Memoir, Personal Essays

The Shower

Yes, I have felt the tugging guilt of obscene waste. The profligate use of treated water, heated by polluting fuels extracted from the earth’s bosom. Yet, tormented as I am by these thoughts, I lie in the bathtub’s embrace as bouquets of hot droplets shower upon my naked flesh.

It had been a cold, raw, overcast day on Lake Mille Lacs – hour after hour tolerating an incessant bone-chilling wind punctuated by bouts of icy rain and chilling lake spray coming off a white capped sea. At last I was on shore and indoors, in my heated car, and heading off to the Grand Casino Hotel at Vineland. My standardized, sanitized, Grade C room at the hotel was somehow unexpectedly discomforting. For a full ten minutes I only suffered, not thinking of why.

Then, there it was – the room was suffused with a cool breeze! Air conditioning gone wild! The thermostat setting was flush on 60, on cool. it was late spring, but outside it was overcast and 58 degrees Fahrenheit.

I calculatingly reversed the thermostat’s goal and it joyously served up hot air out of its conditioner vents. My goal: 70 degrees! Still the chill of the day remained. “A hot shower, that’s the ticket,” I thought, “The whole room, bathroom, shower, and tub are all mine – and I don’t have to report to dinner with my brother and his family for a whole hour!”

The shower/bath combo was as straightforward and plain as could be. Figuring out the standard water flow and temperature controls and bath vs. shower valve was a snap. There was only a curtain to prevent water from the shower escaping onto the bathroom floor.

I dialed the temperature control to hot, as hot as could be. Cold water gushed out of the spigot. Thirty seconds and still ice cold water. Well, thought I, I have been through this before – either the hot water heater died or more likely the installing plumbers pulled their standard prank. Sure enough, within five seconds after dialing in “cold water,” steaming hot water emerged. Lifting the valve mechanism on the water spigot shut down the bath water flow and two sputtering seconds later, the shower head exploded, sending anxiously awaited relief to my chilled core. I wanted the heated waters to touch me everywhere at once. I wanted my bones, my muscles, my nerves to melt in joy. But standing in a shower requires mental and physical effort – no letting go. What if I sat in the shower? I have often done just that and with joyous outcomes. Two memorable showers came to mind, both with seating areas and glass enclosures. One in the Junior Suite at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. The other in the Sauna Suite at the Holiday Inn in Grand Marais, MN. My present circumstances were nowhere as luxurious as either of those two – no seating area, no marble, no glass enclosure – just a tub, a plastic shower curtain and a shower head and of course – hot water!

I lowered myself with great caution and awkwardness, remembering all those like John Glenn, the astronaut, who, though physically able, injured himself taking a shower. I am also physically able, for a 69-year-old with an arthritic hip and 30 pounds of extra weight. Safely having lowered myself to the sitting position, facing the shower head above, it suddenly came to me to lie flat on my back in the tub. There it was, I was in position to be totally flaccid, totally at the will of the shower. Flat on my back I could, even with my limited hip agility, use my left foot to dial the rotary temperature control knob. As I had ascended further and further below the shower head, the water cooled as it descended through the air before reaching me. No problem: a flick of my ankle and thermal joy was restored.

There I lay for at least a full fifteen minutes. Finally, concluding I deserved no more joy at the expense of the planet, I reluctantly halted the flow of ecstasy. This shower had topped all others. To lie down, with no muscle taut, with no need for brain activity, made me conjure up the image of a contented third trimester fetus, floating aimlessly in a well cared for womb – a state I labeled, “Fetal Rapture.”

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