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Browsing Blog Henrik Bechmann's Blog (currently on 01-Sep-1212)
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The Social Isolation of Over-Specialized Wading Pool Workers
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What's in a number (or two)?

Fidgeting or fear?   01-Sep-2012 [5737]

• It all worked out in the end, trying to get a couple of water quality readings for a Ward 18 wading pool, but the journey was a bit odd.

It started out as a simple request, an idea that getting a reading of the pH level and chlorine level just before a Ward 18 wading pool was closed for the day, might be interesting to shed light on the protocols being implemented.

So I asked a couple of park staff that I knew. That's when the fidgeting started. They could do it (because they've been wading pool attendants), but they're not supposed to do things related to Aquatics any more. They could ask the pool attendants, but they're not supposed to talk to them anymore. They could look in the log books, but they're not supposed to infringe on Aquatics territory, and possibly infringe on privacy. I could ask the pool attendants, but they're not supposed to talk to the public about "internal" affairs. The rec staff said that the pool people are basically afraid to do anything.

Welcome to the new normal. Weird.

I didn't want to get anyone in trouble of course, so I chose to ask one of the pool attendants myself. I had spoken to him the previous day, nice chap. He said then that he didn't want to comment or discuss any issues with me (or recreation staff), because he's not supposed to (to avoid conflict he said), and he just wants to get through his last few shifts without any sanction in his record. I don't blame him.

So I approached him, and explained that I've been gathering some information for this website about pools, and could I get a reading just before he drained the pool. More fidgeting. He couldn't discuss any issues with me, or give me any information he said. It would all have to be done through the co-ordinators. Well, says I, how about taking a reading, keeping it without telling me the results (it was the second last wading pool day of the season so there wouldn't be many more chances), and then I would ask his supervisors if I could have it. No, he said he couldn't vary from protocol (which involved taking lots of readings during the day, but not one just before closing) without getting management approval, and that might involve not just his coordinator, but possibly someone higher. Besides his current coordinator was just the weekend temp.

Could I call his coordinator, I asked? No, he said he couldn't give out the number because there might be privacy issues, and he'd heard that some had gotten in trouble giving out numbers of people who ended up getting harassed over the phone.

OK, says I, rather fitfully, do you know how stupid all this sounds? It's like they think they're running CSIS or something. "Don't answer!!" I quickly shouted, not wanting him to compromise himself in any way.

So I handed him my business card (without fear of having my privacy disturbed!), didn't ask for his name so as not to make him anxious, and said that if he felt OK with it, could he see what he could do before the pools close down for the summer. If it worked out, that would be fine, if not, I assured him it wouldn't be a problem as far as I'm concerned.

I assumed that would be the end of it.

But surprise: When I got home, there was a phone message from the local Aquatics coordinator waiting for me. I returned her call, but got the voice mail, and left a general message (it wasn't her voice on the voice-mail greeting). She called back almost immediately, thinking it might be an emergency. I assured her it wasn't and that we could speak the next day. She said that was okay, she was calling from her car after her shift, and had "pulled over" to talk to me. So I repeated my explanation about my request to get a pool reading. She indicated that I could take a pool reading the next day, so long as I informed her in advance, and that she would be present.

I explained that I didn't actually have the equipment, and could she see her way to asking the staff to do it. She said that upon hearing my request from her staff, she had asked that a reading be taken before the pool was drained for the day (the same day I made the request). Maybe she wanted to make sure there wasn't a problem that I would uncover the next day (I wasn't expecting one). So the answer:

Chlorine: 5; pH 7.5.

Great! says I, Thanks!


I went on to invite her to check the wading pools section of this website if she was interested, and to provide us with any comments that she might have. She was very friendly, and invited me to call the number she had given me any time I had questions or concerns (though I might get through to a different person, whoever is on shift).

BTW, the pH is within the recommended ranges I normally read for this, and the chlorine was higher than the normal recommended level (1 - 3ppm). In any case the wading pool chlorine meters show a maximun reading of 5, so a reading of 5 just means it's at least 5. Whether chlorine is dangerous at these levels is uncertain, though most north american technical literature seems to suggest that it isn't dangerous up to 10ppm, and probably beyond. But all of that is another story.

Also (note to self), that reading would have been a couple of hours after the pool had been refilled and retreated most recently, according to one of the people at the wading pool.