Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Art of the Splash and Dash in Sixteen Acres

Maybe it’s just “an Acres thing,” but when I tell people about my friends and I jumping in strangers’ pools when we were growing up, they look at me in disbelief. Well, aside from playing Wiffleball, what else was there to do in the summer?

JULY 1977

You look out your window. A bunch of neighborhood kids are splashing around in your pool. Uninvited. What do you say to them?

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Not surprisingly, that was the usual reaction from housewives when four or five of us—and sometimes more—jumped into their pools. We were practicing the age-old ritual of Splash and Dash—what some punks call pool-hopping. A bunch of us used to invade a pool, splash around, raise hell, and then, when we wore out our rude welcome, stampeded into another pool. We’d typically hit half a dozen pools within six streets—and sometimes even more on a good, hot summer day.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Jesus Christ! Get the hell out of here!”

Yep. That’s what the housewives usually yelled. Housewives. Oh, excuse me. The politically correct term now is “homemakers.” Well, back then they were housewives, and we usually did our misdeeds during the week, when their husbands were at work, so there was no risk of a violent confrontation—usually.

Why did we do this? Well, it was fucking hot during the summer, and none of our families had pools. The nearest pond, known as Putnam’s Puddle, was polluted. The pools in the neighborhood were going to waste on weekdays—they were calling out to us. And we answered the call. I Splash and Dash, therefore, I am.

You know, I don’t know what was more pleasurable: doing a cannonball in someone’s pool during a when it was 97 degrees out, or seeing the expression of shocked amazement on the face of the pool’s owner. Maybe it was the combination of both—along with the cammeraderie, and the thrill of stampeding in and out of yards—that seduced us so. Illegal? Yes. Immoral? Far from it. There was no outdoor public pool in Sixteen Acres. And we were bored.

So if someone broached the subject of Splash and Dash during a heat wave, when we were sweating our asses off playing Wiffleball, the decision was always unanimous.

INSTIGATOR: “Let’s do a Splash and Dash.”

ME: “You know, that’s a good idea.”

ANOTHER FRIEND: “Yeah! Splash and Dash. Let’s do it!”

These were chaotic scenes, but that’s not to say there wasn’t some planning in these adventures. Indeed, huddling beforehand, we expertly mapped our strategy at least three or four pools ahead. “OK: we’ll do the Whites, the Rutiglianos, the Grimaldis, and then the Morans!” (not their real names) We had enough sense to avoid the yards patrolled by vicious dogs. And we rarely hit any pools beyond Aldrew, Catalpa, Maebeth, Granger, Denwall, and Pineview streets. We just didn’t know what could be awaiting us outside of that grid. Someone with a gun? Who the fuck knows?

Of course, there were unfortunate incidents to put a damper on our summer fun. They were unavoidable. For example, even though we wore sneakers during our exploits—because we had to run like hell and climb fences—injuries still occurred. Bruises and scrapes. And then there was the time Adam Ferry dove into the shallow end of a pool and came up with a bloody nose. He was lucky he wasn’t paralyzed. He was stunned, but that didn’t stop him from continuing the Splash and Dash once he recovered.

Another time we made the mistake of jumping into a pool whose owners had a couple of older teenaged sons at home. Most of us split in different directions when they came out, but these guys got a few of their friends together, and before you know it, there were two carloads of goons looking for us.

And these guys were persistent. They didn't get our of their cars, but they didn't give up the chase. Dave O’Brien and I stayed together and cut through yards to get away, but wherever we surfaced on the street, there they were. This went on for about an hour, but an hour seems like an eternity when it’s starting to get dark out and you’re running through bushes and over fences, yard by yard, trying to make our way to The Pothole, our hangout in the woods at Putnam’s Puddle. That’s where the other Splash and Dashers were undoubtedly regrouping—we’d be safe there, I thought, as Dave and I hid behind a shed, panting in exhaustion and swatting at mosquitoes that were swarming us. But we were still five or six houses away from the woods.

DAVE O’BRIEN: “Well, I guess the Splash and Dash is over.”

ME: “Yep.”

DAVE O’BRIEN: “You know, I got pretty sweaty and dirty from all this running and shit.”

ME: “Me too.”

DAVE O’BRIEN: “We should probably hit one more pool before we get to the woods. I fucking smell.”

ME: “Yep. You do.”

DAVE O’BRIEN: “You too. I guess the Splash and Dash isn’t over.”

ME: “Nope.”

In case you’re wondering, we made it to the Promised Land: the Pothole, and we were nice and clean, thanks to the Johannes’ pool.

Well, it turns out that the Splash and Dash isn’t just an Acres thing. It’s listed in the Urban Dictionary under “pool hopping.”

Yes, the YouTube generation has carried on the art of the Splash and Dash. Check these videos out. It’s mild compared to what we did, with our stampeding and raising hell, but at least the practice is alive and well.

These folks pictured above, as well as at the top of this blog entry, offer a “tutorial,” but they only do one pool:


Seeing one of these guys nearly fall on his head scaling the fence reminded me of the time Dave O'Brien climbed to the top of a high wooden gate, thinking it was locked. But I merely opened the gate—with him on it—and he almost wiped out.

This fellow below is splashing solo (and escapes via car), but at least he jumps into two pools:


The Urban Dictionary's definition of pool hopping pretty much sums it up:

“To jump into a pool that is not your own and escape before po po* come. This act was very popular circa 1975, but has faded as of late. The few and the proud who keep this teenage tradition alive should be honored.”

*The acronym “po po,” defined by the Urban Dictionary, stands for “pissed off police officers.”

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