Rudy Stankowitz: Strange Customer Snapshots

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Today, we depart from my usual column, so grab your ticket, climb aboard, and ride the Crazy Train with Ozzy and me. We all know my columns tend to push the boundaries of convention, and this is not the first thing I have written where the wheelsets leave the tracks. However, in this instance, it's not my own sanity that's under scrutiny. Today, we focus on the personalities of those peculiar individuals whose paths we cross while in the field, juggling our jerry jugs.

Among our treasured clients — upon whom we rely for our daily bread — it's an acknowledged truth that eccentricity often reigns supreme. There are some real lulus out there. And we, invited into their backyards to clean out their skimmers, get a rare intimate view. After a few years, we come to a point where nothing surprises us anymore. And then one day, it does.

I'm sure you've had your share of puzzling patrons, but can they top these I encountered while wielding a telepole?






This retail phenomenon seems to exclusively occur when customers stroll in with a water test five minutes before we're set to close shop — a phenomenon we fondly refer to as the 'Last Minute A-Hole.' Not the person who knows what they want, grabs it from a shelf, and hits the counter quickly. No, this patron always keeps us on our toes, presenting a slew of inquiries with the sense of urgency of a slug, belying the lateness of the hour.






Entering the store with visible frustration, this customer expresses mystical disappointment that the algae treatment they purchased failed to deliver the promised results. The underlying issue becomes apparent after engaging with the customer and discussing the steps taken. Simply said, witchcraft cannot banish algae. In her impassioned explanation, she discloses that she followed the instructions by pouring half of the contents of the container around the pool. However, instead of dispersing it into the water, it remains, forming what she describes as a 'magic circle' on the deck just beyond the coping.






This character is undeniably odd, sending shivers down your spine with each awkward encounter. There's a whisper of antisocial personality disorder mingled with a hint of voyeurism about them. They lurk in the shadows, their unsettling gaze making you second-guess yourself at every turn. Their 'Chester' tendencies suggest a fascination with covert observation, finding pleasure in intruding into others' lives without consent. Their eyes peer through parted blinds, tracking the technician's every move around the pool area.






Meet the frequent flier whose flamboyant antics kept me on edge, my sanity hanging precariously in the balance. Fueled by a cocktail of liquid courage and an unquenchable thirst for attention, she storms into my busy store, beckoning to me while falsely claiming to be carrying my child as she navigates the warehouse, eventually cornering me in the backroom atop a ladder while collecting F.I.T.s items for the floor. Despite my attempts to escape, she ensures she has seized the spotlight. After two or three incidents, my team would notify me of her arrival, and I would disappear out the back door.






This pool owner manipulates the trippers on the time clock for the pool motor to minimize the pump's daily runtime and save on electrical costs. Despite programming the system for just an hour a day, they're quick to blame the pool technician for any sign of cloudy water. When I spot the trippers reset, I carefully loosen and remove each one before discreetly disposing of them over their fence.






Here's where reason takes a backseat, and skepticism takes the wheel. They have the whole six-pack, but the plastic thing that holds it all together is missing, leaving the aluminum cans rolling around the bed of the truck. Despite overwhelming evidence, they reject basic scientific principles, convinced their saltwater pool is void of chlorine. It's baffling, like witnessing a psychological drama unfolding before you.

Just wait until their salt cell fails, and as they await a replacement, they protest vehemently to your addition of liquid, insistent that chlorine has nothing to do with its clarity.






This particular breed is exceptionally crafty, at least in their own mind, similar to Wile E. Coyote in its cunning, but you have Road Runner written all over you. They employ various tactics to test the competence of pool service professionals. One of their favorite ploys is the old "rock on the skimmer lid" trick. They might switch it up by placing an ACME patio chair over the lid on alternating weeks. As for me, I empty the basket and return the rock to its original position. This often results in a phone call, but I've got the photo of the technician emptying the basket, and sending that can be incredibly rewarding.






Actually, it just so happens that she's the sister of an actor who played the comic book villain on screen. Other than that, she's pretty normal, but we dubbed her with the nickname, so here she is, as she might look starring in the title role of, "The Joker's Sister." Coming soon!






Meet the devotee of online tutorials whose allegiance rivals that of a steadfast cult member. Diving into the digital realm with a tall glass of Kool- Aid, they eagerly devour every D.I.Y. hack as gospel truth, believing that a mere five-minute video can transform them into a pool maintenance virtuoso. The 'YouTube Boob' champions unconventional solutions, like insisting you add Tito's Vodka instead of algaecide to their swamp vomit green pool.






Have you ever envisioned positioning a swatch of duct tape across a customer's mouth? This one can't seem to keep quiet. The Yenta's constant chatter transforms every service call into an impromptu therapy. It feels like being trapped in an endless reality TV show where the 'Yenta' is in her own spotlight. It's all harmless fun until the day the 'Yenta' shares their suspicion of their spouse's infidelity — a scene ripped straight from the Lifetime channel — and one I'd rather not be involved in.






Enter the 'Space Invader', whose knack for encroaching personal boundaries rivals that of an asteroid caught in the Earth's gravity. With a hint of social ineptitude and a dash of boundary issues, they latch onto you like an unwavering barnacle, transforming routine pool maintenance into a delicate evasion dance. In one unforgettable encounter, the 'Space Invader' closed in so tightly that he repeatedly collided with the pool service tech, prompting a clumsy exchange of apologies and side steps until the tech fell into the pool. That was our last day at this one due to the lack of understanding of personal space and social cues.






This one began with what we thought was an ordinary individual. The colossal house sat amidst the serene backdrop of a horse farm, surrounded by carnivorous nepenthes in hanging baskets and the occasional squawk of a peacock in the distance — her pool — a shimmering sanctuary not for her but for her grunting companion. She wasn't forthcoming about the pool being a pig pool, but the excessive filter maintenance and chemical consumption were a dead giveaway. Though this customer was happy to pay more, her lap-swimming Vietnamese pig, who had its own room in her house, is why we decided to walk away.






This is where D.I.Y. ambitions and online hacks clash in a grand display of overconfidence. They're convinced they've mastered pool maintenance, embodying the Dunning-Kruger effect, blissfully unaware of their ineptitude. From trusting dubious algae-killing solutions like Mr. Clean Magic Erasers to placing unwavering faith in copper pipe fixes in the skimmer, they epitomize the blind leading the blind. This is the house along the route where you're fixing a half-finished filter install abandoned by the enthusiastic but clueless DIYer who started them.






Enter the scrutineer, whose relentless gaze across the pool leaves you secondguessing every action. With a sprinkle of paranoia and a hint of control-freak tendencies, she hovers over you like a helicopter parent; you are stuck between charging her for pool service or pool school. This is the same customer that requires a spot check of your work, bringing water samples to 17-year-old Timmy at the pool store, and then reports back to you the errors of your ways.






Every customer is a character, and everyone reveals a unique facet of human behavior. A day in the life of a pool service technician can, without notice, shift from sitcom to drama to "Naked & Afraid" with each new stop on the route, or each turn of the turnstyle. But we wouldn't have it any other way — these loveable and laughable customers add flair to what might otherwise be an incredibly lonely, isolated day.

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