As fall and winter approach, my friends who don’t own pools often ask me, “I guess things are slow for you right now.” Frankly, any week with an opening is a slow week. We in the service industry depend on a full schedule to keep us happily employed and fully capable of serving our customers with the greatest efficiency. But rain, cold, ice, and the mysterious creature called “snow” all drag swimming pools down the ladder of priorities to near the lowest rung.
I remember when…
In February of 2011, I had been in the pool industry for exactly two years. Because we live and work in the Texas climate, I had not seen the devastation that long-term freezing temperatures mixed with ice and snow could cause. So green, so ignorant… I brought my family up to visit my mom in a nearby suburb one weekend after the precipitation had begun and temps were well below freezing. One cannot be on call for emergencies with baby and wife and no tools or equipment. The impact took me by surprise – how quickly ice can knock out power to residences, how people forget that pool systems use that electricity, and how a few hours of standing water in plumbing and pool basins can inflict damage when the air temperature is steadily 15 degrees Fahrenheit. I drove to a long-time customer’s residence during the deepest freeze, when roads were icy and untreated and abandoned—and very treacherous. Her house sat in the back of a cul-de-sac, farthest from the main street. My heavy, fully-stocked conversion van had to climb a steep slope (by suburban Dallas standards) before proceeding to a landing that looked toward another, less-dangerous slope. As I gained a little momentum, it seemed I might make it to the top and be at her driveway in no time. However, the van hit a patch of ice at the upper third of that slope, and gravity laughed at my spinning tires. I was slowly heading backward down the hill, so I spun the steering wheel clockwise and came to rest at the curb. Outside of the vehicle, I assessed the situation and started chipping at the ice with a shovel – in front of and around the wheels that were irrelevant. As it was a rear-wheel drive van, I chipped around the front wheels. When I saw that was going nowhere, I grabbed the tools I needed and walked the length of a couple of football fields to get to the customer’s pool equipment and winterize it. This involved opening every drain port and air relief I could access on each component (filter, pumps, heater) to ensure that, when power was restored, all would remain switched off until the thaw. Eventually, I figured out the rear-wheel drive thing and broke free. Slipped again at the top. Chipped and broke free again. The ride downhill was exceptionally freaky – I took it as cautiously as physics would allow, relying in the end on God’s power to rescue others’ lives from this inertia-driven torpedo. Van and I returned home in one piece.
I have spent nearly ten years as a pool expert – I write this confidently, because Earl Neal trained me directly, and there is none better than he. What I’ve learned to love about the industry is that you’ve seen one thing, you’ve seen… well… that one thing. Every situation is unique, even though there are rules and standards that apply to all aspects of any pool. The best among us approach a pool predicament with a solidly flexible idea of what may be happening but with no preconceived notions as to the cause, the extent of the difficulty, or the solution. And that’s perfect for life in Texas, where today is rainy and snowy (west of here; unfortunately, we can’t catch a break in Dallas) and two days from now it will be sunny and knocking on 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The chaos of change happens all around us, and we try to respond even-handedly, which is hardest when customer satisfaction is on the line. Still, we grow in experience and gain and retain customers because we have confidence that we will complete our jobs and look back on them with a bit of reverence. They bring us instruction and a sense of gratification. They allow us to meet overhead and secure our place in the industry. And their memories prepare us for the steadiest and shakiest moments we know we will experience each new year. My hope for 2019 is that Select Pool Services will earn the trust of you and countless pool owners, and that our calm approach to any and all situations will put your minds at ease. We thank God for having met our needs and promising to do so in the future, but we also thank Him in the chaos and uncertainty. And we are grateful for outstanding customers and the chance to meet at least a fraction of their needs.