Putting Up My Pool

One French word encapsulates how I experience the world: décalage.

Depending on context it can mean gap, shift, difference, lag or discrepancy but can also be used to describe that feeling of being out of sync.

I’m constantly en décalage, much to the amusement of others. My best friend’s Mum still laughs at the memory of opening her door to find 8-year old me standing there in bare feet in winter, or in wellington boots in the summer. 

Later, friends would be perplexed when invited to celebrate my December birthday with a Champagne picnic in the countryside. (I think they enjoyed it once we had taken refuge on a picnic blanket in the boot of the car).

Having an unpredictable brain in an unpredictable British climate presents particular challenges. Sometimes the décalage is because I hate feeling restricted. Long, tight sleeves or high-necked jumpers are unbearable, regardless of how cold it gets. Umbrellas hold me back when I’m in a rush.

Often it’s a result of being distracted (forgetting my waterproof because I’m writng a blog post in my head) or disorganised (the right clothes are in the wash/in the loft/at my boyfriend’s house/at the bottom of a bag).

But mostly, it’s because I operate in two different time zones: now and not now.  When I’m in now time, I don’t foresee visiting the foreign country in the not now time zone.  If I was sun-bathing yesterday, I fully expect wall-to-wall sunshine again today. 

This would be fine if I lived in Equador but can cause problems in West Yorkshire. By the time it has dawned on me that I need shorts (and have managed to make the decision to buy them) it’s August and I’ve been overheating for days.

By then, shops are stocking their autumn range with the remnants of the summer collection relegated to a dusty rack in the corner. I desperately rummage through the 3 remaining styles but everything is too small so I resign myself to dressing inappropriately for the season. Again.

I can only assume that most people have some kind of internal barometer set one time zone ahead.  Or perhaps a signal is emitted to notify them that it’s time to buy the clothes they’ll need in 3 months time, but the frequency is inaudible to me (and to size-8 women).

It’s annoying because being the right temperature is extremely important to me. Being too hot affects my brain function and makes me miserable. My house is like an oven in summer so, a few years ago, I invested in a pool.

I love floating around in my rubber ring with my feet dangling in the water. Sometimes I take a break from work to cool off.  Other times, I invite a friend for the full holiday experience: a Wham-singalong (yes, that song) and a few glasses of fizz. 

But to have any hope of experiencing this summer nirvana, décalage is not an option. Everything must be timed for perfect synchronicity. I monitor the weather forecast like I’m preparing for battle, ready to leap into action whenever a heatwave is announced. 

So you can imagine my disappointment when the summer came to an end and I realised I hadn’t had any pool time at all.  You see, setting up the pool is a long and complicated process.  I counted over 40 stages (but I probably missed a few):

  1. Decide whether now is the right time to get the pool out. Seek opinions of others. Ignore their opinions. Change mind multiple times.
  2. Imagine how awful it would be if the cats drowned. Think up ingenious ways to keep them away from the pool.
  3. Research cat drownings on the internet.
  4. Try to remember where I stored the pool.
  5. Get the pool down from the loft.
  6. Try to remember where I stored the pump/rubber ring/chlorine.
  7. Get distracted by other items in the loft.
  8. Devise new organisational strategies for storing possessions in the loft.
  9. Begin a week-long clearout of the loft in blistering heat.
  10. Some weeks later, on a rainy day, happen across the pool while hoovering the the spare room.
  11. Drop the hoover and search through my emails to find the model number for the pool so I can download the instructions.
  12. Remember I impulsively deleted the throw-away email account I used to purchase the pool.
  13. Search for “frame pool” and hope for the best.
  14. Download the instructions and try to ascertain which of the three models described is mine. Wonder if I should have bought a different model.
  15. Research different pools.
  16. Wash the pool.
  17. Leave the pool outside while I make lunch.
  18. Wait for the rain to stop.
  19. Realise it’s midnight and I haven’t packed for my holiday.
  20. Miss the next heatwave because I’m on holiday
  21. Come across the pool again while pruning. Drop secateurs in an overgrown area of the garden and decide to spend the morning putting the pool up instead.
  22. Wash away dirty rainwater and slugs from the pool liner.
  23. Try and fail to identify which beam/leg is which, the tiny stickers having disintegrated long ago.
  24. Kick myself for not replacing the stickers.
  25. Receive urgent email. Go inside to reply on my laptop.
  26. Spend the next few days translating during a heat wave, wishing I could cool off in my pool.
  27. Wash the pool.
  28. Try to remember where I put the instructions.
  29. Download and print the instructions again. Find the previously downloaded instructions on the printer.
  30. Try to figure out which parts of the 19-page manual I actually need
  31. Try to follow the 11 steps in the booklet. Lose a page. Remember I have 2 copies. Realise the same page is missing from both.
  32. Download the instructions.
  33. Notice Sage is open on my laptop and decide it’s a good time to to revolutionise my invoicing process.
  34. Find the instructions on the printer a day later.
  35. Try to remember where I put the pump/chlorine/rubber ring.
  36. Buy new pump/chlorine/rubber ring.
  37. Put the pool up.
  38. Try to follow the 11 steps in the booklet and finallly succeed in putting the pool up.
  39. Receive text from the Environment Agency warning of flooding in my area.
  40. Cover the pool as it begins to rain and try to remember what I’m supposed to do to prepare for a flood.

Needless to say, this year I failed (although I did make it to step 19) and the pool stayed in my shed.  I missed out on my favourite summer tradition because it all became too much. 

In October I stumbled across the pool while stacking logs in the shed. Sometimes I feel like a 19th-century archaeologist: excited by the discovery of ancient artefacts but with no thought for context, long-term strategy or record-keeping.

Anyway, I started thinking about ways to make the whole thing less traumatic.   Since turning word salad into readable text is one of my favourite tasks, I decided to hire myself to produce some ADHD-friendly pool instructions.

I went through the manual and cut out irrelevant information (on models I don’t own, installing a ladder I don’t have, keeping my imaginary children safe).

Ultimately I turned a 19-page tome into a 7-page quick-start guide. There are 5 clear, concise and colour-coded steps. I used a large font and with one step per page to reduce the risk of getting lost or distracted.

Not for the first time I have been wondering what is stopping businesses from tapping into the ADHD market.  We’re a bunch of impulsive spenders and many of us would pay a premium for simplicity and clarity. 

Why not use a permanent method to identify the different parts of a pool rather than tiny stickers that disappear or become illegible when wet? Why not include separate instruction booklets for different models and for the maintance and safety information?

Given the work that goes into product design, surely these simple changes would be a worthwhile investment? Why don’t businesses care that we hate everything about their product before we have even had the opportunity to try it?

I had a lot of fun with this editing job but should I really have to do this much work every time I need to use something I’ve bought? I hope that the growing emphasis on neuroinclusivity in CSR policies will mean better research into the needs of neurodivergent customers, ADHD-friendly design and clear instructions.

With a growing number of ADHDers getting a diagnosis in adulthood comes greater awareness. For the first time in our lives many of us are beginning to realise that the problem lies not with us, but with businesses that are in décalage with the growth market that neurodivergent consumers represent.

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