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MARCO? Polo. MARCO? Polo. MARCO …

I have said it before, and I will say it again. As a child, I was swimming pool deprived. So, this afternoon I took a big shot of chlorine therapy. Ooh that smell … love it.

And naturally I spent some time in the deep end … figuratively speaking. Deep thoughts. Probably for 15 or 20 minutes I pondered why in the heck the lifeguards say anything to the kids. They don’t listen. The only thing that will cure a kid of “running at the pool” is a big concrete-inspired strawberry on the upper thigh and elbow. Yes that will do it. But on it goes. “Hey, don’t run” …

But here is where it got way cerebral. Fathom this. What is the other most repeated/ignored phrase in lifeguard speak? Yes! “Get off the rope!”

After 30 or 40 halfhearted warnings from the guards, it hit me like cold water in the face. I get it. It is pure psychology. Follow me on this. If someone is drowning, what would you throw to them? A rope, right? Now think about this. How many of you out there have ever seen someone get tangled in the swimming pool rope and drown? (Ooh, unpleasant visual … I digress … ) Raise your hands. No, I did’t think so. No one ever drowned by sitting on the swimming pool rope. No one.

So here is my theory. Then why is the rope there and why is it so darned important that no one can sit on it? It is there to keep kids from drowning. Because when they sit on it, that is the absolute safest place in the entire pool. But, when the inventors of the swimming pool first test marketed this life saving device … they noticed a little problem. All the kids wanted to frolic and splash in the shallow end, or dangerously bottom-dwell in the 12-foot. No one would have anything to do with the new safety rope.

Then one day a child psychologist was hired to solve the dilemma. After testing several placebo ropes and alternate colors and textures, the shrink (not to be confused with shrinkage) hatched a plan. Reverse psychology. It gets them every time. So, the researcher instructed the lifeguards to wait, wait, wait and then just when most of the kids are at the far reaches of the pool, yell out, “HEY! Get off the rope.” You should have seen the kids’ ears jut up out of the water.

“What’s this?” It didn’t matter that no kids were actually on the rope for that first warning. The payload had been delivered to the target. Every kid in the pool took note. “I am not supposed to be on that rope” they all repeated to themselves, “I gotta get on that rope.” So, they swam as fast as they could to the blue divider. It was like that scene in “Jaws” where everyone is rushing to escape the mechanical Hollywood prop.

Most swam as fast as they could. Some ran on the side of the pool … but that is another story.

Soon every kid in the pool was sitting on or straddling the blue rope … like so many blackbirds perched on a telephone line (back before wireless).

The child psychologists all high-fved each other, being careful not to ruffle their lab coats, and the pool inventor cut them a big, phat check. They had created a sure fire way to get wild, unruly kids to sit on this new safety invention, the swimming pool rope.

And that’s the way it was.