Take a dip into etiquette before plunging into the pool

The first thing I learned after putting a swimming pool in my backyard was how many strokes I could do without bumping my head. The second thing was how well mannered some pool guests are -- and how a few rules of etiquette make all the difference. Here are some tips if you're invited to a pool party.

Bring your own towel. And just as important, take it home with you. Time and money can be spent by a thoughtful host calling around to see who in fact owns that worn-out pink beach towel with the orange seahorse on it.

Don't go empty-handed. No host is looking for gold lam'e double-floating pool chairs with places to hold glasses, but a bottle of soda -- in a plastic bottle, please -- or a bag of ice cubes, or some chips and dip -- again, in a plastic bowl -- are a thoughtful gesture.

Don't just ``drop in'' with an inner-tube under your arm because you happen to be in the neighborhood. Call. Always call. And, not that you're going to fool anybody, try to get yourself invited, rather than inviting yourself. This little bit of diplomacy is usually learned very quickly by those who love the water.

If you bring the kids, allow for an adults-only time in the pool. Remember someone's grandmother may not enjoy being ``cannonballed'' by your eight-year-old son. Don't wait for Junior's lips to turn blue before you suggest he try drying off for a while.

Ask your hosts what the pool rules are. Don't accept that ``there aren't any, we just want you and the kids to have a good time.'' There are always rules. And if you can't get them out of your hosts, make some up fast. And pass them along to whomever you brought and see that you do your share in seeing that they are followed.

Leave the dog at home. I spent the better part of a day cleaning dog hair out of the pool filter after a guest brought along her golden retriever. ``He just loves water,'' she beamed, as (let's call him Rover) hit the water like Mark Spitz.

Cool it on the application of suntan lotions, oils, and other greasy products. Be sensible about using them, of course, but just don't overdue it. They too, can muck up the filter, as well as make the sides of the pool and surrounding tiles very slippery.

When you go back into your guest's house, offer to take something in or bring something back with you. This helps cut down on constant back-and-forth trips for the host or hostess. Be sure to dry off a bit before entering the house so the kitchen doesn't turn into a lake. And never sit on any of the upholstered furniture with a wet bathing suit.

If you bring a tape deck or radio, be sure your musical tastes jibe with that of your host and the other guests. If you're a hard rock fan, and they're not, spare them by using earphones.

Having a pool is definitely a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun, too. Try to make it easy on your host and who knows, you may even be invited back without your having to hint.

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