Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Showering in 360 Degrees

One summer, many years ago, I was at the beach with my family, and I got a very bad sunburn. "The best thing for that," my mother advised, "is a really hot shower. Just get in there and make the water as hot as you can stand it."

By this point in my life, I had learned from my dad, my grandmother, my teachers, public television, that the best thing for a burn in the kitchen is to run cold water over it. But, being the respectful and diligent child I was, I didn't want contradict my mother by suggesting that a burn from the sun is actually quite similar to a burn from the stove. So, I put the shower on with about 90% hot water and 10% cold water. When the water - somewhere between "rapid boil" and "steam" - touched my skin, I wanted melt down the drain more than I wanted the pain to subside.

This morning, as the pre-windchill temperature hovered around the freezing point outside, I thought back fondly of that shower that, today, seemed more toasty and cozy than searing and infernal. My bathroom has a window which is great for letting the steam out. This keeps the level of mildew quite low. But, even when the window is closed, it doesn't do a lot to keep any heat in the bathroom itself. (Note to non-Europeans reading this blog: the bathroom is where they keep the bath, not the toilet. Sadly, the "WC" in my apartment does not have a window, which actually could be kind of useful at times.)

But, the 360 degree shower I miss the most has nothing to do with the temperature of the water, but rather with the showerhead securely attached to the wall, freeing both hands for shampooing and lathering purposes and allowing me to turn around in full circles to make sure all my bits are rinsed properly. Sure, I could buy one of those do-it-yourself kits where I can rig up a metal rod that will hold the shower head in place. But, it wouldn't be the same as a real shower, and basically I'm too lazy to even try to install something to see how close it would be to a real shower.

Many of my friends and colleagues dread having to travel, especially for business, as this is time where they are separated from their loved ones and cannot be home in their own beds. Sure, all that is annoying, but I look forward to waking up in the morning and spending as much time as I can under those pulsating jets. The shower in the Sheraton Tel Aviv had great water pressure, and the one at the NH Hotel in Lisbon was so spacious, I was tempted to invite a few people to join me!

Yes, I have had some less-than-wonderful shower experiences on my travels. The "hydro massage shower" at the Athens Atrium Hotel was powerful, but only left me with about 2" (5cm) of space to move around. And the shower in the George Hotel in Crawley (near London Gatwick Airport) had just about the pressure of an aerosol can. But, still, I didn't have to hold the shower head in my hand, so I have to give a point or two to form over function.

As for my sunburns? I try to avoid them now by using sunscreen, a T-shirt, or just not going to the beach in the first place. And, if I do get a burn, I still get in the shower, but I put the water on as cold as I can stand it. Shrinkage anyone?