Recently my mother questioned me about my dorm existence. She enquired about the cleanliness of the room (passable), the frequency of my laundry runs (biweekly), my vacuuming technique (I just hand it to my roommate) and other arcane topics that only mothers care about. Tired of this constant lack of faith in my abilities, I decided to put her concerns to rest. “ Don’t worry mom, I maintain strict hygiene standards. For instance, I shower every day.” From my mother’s aghast expression I realized I had walked into a conversational trapdoor. “ What do you mean by saying you shower every day as if it’s a great accomplishment? Ordinary people do it without even thinking. God Tushar, must you be so scruffy?” I was tried and convicted in my mother’s mind before I could say a single word.
By some torturous logic she had concluded that I was only making such a statement because I had been guilty of a transgression. “ He skips showers,” I later heard her say over the phone. Past experience had taught me that it is futile to argue, but I still vehemently maintain that I was telling the truth (and yes, I bathe daily). However, my mother’s intuition wasn’t completely off the mark, for during the past semester I have been entertaining lingering thoughts of giving up on showers entirely.
The trouble started earlier this year, when I moved into a new residence hall. Each bathroom in the building has a large window that leads to the fire escape. In such cold Northern climes having a window is tantamount to placing a welcome mat for the cold (have you ever seen an igloo with a window?). Every morning as I enter to take a shower I am greeted by blasts of freezing wind like the unwelcome licks of an over-eager dog. After shutting the window (which my New England floormates charitably leave open every night), I enter the shower shivering. Now before I go any further, let me issue a warning. Few readers will be accustomed to accompanying the writer beyond the shower curtain (a sacrosanct boundary indeed), but this journey must be made to fully understand my predicament. What follows is not for the faint hearted.
Upon entering the tiny shower cubicle, I disrobe (gracefully) and turn my attention to the first hurdle, namely how to start the shower without being hit by the cold water. Allow me to explain, in another poor design decision the shower control panel consists of only a single knob that both controls the flow of water and the temperature. So if you want warm water (which I invariably do) you have to turn the knob fully and in the process you get doused by freezing cold water (as the knob starts at the cold mark) which of course completely defeats the purpose of having a warm shower in the first place. The sheer imbecility behind such a mechanism leaves me despairing for the future of the human race. Anyway philosophical discussions aside, for the first few times I suffered my fate silently. However,
with stunning mental agility I soon devised a method around this unnecessary penance. If the head of the shower is aimed upwards to the furthest point and showeree presses himself against the wall, then he can avoid cold spray. Thus it came to be that every morning I am pressed flat against the shower wall in a James Bond-esque dodging bullets pose. After sufficient time has elapsed I relax the pose and turn the shower head towards myself. The warm water is life-affirming, one of the few rewards of waking up.
Once I am enveloped in steam, I start to sing. Now I have always secretly cherished a desire of being a great singer, unfortunately the stars never aligned and I have been forced to restrict my art to the shower. Back in my freshman hey-day of semi-private bathrooms I used to warble with considerably less restrain. No one could hear me and I sang loudly and badly out-of-tune. The transition to a communal bathroom however, has forced me to reign in my vocal abilities. At first I limited myself to energetic humming however, even this soon stopped. One day in the middle of an enthusiastic rendition of Iowa by Dar Williams, I heard two of my floormates talking outside. “ Hey Beverly* (name changed) can you hear that weird noise?” “ Yeah it seems to be coming from the shower.” “What is it?” “ I don’t know, sounds like a big insect to me.” I now prefer to sing in my head.
My shower travails were however, still not over. Deprived of singing and forced to assume athletic poses I was becoming less and less keen on showers when ‘the incident’ happened. People still speak in hushed tones about this regrettable occurrence. Many hang their heads in shame. I approve of this. Sincere gravitas is needed when talking about such matters. So I request you to draw upon your reserves of empathy and moisten your eyes. The tale I am about to narrate will make your hair stand on end like “the quills of a fretful porpentine” (to quote the Bard). On a cold winter morning, like any other morning I went to visit my old nemesis — the shower.
After the customary sticking-to-the-wall-to-avoid-the-cold-water-spray routine and the singing-in-my-head-for-fear-of-comparisons-to-insects routine, I tried to enjoy the warmth. The heat was most soothing and the song in my head grew to a crescendo. However, at that very moment, in my inbox there was an email that was the bearer of very bad tidings. I never check my email in the morning. If I had I would have read the notice from Facilities informing residents of Caswell that in the early hours of the morning, warm water would be cut-off due to complicated plumbing manoeuvres (I always imagine people donning snorkels and jumping into the sewers, the reality is far removed from this I’m told). Cold water, of course, would still be available in abundance. Facilities ended the email expressing regret at the inconvenience. At precisely 8 AM my hitherto warm water turned cold. To describe the effect of this temperature drop, I will have to borrow from our common cinematic vocabulary (my skills as a writer barely suffice to describe this particular outrage). Do you recall the movies where the villain is roaming around with a freezing gun that turns humans into large blocks of ice?
Well early that October morning I too turned into a block of ice. A 6 foot (OK, 5′ 10”) block of ice. I also simultaneously let loose a howl that woke everyone on the floor. When, trembling (with cold and indignation), I told my roommate of the incident, he cited the email. Upon reading the missive, I was mollified a bit. It wasn’t their fault I thought magnanimously, they notified us well in advance. However, when the next day I was again turned into an iceberg (this time without any prior warning) I was done. “ I am giving up on showers,” I told a friend later in the day, he instinctively moved away a few feet. Throughout the day I went around announcing my resolve and gauging reactions. After running the gauntlet of irate looks, wrinkled noses and exclamations of disgust I reluctantly decided against giving up on showers. While I would no doubt sidestep several diseases (I had started sneezing due to my cold bathing experiments) I would also alienate all my acquaintances (friends can be so incredibly shallow minded).
So I still trudge every day into the shower, with a look of resignation and determination; a soldier marching into a dangerous battlefield. The warm water hasn’t turned cold again, but if it does I am ready with my James Bond flat-against-the-wall manoeuvre. After all, if 007 can dodge a few bullets, then so can I.
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