Washing is confession for the flesh.
Plus, it keeps you from being all stinky and Mediaeval.
I used to have a bath whose hot water faucet didn’t. In order to prepare a soak one had to convey kettles and pots of boiling water from the kitchen brigade-style, then cool to taste from the tap.
Now I have a bath whose cold water isn’t. In order to prepare a soak one must fill the tub with pure hot and then either add pitchers of cold water from the kitchen, wait for the excess heat to bleed off into the environment, or both.
Either way, bathing can be a chore. That’s living in a pioneer schoolhouse for you.
Luckily there is a laundry sink in the laundry room which has been bootstrapped into a shower stall. Because it is very chilly in the laundry room the warmth of the shower tends to escape out the top of the stall, though I have mitigated this by piling parts of a broken wooden cabinet up there to block the free flow of air. I am some kind of handy-man.
Both hot and cold water come out of the shower spout, but never with much vigour. The taps themselves are broken. To the hot water tap we have attached a pair of vice-grips; to the cold water tap a toothed wrench. To keep straight the direction the tools must be cranked I have scrawled arrows on the wall in black magic marker.
The drain doesn’t really, so by the end of the shower you’re standing in soapy swill. Sometimes there is a bath mat ready to save your wrinkled feet from the cold tiles but usually there isn’t because our cats like to pee on bath mats.
In the middle of the night the pipes of this old schoolhouse groan and fart and shake for no apparent reason.
The hot water faucet in the bath didn’t used to turn hot unless one opened the hot water faucet on the sink first. Now it doesn’t care about that. It turns hot after a minute or two all on its own, then alternates between lukewarm and scalding without rhyme or reason. I believe it mocks me.
We have no hot water tank. Water is heated as it is pulled from the well by a Wiccan incantation or a laser or something. At times this heating process action remains largely theoretical.
In winter we’ll sometimes take an old timey serial bath – ladies first, then me, then the offsprung. Because the bath is rather large sometimes I’ll just get in with them to save time. We use the opportunity to discuss Archimedes or how soap is made. Now that the children are longer this is less feasible than it once was. The ratio of bodies to water has been irrevocably spoiled. They complain about excess leg, and come to a sudden grokking of displacement. “Eureka!”
Whenever I’m in a hotel I like to take a scalding hot shower forever. That is, I don’t get out until somebody makes me. If I were a prominent environmentalist evidence of this would be enough to destroy my public credibility because scalding hot showers that last forever represent a grossly uneconomical and unmindful use of resources. This is only one of several reasons why I am not an activist: I couldn’t shower the way I want to.
I’ve never taken a cold shower on purpose. People who do this baffle me.
Whenever I’m in a deep big bath I like to lie on my back and let my head and shoulders float so that I feel like I’m in outer space or a uterus. In these circumstances I sometimes regret having lost the ability to breathe through my navel. I close my eyes and feel the bubbles tickle as they trickle out of my ears. Pressure equalizes and sound goes all swimmy. A great sense of peace pervades me. Then I think up movies about robots.
When I open my eyes and raise my head the bathtub is staring back at me: the faucets are eyes, the spout a nose, the overflow grille a mouth. The bath robot weeps rust, but always seems to me more upbeat than grim. It looks at me between my hobbit feet, never blinking, programmed for wetness, dutiful and patient. It makes me feel good to know it’s there watching over me as I stew.
The bath robot is claw-footed, made of iron, and more than a hundred years old.
In contrast I am thirty-five years old and contain only small quantities of iron. Never the less, I feel that we understand one another in some vague but significant way. The bath robot groks my insomnia. I reckon it knows all about the giddy nausea of existence. The bath robot has seen it all.
Bathing has a long and dirty history. In all started with freshwater rivers, and then Darwin caused it to evolve into ancient Roman public bath houses. In today’s modern world washing can be the basis of a symbolic cleansing ceremony in which it is understood that bathing the body represents bathing the spirit; for full efficacy a spiritual shampoo is frequently followed by spiritual conditioning. Many Canadians and Americans have been known to bathe themselves in potable water, presumably as a kind of orgiastic celebration of wealth and excess. If you’re very attractive you can even shower in slow-motion.
No matter who you are, when you get all wrinkly it’s time to get out.