I was reading a newspaper story recently about the effort to create new rules for our public swimming pools when this paragraph caught my eye:

"The new rules establish protocols for pool operators to handle fecal matter."

FECAL MATTER?

You don't suppose they mean, you know, as in, um, a toilet?

Are we talking about a swimming pool or a cesspool?

Maybe it was a typo. Maybe they meant DECAL — as in, pool operators need new protocols for handling decals in the pool.

This could be wishful thinking on my part.

OK, things I plan NOT to do this summer:

1. Get a sunburn.

2. Watch "American Idols" in concert.

3. Get sand in my swimsuit and then sit in the car for a long time.

4. Stick one toe in a public swimming pool.

Maybe you heard last summer that Utah's public swimming pools have been become giant vats of viral stew. This is thanks to something called cryptosporidiosis, a nasty, long-named, gastrointestinal disease brought to you by parasites, which are brought to you by FECAL MATTER, the end result being (pardon the pun) a supreme case of diarrhea.

Sounds fun.

About 2,000 people got sick from swimming in public swimming pools.

What, you might ask, is fecal matter doing in the swimming pool? After all, if we want to swim in fecal matter, we can go to Lake Powell.

Or the Pacific Ocean in Southern California.

Well, by a process of elimination (all right, enough double-entendres) the Department of Health has determined that the sources of cryptosporewhatever are diapers and people who have had diarrhea within the past two weeks.

That's all I needed to hear. The rest is just details.

Last week, the Department of Health accepted public comment on the proposed rule changes. Consider these my public comments:

• People who have had diarrhea within the past two weeks from an unknown source may not enter a public pool.

Actually, they can't leave the house, and jumping into a public swimming pool doesn't even come up for consideration.

• Children under 3 or who are not toilet trained or can't "control themselves" must wear a swim diaper and "water resistant swimwear."

Fine — as long as the "water resistant swimwear" is the same thing astronauts wear on the space shuttle or what Jacques Cousteau wore on his deep sea dives. I'm no expert, but a swim diaper and "water resistant swimwear" don't sound reassuring.

Putting a "swim diaper" on a toddler in a public pool is like giving smokers a smoking section in the middle of an airport. Public health officials say that diapers might not be effective in keeping fecal matter "in." I hope they were going for understatement.

• People cannot change diapers by the pool.

Is it really necessary to state the obvious here? If so, then we should also mention that they also cannot change diapers on the counter at McDonald's.

• In the event of a crypto outbreak, public health officials will declare a Crypto Watch or Crypto Warning.

All public pools will be equipped with a toilet-style flusher and will be flushed whenever there is a crypto outbreak. After which they will drop a bomb on said pool.

• I'm adding this rule: Pool users should not only wash their hands after using the bathroom, but, judging from the state of public bathrooms, they should be hosed down like elephants at the zoo.

(Not that I'm Howard Hughes, but I recommend that everyone flush public toilets with their foot and exit public rest rooms like the LAPD on a drug bust — by kicking open the door and racing through the gap before it closes.)

Oh, for the good old days. Back then, the worst thing you found in the pool was a Baby Ruth, which was tossed in there by lifeguards.

They wanted to go home early.


Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesdays. Please e-mail drob@desnews.com.