Learning to swim in an empty pool

Speaking a language is like swimming – you might need assistance and a little water helps

An empty pool. photograh: eric luke/the irish times.

An empty pool. photograh: eric luke/the irish times.


“Hello, my name is Séamas Ó Snámhaí. I am a member of this fine club and I would like to go for a swim.”

“A swim? Well, I would love to help you but I am afraid that is not possible.”

“Why not? The brochure says you have a pool. Look, it is written here.”

“I know what the brochure says. I’m the manager. I wrote the brochure and, yes, we do have a pool. Honestly, it is a great pool.”

“Well, that is wonderful. So, I can go for a swim then? There’s no problem then?”

“Sorry but, as I said, it is not possible.”

“Why? You have a pool. I am a member. I have paid my fees. I want to go for a swim. It is not an unreasonable request that I get to use the facilities that you say you have and that I have paid for.”

“Look, I would love to accommodate you. I don’t swim myself and I really don’t have anything against people who do. Honestly, I don’t. I know a lot of people hate swimmers and I can understand that. I mean, if God wanted us to swim he would have given us flippers! But I don’t mind swimmers. Some of my best friends are swimmers. It’s just, well, there is no water in the pool.”

“But that is ridiculous! Who keeps a pool without water? Your brochure is misleading. That is just illegal.”

“No, it is not. We do say in the brochure that we have a pool and if you want to have a look at the pool, you can. It is a great pool, nice and deep with lots of lovely blue tiles. However, we don’t actually say that we keep the pool full of water. Legally our description is, well, watertight.”

“Well, at the very least, it is not very ethical. How can you write that you have a facility, take my money and then tell me that I can’t use the facility?”

“Listen, mate, we have plenty of other members who don’t care whether or not the pool is empty. Filling the pool takes money and effort and they are happy not to bother. Wouldn’t you just like to go for a jog? We have plenty of treadmills. You could just jog on the treadmill. That would keep you fit.”

“I don’t want to jog; I want to swim. I walk all the time and I like to swim to do something different. I mean we don’t have to walk all the time, do we? I like swimming. It gives me a great sense of freedom. Why not put some water in the pool? Do the decent thing.”

“How much water would you want us to put in the pool?”

“Enough so that I could actually swim! How do you expect me to swim if there is no water in the pool?”

“And you would want to swim...?”

“Every day! I want to swim every day! I like swimming. It’s fun and good for your health.”

“Every day! I don’t know that the other members would be too happy with that. I don’t think we could fill the pool every day. How about once or twice a year? Maybe on special occasions? We could get a few buckets of water in there now and again. You could go for a paddle. That would be nice, wouldn’t it, a paddle? Everyone likes a paddle. In fact, I bet the members who don’t like to swim could be persuaded to go for a paddle too. It will be great. We will all paddle together.”

“I don’t want to go for a paddle. I want a proper swim. I want to be able to go from one end of the pool to the next without my feet touching the ground. Put some water in the pool! I like swimming. It’s fun. It takes me out of myself. I like to float and splash and dive. I want to swim with the dolphins in Donegal someday.”

“Alright, alright! Give me a couple of weeks and I will see if I can find some water somewhere but where I am going to find water in Ireland is beyond me.”

“Good. Also, I want to bring my children into the pool too.”

“Your children? Your children? But that would mean we would have to have a lifeguard?”

“You don’t have a trained lifeguard?”

“Well, we do have a lifeguard. He’s a bit rusty. I suppose we could send him on a refresher course...”

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