Every pool service technician has experienced at least one horrific moment while on the job. It might have involved humans, animals or even just an algae-filled, abandoned pool, but if you work around pools long enough, you will see some things to make your spine tingle and your heart race. These horror stories are often shared among pros throughout the service sector of our industry.
Just in time for Halloween, we asked Shannon Noser of Jeff's Pool & Spa Service and Dick Abare of Algae Busters for their most disturbing service stories, and the following tales of terror and abomination came immediately to mind.
MANNEQUIN MAYHEM: THE DEATHLY PRANK
"When I was a young professional, I lived in a nice apartment complex on the outskirts of the University of South Florida," says Abare. "There was a pool in the courtyard, so every apartment had a view of it from their back windows and/or balconies. Me and a couple of my friends, who also happened to be fellow residents, took part in a pool party one night, and once it was done and everyone went back to their rooms, someone (I'm not naming any names here) managed to get their hands on a mannequin."
Abare swears it was neither Halloween nor April Fools Day; however, he confirms it was one of the funniest, yet thrilling, nights of his life regardless of the date.
"The mannequin was dressed up as a female, and someone stuck a plastic knife in her back, then put her face down in the pool, which was red at this point because the pool lights had been obscured by red lens covers, and to top it off, one of the girls in our group let out a blood curdling scream."
As you would expect, everyone in the apartment complex woke up and either stepped outside onto their back balconies or looked out their back windows, where they were confronted with a scene from a cold-blooded murder.
"One of the residents actually turned out to be an undertaker, so he went to the fence, got the shepherd's hook and started pulling the 'body' out of the pool," says Abare. "By the time the onsite manager arrived, the 'body' had been successfully retrieved and the prank was over."
Luckily, the police never showed up because if they would have, Abare says he and his friends would have been evicted for sure. Ironically, one of the oldest residents of the apartment complex had a grandson who was in on the prank, and he ended up going into the pool business after witnessing the fun that can be had in a swimming pool.
SQUATTERS OF THE SHADOWS: HAUNTING SWIMMING POOLS
Hygiene is important, especially when you're working underneath the blistering sun all day, sweating your butt off. However, hygiene isn't more important than following the law, particularly when it comes to trespassing, pools and bathing.
"A few years ago, I used to own a rental property across the street from a vacant lot," says Noser. "One day, a camper showed up on the lot. I really didn't think anything of it. It wasn't any of my business. A couple of weeks went by, and I was in the backyard of my rental property servicing the pool, when my next-door neighbor came out and asked me, 'Did you know that the woman and man who live in the camper across the street keep coming over here and bathing in your pool?'"
To that question, Noser replied with an "absolutely not," along with a few choice words and follow-up questions. She quickly learned that the couple had been lathering up in her pool for weeks, depleting her chlorine supply and leaving bather waste in the pool she was trying to keep pristine.
"I finished servicing the pool, and then immediately went over to the camper," says Noser. "I pounded on the door, and after the third set of pounding, a woman finally cracked open the door. I laid into her. I first asked if she and her husband were the two people who kept using my pool as their bathing chamber, and after she didn't respond, I let her know that that was private property, and they weren't welcome there. I told her if I caught them doing it again, I would call the police and press charges."
It just so happened that Noser knew the person who owned the vacant lot where the camper was parked, so after she was done laying into the squatters, she called up the property owner and informed him of what was going on.
"He was very apologetic," says Noser, "and it wasn't long after that, that the camper was gone. Honestly, I think he gave them permission to stay there because he didn't seem surprised that they were there, only that they were using my pool as their bathtub!"
SERPENTS OF THE ABYSS: NIGHTMARES UNCOILED
Although Abare was in on the mannequin prank (even though he would never admit to it), he's been the butt of the joke, too. But when he was pranked, it wasn't a matter of "life and death," it was a matter of whether or not he spoiled his swim trunks.
"I'm deathly afraid of snakes, always have been," says Abare. "And of course, working around swimming pools in the south, there's going to be snakes, that's just a part of the job. However, what isn't a part of my job, at least at the company I work for, is working on swimming pool lights. We don't, under any circumstances, replace bulbs or lights, and we don't install them either."
But back in the day, when Abare was just starting out, he would do whatever was needed of him in order to establish himself as a trustworthy pool service technician. Which meant, when one of his builders called him, saying he had a light emergency that paid extra, Abare rushed over to the homeowner's backyard to save the day. Little did he know, however, it was he who might need the saving.
"For most swimming pools, you can access the light by just laying on the deck and reaching down," says Abare. "Well, this particular pool had an underwater bench that spanned the entire perimeter of it, so I had to get into the pool in order to properly service it.
"Picture this, I've got my tools, mask and weight belt on, and I'm fully submerged in the water. After taking a few jabs at getting the screw out, I finally did, only to come face to face with my number one fear: a snake! I jumped onto the water bench and then quickly out of the pool, all the while cursing profusely. The first thing I did once I was safely out was take my weight belt off and reach behind my backside to see if I messed myself! I didn't, but believe me, I wouldn't have been surprised if I had."
Around this time in the story, the homeowner came outside, obnoxiously laughing and revealed to Abare that the snake was, in fact, fake and that everyone was in on the prank. Both the builder and the homeowner coordinated this prank in order to literally scare the crap out of Abare, and they were close to succeeding, too!
THE HOUNDS OF TERROR: UNLEASHED
Domestic animals are more often friendly than not; however, on the rare occasion when they're not friendly, they can leave behind animal trauma, which can change the way a pool service tech maintains pools forever. At least, this is the case between Noser and dogs after she had a terrifying encounter with one.
"I thought me and one of my customer's dogs had a good relationship, I mean, he had never bothered me before, and I had been servicing the pool for almost a year at that point," says Noser. "Like any other time, I comfortably walked right into their backyard, barking dog and all, with a Polaris bag in my hand."
Looking back, Noser thinks the dog may have been just trying to get the bag and play with her; however, the dog's good intentions quickly turned into aggressive behavior.
"The shepherd bit me in the butt and ended up breaking skin," says Noser. "Then, he trapped me in the corner of the equipment room and wouldn't let me out. I was screaming and crying, and the homeowner wouldn't answer their phone, so I was stuck there. After a while, the dog finally gave up, and when he turned his head away from me, I made a run for it and got out of there."
Since then, Noser has never been comfortable entering a backyard where she can hear dogs barking, which is perhaps a reminder to all service pros: That harmless looking and trusted dog on the route still has teeth and could always decide to use them.