Safety First

February 18, 2010

This swimming pool business is still new to me. Having been born and raised in Minnesota, where pools are either indoors, or are solid ice for nine months of the year, how was I supposed to know that some of the chemicals needed for swimming pool maintenance are dangerous? I suppose if I’d Googled “swimming pool chemical safety” I might have seen warnings such as this:

“Store the chemicals in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and keep the dry and liquid chemicals stored separately”

If someone had bothered to tell me this in advance, I might have avoided placing the chlorine tabs, muriatic acid, gasoline, and various flammable liquids together in a Rubbermaid storage container on the south side of my house in sunny Arizona. Well, I didn’t know.

And so one warm day, the air redolent of spring and dried coyote crap, the gods of pool maintenance and home safety once again conspired against me. I was outside picking weeds from the three inch layer of rocks which Arizonans call “the xeriscape” and, despite the beautiful weather, found myself homesick for my lawnmower (I sold it to my friend Chad when we moved here) and the smell of freshly cut grass and two-stroke exhaust.

Suddenly I straightened from my labors and spied the Rubbermaid storage container sitting there in the side yard, a five-foot wide space between the house and the concrete block fence which separated my house from that of my neighbor.

A warning bell went off in my primitive brain, and I realized that not only were the pool chemicals sitting in the sun inside a non-ventilated plastic storage shed, but they were sharing the same space as a red plastic can containing several gallons of gasoline (left over from Minnesota), not to mention two canisters of propane, a big leaky jug of kerosene, and a can of starting fluid, and wondered if maybe I should move the whole mess to a cooler area. Or maybe I should build a small bonfire, and dispose of the flammable liquids…

Coincidentally, about this same time I detected a slight chemical odor wafting my way, and noticed an odd glow coming from the Rubbermaid container. Uh oh. Suddenly, I witnessed the formation of a giant fireball, there was a massive gust of blazing hot air, similar to that of a summer monsoon, and I felt myself lifted up, up, and projected high into the sky.

I landed several minutes later, my eyebrows singed, my clothing shredded, and surrounded by shards of burning plastic and little people in brightly colored clothing singing “follow the yellow brick road.”

No, not really. But it almost happened. And while I haven’t yet disposed of the gasoline (I’m still waiting for my wife to go visit her family so I can build an appropriately sized bonfire), I do store everything safely away from the pool chemicals now, on the north side of the house.

Safety first, that’s my motto.

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