Home improvement

Farewell, Sybil. And welcome, Sybil II

She fought the good fight. But in the end, the ravages of time took their toll and, despite years as a noble warrior, we had to put Sybil down. Yes, our automatic pool cleaner finally bit the dust.

We had Sybil since we bought our home 12 years ago. And she was an old, broken down mess then.

For those of you not familiar with automatic pool cleaners, they are fantastic helps in keeping your pool clean, but rather worthless when they just sit in a corner or sink to the bottom, which Sybil often did. She would, on occasion, clean, usually with some startling aggressiveness that came with her manic mode. But her moods were unpredictable, and her cleaning jags came fewer and farther between.

I had worked on Sybil many times, replacing various parts to keep her limping along. But, toward the end of last season, it was evident that there was just so much $6 Million Dollar Man left in her.

Then the final nail in the coffin was the ice storm. One of the many kind things Winter Storm Pax did was send an enormous oak branch into our pool, ripping the liner. It was depressing enough to see all the limbs snapping and crashing and wrecking everything around us. It was just piling on to watch as the water level slowly lowered.

Eventually, it leveled off after draining out of the shallow end. The tear in the liner was fairly easy to spot — it was marked by a giant oak branch.

Fortunately, pool liners are covered by insurance. Unfortunately, lots of pool liners were damaged by the storm, and we were on a healthy backlog, which meant in addition to a nasty looking half-empty pool, we also had a thriving mosquito hatchery. Hooray, pestilence!

When it came time to pick out the style of our new liner, my wife and I went through our normal ritual when it comes to picking out something like this. We sat down with a bunch of samples and had this conversation:

HER: Which one do you like?

ME: I don’t care.

HER: Well, give me some direction?

ME: How about this one?

HER: No. What about this one?

ME: Works for me.

The liner was ready to be installed about two months after the storm. It only took a couple of days, followed by a few days of filling the water up. And, yes, I did experience some serious first-world problems during that time, as I complained that my shower water pressure was low because I was having to fill up my swimming pool. Shockingly, no one held a support rally for me.

Once the pool was back up and running, it looked better than it ever had. Our team effort at picking out a liner paid off, and the pool had never looked better.

Shame, I believe, finally killed Sybil. She couldn’t compete. I put her in her newly lined pool and hit the switch. She did pretty much nothing. I’m not totally positive, but I think she did look toward me and let a single bubble go, like a final tear of goodbye.

Yes, we would mourn her loss, but life must also go on, and it must go on with a clean pool. We ordered a new Sybil, whom we will call, for the short term, Sybil II, until the personality presents a name.

When Sybil II arrived, it was a fairly easy set-up — plug in to the wall, flip a switch, watch it clean. Normally, it took Sybil several days to make her rounds in the pool. I put Sybil II in when I came for lunch. By the time I was finished with a turkey sandwich and some chips, Sybill II had cleaned every leaf in the pool and was scurrying around looking for more. This made the mourning period for Sybil vastly condensed.

Sybil II continues to clean like a champ, and it’s amazing how much easier it is keep a pool clean with a Sybil that actually works consistently. We still haven’t decided on a permanent name, and I’m not sure Sybil II is a fair choice. Perhaps my wife and I can come up with the name together. You know, the same way we picked out the liner.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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