The World’s Most Complicated Shower


Yesterday we moved over to the east side of Glacier National Park because I wanted to see the famous Many Glacier Hotel, a sprawling wooden lodge located on the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake and facing glaciers in the surrounding mountains.  It’s a decidedly, wonderfully rustic place.

And yet, attached to an old-fashioned claw-footed bathtub with a shower curtain you need to tug around, you will find the world’s most complicated shower.  This gizmo with five separately identified buttons and handles and knobs needed an explanatory sign that listed the eight steps needed to be followed sequentially to get it working and regulate the heat of the water.  

That’s expecting a lot from a traveler just roused from peaceful, mountain air sleep.  I couldn’t quite figure it out, so I took a shower that featured water that felt like it just melted off one of the many glaciers.

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Water Politics

It’s raining here in Columbus this morning, just as it does virtually every day in April.  I can hear the patter of raindrops against windowpanes and the rumble of thunder rolling from east to west.  These deeply familiar sounds are symbols of what Ohio and the Midwest has in abundance — fresh water, pouring down from the skies, puddling on sidewalks, sluicing down streets to storm drains, and rushing into roaring rivers and streams.  We check the forecast, grab umbrellas and don raincoats, and mutter about another rainy day.

IMG_5116But what we mutter about, southern California craves.  An area that always has been water-challenged is now water-deprived, as it experiences another year of punishing drought.  Water, the most basic building block of life, will be rationed in southern California, by edict of Governor Jerry Brown and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  Los Angeles will have to cut consumption by 20 percent, and other communities will have to reduce use by 35 percent.  It’s as if the people of SoCal were living in a castle under siege — except it’s Mother Nature who is employing the siege tactics.

None of this is surprising for the residents of southern California, who have been hearing about dwindling water supplies for years.  But officials have noticed an odd phenomenon — as the water supply crisis has become more dire, some people in southern California are increasing their use of water.  Presumably those people have concluded that water restrictions are coming, anyway, so they might was well take an extra-long shower or increase their lawn sprinkler use before the restrictions arrive.  And that apparent “what the hell” attitude has caused the water regulators to argue that they have no choice but to impose mandatory restrictions and punitive charges on water users who exceed the limits.

It’s not entirely clear how the restrictions will affect individuals, yet.  There’s probably no risk of jackbooted water police ripping out sprinkler systems or kicking in the doors of home to install low-flow shower heads, but the people of southern California ultimately will have to accept the inevitable conclusion that there are too many people, animals, and plants in the region in view of the limited water supplies.  Heavily watered green lawns will be replaced by native desert plants, showers will be dribbles rather than blasts, and parks and common areas will have to change.  And the people involved in California’s enormous agricultural sector will have to figure out how to make do with less H2O.

Ultimately these restrictions are the price that must be paid when too many people decide to live in a desert.  Who knows?  Maybe some of those people, tired of feeling dirty and looking at brown surroundings, may decide to relocate to places where steaming showers and green grass are the norm.  Golden Staters, you’re welcome here in the Midwest.

Hot Showers And Home Ownership

A shower is an essential part of the morning routine.  You get squeaky clean and move back into conformance with prevailing social hygienic norms.  You ruthlessly eliminate that lingering case of bed head.  And you finally complete the drowsy transition from blissful sleep to outright, whistling-as-you-get-dressed-for-work wakefulness.

IMG_4820I like my showers hot.  In fact, scalding is closer to accurate.  I like clouds of steam to rise from the shower floor and fog up the shower door, so that I could write “Kilroy was here” with my index finger if I desired.  I want to emerge from the blistering deluge wide-eyed, scourged clean, and as red as a Maine lobster fished out of the bubbling cookpot.

Unfortunately, for the last few months this hasn’t been possible.  At our rental unit, the hot water temperature never got above tepid, probably for cost saving and liability avoidance purposes.  Even at the maximum heat setting, a shower had no sizzle.  As a result, the morning shower there was not a particularly satisfying experience — functional but ho-hum, and sort of like getting woolen socks from your grandmother as a birthday present.

But now we are in our own place and in complete control of the hot water heater, which has been cranked up to high-end, fast-food-carry-out-coffee-before-they-got-sued-into-moderation temperatures.  Yes, I think: this is one of the essences of home ownership and the American Dream.  Now I get to decide water heat, and “room temperature,” and what to put on the walls, and how much light there will be in each room.

So turn that shower handle to maximum at your own risk, baby!  Let the scorching begin!

Like Showering In A Phone Booth

I enjoyed our brief trip to San Antonio, but it’s good to be home.  Why?  Among other things, I confess that I have grown accustomed to the everyday amenities in our house.

IMG_4195Take the shower, for instance.  Our bed and breakfast room had a bathtub shower with an overhead nozzle and a square metal apparatus from which the shower curtain was hung.  You turned on the shower, climbed in, and pulled the curtain closed around you.

It had a distinctly continental look to it, and was very quaint and charming — but it felt precisely like showing in a telephone booth.  My head stuck out of the top, making me feel a bit like Gulliver in Lilliput, while at the same time, the clingy shower curtain established an ever-present physical boundary.  It was tough to maneuver soap, shampoo, and washcloth in such tight surroundings, and good luck to you if you dropped the soap while lathering and had to sink down inside the shower cubicle to try to retrieve that slippery item.

So forgive me if I’m looking forward to this morning’s visit to the familiar shower stall here at home, where the shampoo bottle and soap dish are in their expected places and a little elbow room may be found.