of liner in it, from inside the house, out on the deck and into the sun to help the cause. I thought I was clever. I was committed, perhaps that’s why I didn’t concern myself with the onslaught of rain that followed and how the box lost its edges and corners and had become … what might someone say? … malleable like wet papier-mâché … or flushed toilet paper.

Well I finally tracked down someone with a drill. Not that I’d been looking too hard. He’d actually just come out and said that he had one … and I don’t know why. But when he did, you’d have thought I’d have jumped at it, but no, my decisiveness in that I could do this job did not ask him if I could borrow it until two days later when I called him on the phone … and when I asked … he laughed. I said, “What?” He said, “I just remember the other day you saying you were going to fix your pool, but you’d never done it before.”

(I ask, “Do we fail to see the red flags in our lives?”)red flag

Well he said, “Sure you can borrow it.”

And I said, “Great.”

(Okay maybe they’re not red, but look more like yellow, you know, like a yellow light where you slow down, preparing for the red light … or you go faster ………… preparing for the red light.)

I went to the pool supply store to get a new gasket for the skimmer, a little last tidbit, and to the clerk there, casually expanded upon my need for my purchase and the lack of wall to put it on, but how I was remedying the situation. “Does that sound good to you?” I asked, wanting it to be rhetorical, but lacking the confidence for it to be. His jaw dropped open as if he wanted to smirk at the head on collision, but realized I, who was watching him, was one of the fatalities. “Um, we used to fix pool walls that way until one busted, and we were liable, so we don’t do it anymore,” he said.

I wanted to smirk.


Isn’t that what stupid people do when they once again feel stupidity creeping up on them? I mean was I stupid, or was I just failing to see the inspiration my wife kept feeding me with her kind words, “I don’t know about this.”

Well since the drill was coming and my work was about to begin, I thought it would be good to check on the step by step directions to fixing the pool wall … and suddenly before me I had all these links, other than the one I’d previously read from, asking what to do, and having responses like, “If you don’t mind 40,000 gallons of water rushing into your basement, use aluminum flashing.” and “Send that pool out to pasture in the old pool graveyard.”


My son had had his heart set on me fixing this pool for him. I didn’t want to let him down, but I had the image of a plane, in flight, whose side has cracked open and everyone being sucked out, and then the image of the pool and thousands of gallons of water ripping through my patch job, and sucking my son likewise through it. There … there was a red flag. I just wouldn’t do it.

My son was disheartened that we couldn’t fix it, my wife relieved, probably telling herself, “I told you he wasn’t stupid,” and I had a two hundred dollar pool liner in saggy cardboard I couldn’t use … but nothing was worth the chance (Now I had to see if the company took returns … and if they did, if they took returns in a soggy, semi-degraded box. The sun finally came out, and the box is drying, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed).

In the end we didn’t think we could afford the twenty-seven-footer we had had, but we compromised with a sixteen-footer and my son was happy. My son was happy, and my wife was happy, so I was happy. In life there are red flags … but there are green flags too. I knew this final decision was correct, and how? green flagBecause in the instructions that came with the new pool, it read, “No tools required.”

They were speaking my language.


Real: The unfortunate mess

Not Real: The soggy cardboard box being like flushed toilet paper

Roger McManus

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