Man About Town

I am broiling in the midday Alabama sun, nursing an ice-cold lemonade. Kids are splashing in the pool, playing Marco Polo. My Jet Ski is tied to the dock. Maybe I’ll take it for a spin around the lake. Jump some barge waves if I see one of the old tugs coming up the Tennessee …

Yeah, right. In my dreams!

I have a bone to pick. My annual rites of summer are in jeopardy, and I’m starting to get just a little testy. How about you? Has anyone else noticed the sinister forces conspiring to wreak havoc on our holidays?

It wasn’t so long ago that someone came up with Summer Fridays. Now that was a good idea. I suppose they’re still around, but I haven’t heard the phrase once this year. Could it be the economy has found one more way to torture us? It wasn’t enough that things were frighteningly slow all spring. Oh no. Now countless companies seem to have geared up in the middle of July. Hooray.

Well, so be it. But if I’m going to miss out on some of my favorite August pastimes, I think a few rules are in order. So I’ve crafted some, based on the only ones I ever paid attention to: the “Swimming Pool Rules” from my hometown country club. They kept me in line from infancy to college. Maybe they’ll keep my peers in line as well.

So, without further ado, here are some tips to keep us from going mad this summer. (Simply substitute “co-worker” for “swimmer,” “agency” for “pool” and “Neilan” for “lifeguard.”)

1) All swimmers must register with lifeguard before entering or leaving the pool.

Let me know where the hell you are if we’re working on a project. No matter how busy it gets, some of you still seem to scoot off for little jaunts without letting your buddies know. You’re going to be away? Give up a phone number. Believe me, I won’t call unless I have to. I don’t want to hear the sound of waves in the background any more than you want to hear my dulcet tones on the phone at your expensive resort getaway.

2) All swimmers must take showers before entering pool.

For the record, there is such a thing as “too casual.” I recently met with a project client who was clearly headed away for the weekend. He’d forgotten to wear any … shall we say, foundation garments? Just a little more information than I needed.

3) Parents or supervisors must attend small children at all times.

If your assistant is going away, please—for the love of God—arrange for a skilled temp to fill in. Please. I beg of you.

4) Pets are not permitted in pool area at any time.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Your dog is adorable. I love it. I know it’s cool to have Rover in the office. And that makes your agency cool, right? Whatever. The only person on earth who should have her dog in the office is Bonnie Lunt. And that’s because her English Jack Russell terrier Pete isn’t a pet. He’s a superstar.

5) No food may be carried or eaten on the pool deck.

Let’s revive the lost art of going out for lunch, shall we? Take a break. And give me one. Get out. Go meet a friend. But avoid the martinis. That’s a tradition best left dead and buried.

6) Swimming is not permitted under the diving board.

I can’t really think of a parallel here. Oh! How about this: Stay out of my office.

7) Running, pushing or jumping is not permitted at any time.

A frightening trend seems to be emerging here. One friend of mine has been hit in the face at least three times in the last month. Each time was an accident, but I’m very afraid for the next person who unintentionally bounces a videocassette off her nose. Watch it! She’s gonna start hitting back.

Similarly, a buddy of mine jokingly punched me in the arm the other day, and I went ballistic. It hurt. He didn’t think so. Even said I was a “wussy.” Oops. Years of camaraderie seemed to hang in the balance. But all is well now. I basically got over it. But let’s all just keep our hands to ourselves, shall we?

8) No one may use the pool unless lifeguard is on duty.

Let’s ignore this one. Am I saying you shouldn’t work if I’m not around? Forget it. Knock yourselves out. Use the “pool” all you want.

9) Anyone disobeying rules may have pool privileges suspended.

This one’s my favorite. It means don’t mess with anybody. Play nice. Or get fired.

Let’s face it. It’s hot. We’re all cranky. There are a thousand places we’d rather be. But if we’re going to get anything done between now and Labor Day, we’d better be good sports about it. And resolve to be a little gentler with one another.