Tuesday, August 30, 2016

strange showers...

(Original image via wwwludlowcollection.culturenik.com)
The year after I left school I decided to travel to Germany. It was a terrible idea, not least of all because I had somewhat unwittingly hitched myself to a dodgy German man who seemed charming upon first meeting. Turns out he wasn’t charming at all, but that’s another story for another day. The story today involves me, a shower, and some soap.

Just to put things into context: I grew up in Howick, a small town in the KZN Midlands. It was the 80’s. Both the region and style of the era didn’t boast things like fancy interiors or, say, fancy taps. In fact, all the houses that I knew (which was quite a few, I can tell you) were strictly standard-Cobra-tap-type houses. No one I knew had a mixer tap in their bathroom, and the ones in their kitchens were, yes, very standard-Cobra-tapish-type mixers. Linoleum floors abounded (this may still be a standard fitting today) and light fixtures, well, let’s just leave it at that.

But back to the taps. You can imagine my surprise then when I arrived in Germany to find all manner of different styles of taps. In fact, the entire plumbing and bathroom scenario was totally different. Shower/baths (or bath/showers – whichever way you like it) were trending in most homes, and separate showers and baths were uncommon. The toilets also had a funny shape to them – quite unlike the streamlined, funnel-shaped loos back home. The German loos had a kind of  ledge, or shelf, upon which your business would land. I found this to be most upsetting because I don’t really want to see my business. Ever. I prefer it to be funnelled away as quickly as possible, as though it never happened in the first place.

One evening, DG (short for Dodgy German) had tennis practice at an indoor tennis club. I decided to tag along and go for a run while they practiced.  When I returned, I was in desperate need for a shower. It wasn’t that I’d worked up a sweat so much as I was freezing cold from being outside (bloody European Winters). I made my way to the change rooms and by this stage, no one else was around. This turned out to be a blessing, as you’ll see.

I stripped off and stepped into the shower cubicle. Shit, I thought, where are the taps? Though the spout and shower head were in plain sight, all I could see was a kind of metal lever that stood at waist height. Testing the waters, so to speak, I decided to pull at the lever to see if that was “the tap”.

Mmm. Nothing. As I did several small circles of the cubicle, searching for some kind of switching-on device, my butt brushed up against something (this happens a lot – it’s quite a butt). Hurrah! A steady stream of water rushed out and I proceeded to soap up a storm. Then, just as I finished slathering my face with soap, the water stopped coming.


I pulled the “magic lever” to and fro but still no water came out. By now the soap had started to run into my eyes and burn the crap out of them, so I couldn’t see shit. The world became all misty and I knew I had to rinse my face before I became blind.

Glancing around (why I bothered to even look I don’t know – there could’ve been a band of marauding Indians in the bathroom and I wouldn’t have been able to see them though my burning eyes), I decided to run to the basin – which at least had taps that were familiar to me - so that I could at least wash the soap out of my eyes.

Sensing, rather than seeing, no one else around, I felt safe enough to make the dash, in the nude, slippery with soap, to the basin. Relief! My eyes stopped burning a bit, although I was still blinking wildly to get the residual sting out them. But now I had a dilemma. Do I go back to the “mystery shower” or do I stay at the basin and rinse there?

I knew that should anyone else come into the change room, they would find it most odd that I was standing at the basin rinsing myself and getting water all over the floor when there was an empty, perfectly good shower standing right there. I decided to try the shower again and dashed back over what had now become fiercely slippery tiles.

Lever, lever, pull, pull, push, push. Circle, circle (in the hopes that my bum will mysteriously activate the flow of water again).


And so it was that I found myself dashing to and fro over the slippery soapy tiles to the basin to rinse, then back over the slippery soapy floor to my clothes, to cover whatever parts of my body were de-soaped. Dashing back to the basin to finish rinsing, and dashing back to my towel and clothes.

Needless to say, I finally got a good run in.

When I emerged from the change rooms looking all flushed and out of breath, DG asked me what on earth happened. I patiently explained that there must’ve been some kind of shower-water-only malfunction because although the water in the basin worked just fine, the water in the shower wouldn’t turn on again after the first go.

It was then he explained that all public showers have a timer button to conserve water and that you just have to keep pressing the button when the water turns off after a couple of minutes. I realised that it was this button that my butt must have “switched on” as I circled the cubicle searching for the taps.

And since that day, I always make sure of the workings of showers before I soap myself up.

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