Murky water: Swim refund not automatic

Several weeks ago I took a close look at something I'd rather not even think about ["Plop, plop: Pool poop spoils outing," July 11]. The subject arose when Hook senior editor Courteney Stuart and her husband took their young son to the Washington Park Pool, only to be ejected five minutes later. Someone had had a "toileting accident," and because there was only an hour to go before closing and it would take at least that long to rechlorinate the water the pool closed early.

The Stuarts, who, as Albemarle County residents, had paid $11 for their five minutes, felt they should have been offered either a rain check or a refund. That sounded reasonable to me. When I called Von Ward, assistant manager at the Washington Park Pool, he said that the City had decided to start giving rain checks when people were forced to leave early. So I wrote the column, washed my hands in soapy water, and went on with my life.

A week later, Moss Dix called to say that she and her eight-year-old son had just come from Washington Park, where the pool had again been closed 25 minutes after they arrived, and this time because of vomit.

Dix was told that it would reopen "in an hour or so," and she could wait around if she liked; she couldn't, however, get a rain check or refund.

As I knew from talking to Ward, it can easily take closer to two hours to bring the water back to the chlorine level required by the Red Cross after contamination and, as Dix said, who wants to wait even one hour, in blistering heat, for a pool to reopen?

I talked with Johnny Ellen, chief of recreation for the City, who clarified the policy. He started by pointing out that they couldn't just issue free passes to all swimmers when the pool is forced to close early; what about the people who'd been there for two or three hours? I could see his point.

The question of refunds or passes, he said, has been left to the discretion of managers, lifeguards, and cashiers at the individual pools. The City may eventually come up with an official policy and a way to administer it fairly, but in the meantime, swimmers who believe they're due a refund or pass should ask the cashier.

So what's with people barfing in pools? Turns out it's not because they're thinking about how gross it would be if someone had a "toileting accident," but rather (99 percent of the time, anyway) due to swallowing too much pool water and then having a gag reflex.

Which is what I'm going to have if we don't move on to something less graphic: the straight poop on yet another instance of Internet sleaziness.


Pepper spray, anyone?

 My officemate, Peggy, seems to be a magnet for deceptive Internet come-ons. If their authors knew that she simply forwards them to me, and that I then expose them in The Hook as bottom-dwellers, they'd surely stop. (On second thought, they'd probably just say, "There's no such thing as bad publicity," and push the send button.)

This time it was an email from, which began "Dear Student/Faculty" and read as follows: "The University is offering a special price for all students and faculty on self defense pepper spray. We have various sizes which are perfect for keychains, purses, or cars. This offer extends to all of your family and friends... If you have ever wanted to purchase a self defense product for yourself or loved ones, please take the time to review the site below."

Yeah, right: UVA's giving us a break on pepper spray. I called UVA Police Lt. Mike Gibson, who laughed and said that he, too, had gotten the message and that no, the University wasn't adding that to our benefit package.

Later Peggy got the same message again, this time from Someone needs to tell Asmuss and Beauty that universities consist of more than faculty and students; there's also staff. And we aren't buying any snake oil, even if it is disguised as pepper spray. Consumer or write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902.