Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Bather

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.


*littlestar. said...

Our house is ridiculous and you are delightful. Also, I love you and you make me giggle.

Teddy said...

The biggest hint to me that I'm not wherever I live is people's shower. No two showers are ever quite the same, given differences in temperature, showerhead design, pressure, etc. This is annoying, because I REALLY like a good hot shower. When I'm stressed I'll just stand there in the shower, feeling the water patter at my back.

Where I used to live, I think we had that magic hot water thing too. It never ran out, ever. I could take as long a shower as I liked whenever I liked and not worry about the roommate needing it after me because the water would still be hot. Since, I've moved to a place with a water heater and I am not pleased that after about 20 minutes the water just stops being hot. Annoyances.


Cheeseburger Brown said...

@littlestar: What's yo numba, baby?

@Teddy: I relish being in other people's showers because it almost always means one that is more satisfying than my own. I dream of a renovated washroom!


SaintPeter said...

One of the key features of the house we purchased, although we did not know it at the time, is its double size shower. This is not a "Shower which masquerades as a bathtub", which are fraught with peril since you only have a narrow band in which you can stand without your toes bumping into the edge. This is a genuine, full size double shower. There is nothing quite as pleasing as a shower where you can stretch your arms out, full width (not that I have much cause to do this). You can twist and turn with your eyes closed without fear of bodily injury. With the addition of a small stool, it also doubles as a sauna, which my wife puts to good use on a regular basis.

This is a great move up from the shower in our first apartment. It managed to be only three quarters of a proper shower. Rather than being a full square, one corner had been cut off, to make room for the adjacent toilet. In that shower you had to constantly be aware of your elbows, lest you turn around and bump open the door, letting all your precious warm air escape. I would frequently bathe looking like a ballerina, my arms above me, least I accidentally open the door.

When our aging water heater died, we gladly shelled out large wads of cash for a top of the line tanked water heater. It has served us well.

No one wants to save the environment when they are tense and smell poorly. Showers are a key component of modern civilization.


Another fun story, thanks.

Anonymous said...

We've made two tweaks to our shower that I think would benefit more showers: 1) a handheld shower -- by default it's a regular shower, but can be held in the hand for extra efficient cleaning/water massaging, and is very handy for rinsing down the shower walls when done; 2) we added a second shower rod outside of our standard one, and it is on this new one that we mount our shower curtain, which gives us a roomier shower, and keeps the shower curtain monster from reaching out and clinging to us... and we use the inside shower rod to hold the active washcloth, and the used ones (when a stack of them dried out and gets large enough, you transfer it to the hamper). Oh yeah, cloth shower curtains are a good change: no more PVC off-gassing of the new plastic ones, and they get moldy much slower, and can then be washed.

Mark said...

The accompanying graphic looks so much like a vagina that I look over my shoulder before opening this page at work. Or is that just me?

Teddy said...

@Mark: I suppose in that the bathtub happens to be exactly flesh-toned and looks like two thighs, it could, but it is the most frightening vagina-thing I have ever seen in my life, in real life or on the internet.


Sheik Yerbouti said...

Mark, the graphic no longer shows, so I can only assume you pulled the author into your mental maelstrom.

CBB, aside from enriching and amusing, this little set piece gives me the urge to move in near you so I can help you fix your bathroom.

Also, this hot shower thing is a universal truth. The environmentalists are obviously hypocrites; nobody can resist a hot shower.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear SaintPeter,

I've never showered in a double shower per se but it certainly sounds like my cup of tea. I think if I had a double shower like that I'd do yoga stretches in there, and possibly I would also take my phone calls there and complete my tax returns and so on. If I had a double shower I might need to sent to some sort of deprogramming facility to curb my zeal.

The closest I've come to experience the double shower love is the shower-is-the-washroom concept. I first saw it in Portogruaro, Italy: there is no distinction between the showering space and the rest of the room. You could conceivably brush your teeth and shower simultaneously (you couldn't pass waste, however, as they had a French-style WC elsewhere). Everything was tiled. It was like a personal water-park, except warm and tasteful and unchlorinated. But I never knew where to put my towel.


Cheeseburger Brown said...

Cherished Anonymous,

That sounds like a fine and very systematic cleanliness factory -- like a car-wash but for meat. Neat!


Smiley K said...

zomg. I'm totally taking a hot bath tonight. Thanks CBB.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Mark,

Well, my wife persuaded me the other night to see it as a bum, as implied by a Facebook comment to this same post. I did manage, though. The vagina -- I'm just not seeing it. Let me try again.

H'm. The best I can do is a vagina with a spigot on it, and that's as novel an approach to combining plumbing and gynaecology as I've ever willingly imagined. Maybe if I squint. H'm.

It's no Georgia O'Keefe, to be sure.

Maybe I'll paint something anatomical next and have you all see a flux capacitor in it or something.


Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Teddy,

I'm with you.

Dear Sheik,

Here's the thing about the plumbing in the old schoolhouse: it's the devil's work.

Firstly, what we have today represents the unholy commingling of several small projects over the course of a century rather than any kind of grand implementation. Secondly, said sub-systems are located in areas that are difficult to access. Thirdly, said difficult-to-access areas are themselves enclosed within hand-crafted decorative woodwork whose author did not have the foresight to imagine maintenance panels.

In short, in order to bring order to our plumbing much of our house would have to be destroyed. This could be mitigated somewhat by copious amounts of money and/or know-how, but I haven't either in sufficient supply to even entertain the thought.

If I could turn back time to when we decided to buy this old place, I wouldn't. Because if I did I'd only choose something even stupider. I know me. If not this old schoolhouse it would've been a condemned firehall like in Ghostbusters more likely than not.


Dan said...

Great to hear from you here. Practicing daily hygiene sounds like quite the adventure in the OSH. I have started my annual chapter-a-night CBB Christmas story ritual lead up to Christmas. You have become a tradition in our humble home. The chillens would like to know if you are going to try to drop a few Christmas paragraphs this year. I told them you would love to, but are Godawful busy in the meatspace.

Always look forward to a few words from you.

THE Danimal

Bridget said...

I lived without a bathtub for 17 years. It was my only rule when buying a house three years ago. I didn't care what kind, it had to have a decent, working tub. I stay in until well past the wrinkly stage and I do not care. Sometimes I even drain a little out and run some more water to warm it up again.

I figure on the scale of First World Vices, I could do worse.

Also: I totally saw a bum, too.

fooburger said...

Ever thought of ditching the plumbing and going with those hang-on-a-tree solar outdoor showers?
What amazed me was how effective they are and how how they could get.
Of course, being where you are, you may have to replace 'solar' with 'furnace aimed at water pack'.

At > 200cm, one has a very clear agenda with showers that often supersedes temperatures alone.

I do prefer the shower-without-walls, but unless I'm living somewhere tropical, I don't think that's really practical.