Showers of Blessing
I have been accused of many things, but never excessive cleanliness. My motto is that on a farm, cleanliness is not next to godliness – it’s next to impossible. Plus many of us simply enjoy a modest amount of dirt about our person. Arguably, the more obscured our features, the more attractive we seem.
Nevertheless, one of the signal events in my life was the moment of my first shower. When I was in the 5th grade, my parents built a new house, which had two (count ‘em, 2) bathrooms. The “kids’” bathroom had a shower/tub – cutting-edge sanitation.
Bathing was at the time a supposedly necessary evil. The advent of a shower lifted the concept of personal hygiene to a bearable burden of polite society.
Even at that early age, as a precocious engineerling, I was appreciative of the stunning efficiency gains of the shower. Instead of a tub full of hot water giving up its caloric payload largely to the cast iron mass of the tub itself, providing a scant few moments of warmth to the bathee, the shower propelled the heated liquid first over the grateful showerer. Pure genius!
Adaptation to this technology was rapid. Within days, I had mastered the art of balancing the flows of hot and cold, even though in our home, two separate water systems supplied them. The hot was drawn from the cistern, the cold from the well. This mismatched plumbing meant that shower temperature was a moving target. Regardless, we all soon became expert at behind-the-back faucet manipulation, avoiding the freeze-boil cycle of unattended operation.
Remnants of these skills still serve me well when a toilet is flushed or the dishwasher loads during a shower. It is all about focus and concentration. The instinctive sensing of the tell-tale pressure drop, the subtle change in the pipe whine, or even the ker-thunk of the washer valve triggers lightning response with little conscious thought.
It was the shower itself that lifted our lives. Assuming that you were the first to claim the contents of our prehistoric electric water heater, the day offered one good chance for quality personal time. A refuge from the trials of life brought to you by the British Thermal Unit. The sacrament became a moment of comfort that soon embedded its ritualistic motions in our psyches. Indeed, I have noticed I scrub myself today the same way I started as a boy – missing the same places in exactly the same order.
So deeply ingrained is this moist ceremony that if interrupted by a shouted question, for example, many of us cannot remember where in the cycle of soaping and rinsing we were. More astounding, I have discovered (as only a “Dilbert” type would) that my showers all last 7.2 minutes ± 14 seconds. These are important things to know, I think.
I have noticed my sons develop similar shower skills. The youngest, Jack, blossomed into a human Rolaids – capable of absorbing 47 times his weight in hot water. Jan and I worried that when he left for college and the nirvana of “city” (i.e. unlimited) water, he would eventually develop gills. To this day when he visits as a grown man, the humidity in the house can drop by 25%.
In fairness, I think that for men, whose cleansing chores involve at the most soap and/or shampoo, the shower is a moment of pleasure free from mental involvement, thus allowing the mind to wander, the imagination to soar. Many of my best (in a relative sense, of course) columns were conceived in those steamy confines.
Showers thaw frozen fingers, toes, and personalities in the winter, and a cooling sprinkle is the best relief from a layer of soybean fuzz after a combine repair.
Men require little support equipment for these ablutions. Soap is a nice touch, especially when eroded to the right size and shape for easy driving around our manly forms. The less accommodating stages of the soap life-cycle – the Graspless Sliver and the Square Corners of Grief – are endured with manly pouting.
Women, as usual, make showers far more complex. The tank mixes required for hair upkeep alone resemble alchemy. Jan’s collection of unguents, potions, sponges, swabs, skewers, drop nozzles, foamers, and what-not has led this forward thinker to suggest a shower “tool belt”. (Oddly, the concept has been ignored.) And of course, it’s a woman’s job to clean the hair out of the drain.
It is, too! Regardless, I think we should all be grateful for the simple blessing of rehydration. So take the phone of the hook and grab a towel off the floor and celebrate this miracle of modern hydraulics.
Why wait until Saturday?