Monday, September 6, 2010

Pool Police

I live in what I like to fondly refer to as the "Little Condo in The Suburbs." The Little Condo complex has a pool which I used to visit as often as possible back when I didn't have a kangaroo-size belly pooch that I relied on my trustworthy tankini to hide. These days, not so much. Last weekend, though, we up yonder were sweltering in yet another 90 degree day--an anomaly in these parts--so I decided the hell with it and squeezed myself into my floral spandex two-piece with the intention of a leisurely afternoon dangling my feet in the water with a good book.

That was until I spottted the "Beluga pod" had the same idea. The Beluga pod is a group of elderly ladies--and by elderly I mean obviously old enough to be collecting Social Security and spending half the year in Florida--that comes out on especially hot days to stand neck deep in the water with their little bathing caps and simply bob around. I call them the Beluga pod because they seem to all know each other and have some kind of code for these meet ups that involve kvetching and bobbing.

None of this really bothers me because (1) I enjoy a little kvetching--you find out what's really going on at the Little Condo by eavesdropping on the Beluga pod and (2) I will one day be a Beluga and I decide I should learn their ways.

So despite being momentarily disappointed that the Belugas were in residence, I found myself a plastic chair and settled in with my Banana Joe's 45 SPF and Anne Lammot book. And then it happened--I got hit on.

My worst nightmare shows up in the form of a wrinkled old codger named Joel. I'm no stranger to Joel. In fact, anyone who's ever visited the pool at our Little Condo in the Burbs knows Joel. He and his wife, who are both of some immigrant stock that uses a lot of vowel sounds in their language--Russian, Yugoslavian, Polish, I'm not sure--used to be pool dwellers. From Memorial Day when the pool opened until Labor Day when it closed, Joel and the missus would be there in their aluminum chairs, noon to 5:00 p.m.

What I knew about Joel was that he was the self-appointed pool police. I found this out during one of my rare visits to the pool a few years after I'd become a resident at the Little Condo, and Joel shuffled over to me and in his clipped Ruski/Slavic/Polish accent asked, "You live here?" (Which sounded more like You leeve hir.") "I do," I told him nicely.

This wasn't convincing enough for Joel. "Where you live?"

Dutiful me, I pointed to the building just on the other side of the chainlink enclosed tennis court (the no one uses, by the way). "Right over there,"I said.

He eyed me suspiciously. I was obviously lying just so I could crash the pool of a condo complex because it looked so cool and inviting. "How long?" he asked.

"How long what?" I answered, starting to feel like I was being frisked. As far as I knew, Joel's next move could be a pat down.

"How long you live here?"

"Three years," I told him, glancing over the rim of my sunglasses. Joel was tiny, but scrappy. I decided he had probably spent his career at the Chevy plant or in the steel mills. For all I knew, he could have been Russian mafia and was simply living undercover at the Little Condo. In any case, he looked like he could take me and besides, my parents taught me to be respectful of belligerent old people.

"People try to come in who don't live here," Joel enlightened me in his broken English. "They come from that place across the street." (The "Not Little Condo.")

Satisified, he shuffled back to his poolside throne next to Mrs. Pool Police where they engaged in some unintelligble argument with a lot of hand waving.

Apparently, Mrs. Pool Police is no longer with us. A part of me wonders if Joel might have offed her one night during a heated round of Jeopardy and hauled her out to the condo dumpster one cold, dark night. In any case, Joel was alone. I didn't notice this at first when I settled myself in for a little uninterrupted reading time. But suddenly, there was Joel shuffling up to my chair.

"You leeve hir?"

I knew the drill. "Yes, right over there," I said pointing to my corner building that overlooked the pool.

"You a very pretty lady," Joel crooned sweetly.

Oh, for the love of God. This exchange got the attention of the Belugas who, I sensed, were all too familiar with Joel's attempts at replacing Mrs. Pool Police. "You like to go to dinner? I take you to dinner. Saturday night."

I politely declined by telling him I didn't do dinner. Ever. I wanted to ask him want happened to his wife. I wanted to say, "I know you stuffed her in the dumpster," just to derail the conversation, but I held my tongue. Who knows where I might end up.

"You know Florida? I have a house in Sarasota. I take you." Joel said. Smooth talker, I thought. Trying to intice the ladies with dinner and a side trip to his palatial estate in a senior complex on the Gulf Coast. Where's Betty White when you need her?

"Sorry, I can get to Florida all by myself," I said, doing my very best impression of a cordial but bitchy airline attendant.

He finally gave up and shuffled back to his chair. The Belugas were paddling around shaking their heads. Then a darkly toasted blond with tatoos on her arm marched over to Joel and gave him the business. "Leave her alone," she ordered. "She just wants to read her book." Stillness hung over the pool. I could feel the sweat dripping down the back of my tankini top.

"Who are you, the pool police?" Joel asked.