Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shower the People

"What's a Navy shower?" My Dad was in the Army and I had never heard of such a thing. My buddy Rhys, his father and I were sitting around the dinner table and talking about travel experiences from around the world when the Mr. Navy veteran mentioned that he was "trained" on Navy showers and still takes them today.

"Oh, no....I couldn't do that," says I, spoiled American landlubber that I am. Turn the water off while sudsing? "I need the shower to keep the room warm so I don't get cold" I whined. Besides, given my upbringing in military housing, often with only one full bath for a family of five, I'd learned to take showers in less than 10 minutes' time, a habit I maintain to this day.

"Were ya in there long enough for the water to find ya?" my mother often asked?

Who really thinks of the shower experience as a major memory of any particular journey? I've come across some pretty interesting facilities in the many different hotel rooms and homes I've stayed in around the planet and over the years. I've shared a bath in Australia and London, usually at a hostel, bed & breakfast and the dormitory of Connaught Hall, University of London.

The most beautiful, if slightly disconcerting shower of my life was in Tahiti where the shower was outside but surrounded by a wall at the back of my "half-beach" (half on the sand, half over the water) cabana at the Moorea Pearl Resort. One small, flourescent looking lizard looked up at me from a safe distance, head all off to one side and wondering what the hell I was doing mixing soap with his perfectly good drinking water.

A friend's efficiency in the 8th arrondissement of Paris featured a shower stall off to the side of his one room apartment - the toilet was a shared affair out on the landing of his floor. This shower was about six inches of raised concrete in a square maybe three feet across with a shower head and completely exposed on all sides save for the ring above the head that held the curtain. One false step and the entire room could be sprayed. I wasn't then and am not today a small or medium sized man. Thinner then, maybe, but still a healthy 6'4" and on the good-shape side of 200 lbs.

The trickiest thing about most showers in Europe, though, are the hand held shower heads quite popular on that side of the Atlantic. They can rotate in their pincer-like holding units and slide up and down the stalk to adjust to the height of the user which can be a good thing but actually holding one while trying to wash and rinse? What's the purpose of holding the thing to begin with?

Then I discovered that some other showers didn't have a shower curtain at all, as in the home of a French friend of mine who lived north of Paris. This one was really frying my brain as it was only a large, claw-footed tub and the hand held shower thingy. I'm half-sitting, half-crouching in this tub and holding the shower head trying my best not to shoot water to the far wall of the bathroom and failing miserably in the process.

In a Munich hotel the very deep tub had only a clear, hinged glass "partial" that only extended half-way down the length of this porcelain bunker of a bathtub. Water again goes flying out the back while I'm spinning in circles, forlornly trying to keep myself soaked and the room dry.

The ultimate experience was once again in Paris at budget hotel where the shower was the entire bathroom, with the shower spigot positioned on the wall above the sink and the drain in the center of the floor between the toilet and the vanity. Yup, hand held shower thingy. And me lowering the lid on the toilet so water wouldn't spray on to the seat and people thinking that I couldn't aim.

If I hold on to the thing then I can't effectively scrub. If I turn it upside down bidet-style then water shoots up my nose and my, well...that's another story altogether. If it's only meant to be held while rinsing then why can't it just stay in the pincer-bracket like any normal American shower? And if it never leaves the bracket then why make it hand-held and detachable at all?

I don't get it, but I gotta use it. I'm heading back to Europe next year!

Gotta go!

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