(While on vacation Art Buchwald received limited immunity, and the special prosecutor has allowed him to reprint some of his favorite columns.)

As part of my war on poverty, I decided to install a swimming pool at our new house. I didn't realize how complicated the purchase of a swimming pool can be. Next to used-car dealers, swimming pool salesmen are the most sincere of all businessmen, and one tends to believe everything they tell you.

I interviewed a swimming pool salesman the other day.

After looking over the property he said, "I can put in a pool -- complete -- for $25,000."

"Does this include everything?" I asked.

"Of course. That's my price -- complete."

"Well, it's a little high," I said, "but perhaps I can make it. I'd like a rectangular pool."

"A rectangular pool? I wish you had told me that before. That's $8,000 extra. It's very difficult to dig a rectangle in the ground."

"That brings it up to $33,000," I said.

"Yes, but that will be complete with everything. Now I'd like to ask you a few questions."

"Yes, sir."

"Did you plan on putting water in the pool?" he asked.

"I thought it would be fun."

"That will be an extra $7,500. If we add water we have to get a permit and that takes a great deal of time."

"I knew I shouldn't have asked for water," I said.

"Did you want concrete in the pool?"

"I think so. Why do you ask?"

"Well, the pool gets so muddy otherwise. The concrete will be $3,000 extra. If you want Gunite, it will be $4,500."

"What's the difference?"

"If you use regular concrete, the pool will leak."

He wrote everything down in his book.

"Let me ask you this," he continued. "Had you planned on filtering the water?"

"What are the advantages?"

"Well, if you filter the water, there is less chance of the children catching typhoid or yellow fever. We can give you an excellent filter for $1,900."

"I guess in the long run it would be cheaper," I said.

"Now what about a ladder to get out of the pool?"

"Couldn't people just climb over the side?" I inquired.

"They could, but that would mean we'd have to install coping. The steps cost $700, and the coping $1,200."

"You better give us the ladder."

"What had you planned to put around the pool?" he asked.

"I don't know. What do you usually put around a pool?"

"We could give you a concrete walk for $3,000."

"It sounds as if you're losing money on the job," I said.

"That's our problem," he replied. "Now what about leaves in the pool?"

"I don't want any leaves in the pool," I said, hoping to save some money.

"We don't put leaves in the pool," he said. "We take them out. You'll want a skimmer for $1,100. Did you plan on a diving board?"

"Sure, why not?"

"That will be $10,000."

"Ten thousand dollars for a diving board?" I asked, incredulously.

"Not just for a diving board," he said. "If you're going to have a diving board, you'll need deep water. The price I gave you was for a shallow pool. I thought you understood that. Why don't you get anything I say straight?"

"I'm sorry," I apologized.

He wrote down $10,000 in his notebook. "Okay, but no more jokes. Pool-building is a serious business."

1987, Los Angeles Times Syndicate