RELAXING by the pool is not as easy as it sounds. First, there
are "towel wars", and then the dreaded "entertainments" team.
For 50 weeks of the year, your towel is an innocent puppy in
your bathroom. But, for the other two weeks, it is a growling
attack-dog, sitting in snarling defence of your poolside sunbed.
Towels on sunbeds are about territory: "This is mine, this isn't
yours." We all need places we call home, but, believe me, home
thoughts can get nasty round the pool. Not content with our own
room, we want more. We want to mark out our territory in the public
space: "Sure it's public - but not my bit of it."
Freedom of movement among sunbeds is not helped by towel law:
that is, once your towel is on the sunbed, it is yours for the rest
of the day. Which mountain this 11th commandment appeared from no
one knows, but it is written in stone. The sunbed is yours for the
whole day, whether you are there or not - and some are hardly there
at all, after grabbing their place at 6 a.m. They are not using it,
but it is still their bed, and the snarling towel ensures it stays
As the week goes by, people arrive ever earlier, with their
guard dogs and resentments building as the sun beats down and
people sip their strangely bitter iced coffee. Presumably, the
saint in this instance enjoys what she has, but knows it is a
passing thing; so, when she goes for lunch, she takes her towel
with her. She does not need a guard dog; she will give up control,
and see what unfolds.
But just when you are finally finding some peace by the pool,
the entertainments team arrives in wacky yellow costumes. And,
interestingly, what transpires is this: while we do not need them,
they seem to need us. They need us to help them feel worth while.
They perceive themselves as bringers of fun, and we are the hapless
fodder for these needs.
First, there is the pushy man with the over-loud microphone,
telling us we should all get in the water for the aerobics. Should?
"No excuses accepted," he declares with jokey menace. Formerly
contented people now look uncomfortable; pressure is being
As life goes on, I feel it less and less of a good idea to give
people microphones. It bestows brief but inappropriate power.
Certainly no one should be giving one to the screechy girl
exhorting harassed holidaymakers from the side of the pool to "Get
happy!" When we impose our needs on others, we become abusers.
Most of our virtuous activity turns out to be about our own
needs, of course; it is only pretend virtue. And, in becoming aware
of this, and in discovering a truer self that no longer has these
needs, we become less dangerous in the world, less like the
entertainments team with all its desperate "shoulds", and therefore
much more fun by the pool.