Monthly Archives: May 2017

How the swimming pool got its color

New York Times

NYT Article: EPA science advisors to be fired and replaced with industry-friendly representatives

Once upon a time there was a public pool. Everyone used the pool and enjoyed it, but very soon it became apparent that a few of the pool-goers were relieving themselves in it. The pool quickly turned yellow and smelly.

So the community got together and formed the pool-peeing committee; the goal of which was to cut down on the general amount of pool-peeing that was being done. They would do this by hiring some local experts from the town to measure the pool water regularly, and tell everyone when somebody had taken a leak in it, and to the best of their ability, who was responsible.

Right away, some chronic pool-pissers were caught and yanked from the pool. This was very embarrassing for them, so everyone paid attention when it happened, and so the new standards of pool play more or less caught on and were known by everyone. Soon the water cleared up, and people were able to enjoy the pool again. It wasn’t perfectly clean by any means, but it was much, much better than before, and it was improving every day. This worked pretty well for a long time.

A few people didn’t like the pool-peeing committee. Some didn’t like the idea that someone else could tell them what they could and couldn’t do in a pool. Others were mad because every once in awhile, the committee would accuse them of having peed in the pool when they had only peed a little bit, while Jimmy over there drank a whole 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew before he swam and let it all out through his bladder, but the committee didn’t catch him and that wasn’t fair. Many had started coming to the pool long after the pool committee had formed, and didn’t understand how smelly the pool had been before the committee came along.

But by far, the people who hated the pool-peeing committee the most were the biggest pool-pissers. The pool-peeing committee was always bothering them, they complained, embarrassing them in front of their friends, and cruelly yanking them out of the pool. All they wanted to do was play in the pool, and didn’t they have a right to do that? So what if a little pee leaks out every now and then. Worse (they argued), if the committee was allowed to yank anyone who peed out of the pool, then pretty soon the pool would be empty and the community center would be bankrupt. Pool-pissers gave a lot of money in entrance fees, they pointed out.

Of course the solution was simply to not pee in the pool (which the rest of the community was able to handle just fine), and to hold it until afterwards, but that really cuts into our pool-playing time, the pool-pissers whined.

So the pool-pissers got together a plan: They would band together and take over the pool-peeing committee— but first they had to convince the other pool-goers that this was a good idea.

“The system is rigged!” the pool-pissers squawked. “The pool-peeing committee gets paid to test the pool! So you see, they all have a stake in the outcome of the pee tests! This is a conflict of interest! They’re on the take!”

A lot of the swimmers began to nod their heads— this sounded really unfair. They started to worry if the pool-peeing committee could be trusted.

“We’re being paid to do our jobs,” said the pool committee. “That’s not a conflict of interest. And we all signed up for this job because we care about having a clean pool. We swim in it too, you know.”

But the swimmers didn’t hear them, or maybe they didn’t care because they were all very worried that something unfair might be happening. And they were right, something very unfair was happening, but it wasn’t what they were thinking of.

“We should kick out these crooked pool experts from the pool committee,” said the pool-pissers. “They don’t know the reality of what it’s like to be a swimmer, like exactly how hard it is to hold your pee. Besides, us swimmers have the biggest stake who stays in the pool. It would be much more fair to put swimmers on the pool committee.”

This sounded reasonable to everyone and soon enough the pool experts were sent away, the pool-testing equipment was thrown out, and the pool committee was re-staffed with “regular swimmers”. Someone noticed that it just so happened that everyone on the new pool committee had been caught peeing in the pool many times, but it was decided that this was okay, because they clearly knew the most about pool-peeing, so it made sense that they were on a committee about pool-peeing. Everyone was very satisfied with this arrangement, and congratulated themselves for having solved the conflict of interest.

Almost immediately, the pool turned bright yellow and smelled like a lot like a subway station, only more so. Nobody was really sure why, or how to fix it. Some swimmers kept saying something about strengthening the pool committee, but it seemed clear that pool committees didn’t work, because we have a pool committee, and look how yellow the pool is.

Many people got very sick, and eventually the community pool lost all of its revenue and had to close after everyone stopped coming to it. The mystery of why the pool turned yellow remains to this very day.