My dad was a shower Nazi.
In his defense, I suppose hot water is expensive. He wasn’t a rich man, money doesn’t grow on trees, and all that. And maybe I’ve always liked a nice long shower. But my father, by some arcane mathematical formula, determined that seven minutes was the absolute maximum amount of time that any person would ever need to spend cleaning themselves. And so throughout my teenage years, every time I’d get ready to take a shower he’d literally grab his stopwatch. I’d get a polite warning knock at five minutes or so. Then more frequent, louder knocks, all the way up to the seven minute mark.
When I, in my—justifiably, I think—righteous indignation would simply ignore his ever more angry banging on the wall, the old man would resort to going outside to the water heater cabinet and physically shutting off the hot water. In retrospect, I’m fairly certain my dad was working through some issues, and they didn’t entirely involve me and the duration of my showers.
Being the stubborn teenager that I was, (and every bit my father’s son) I couldn’t give up without one final passive-aggressive gesture. Lucky for me, we lived in a mobile home. And not a fancy modern mobile home. It was a flimsy, under-insulated, fake-woodgrain-panelled seventies horror-show, complete with orange carpets and avocado-green appliances. But in this instance, the flimsiness of the walls worked to my advantage. If I listened carefully, even from in the shower, I could hear the sound of the water heater cabinet being opened. I’d stretch out my showers as long as I possibly could, ignoring the warnings, working my dad up into a frothing rage, and then as soon as I heard him storm out the back door, I’d end my shower, mere seconds before the hot water cut out. Such petty victories, yet so satisfying.
Needless to say, now, as an adult that pays his own utilities, I take really long showers. I’m not even sorry. I enjoy every damned second of it. There are days when I feel like my shower must be some kind of time-warp. I just close my eyes for a second, letting that steamy-hot spray of water pummel my face—and then suddenly it’s twenty minutes later and I’m late for work. But I’m still not sorry. Because it’s beautiful.
Frankly, I pity those soul-dead automatons that can’t appreciate the sublime wonder of what they have in a hot shower. How can anyone treat their shower like nothing more than an efficient way to get clean? Just jump in and out in three-point-five minutes, not even enough time for those blissful needles of scalding water to warm your skin up?
I mean, think about it. This simple thing that we take for granted. A cascade of hot water falling upon us, at our command, at the price of a few kw/hours per month? Yes, I probably cost myself an extra ten or twenty dollars just for the time I spend zoning out in the shower. But come on. Five hundred years ago, kings and queens would have killed for this kind of luxury. The modern hot shower that is in nearly every home in the world, utterly taken for granted, would be enough to make a Caesar weep. It is one of the greatest wonders and joys of our modern age.
And I’m supposed to rush through that? I’m supposed to lather, rinse, and jump out of the shower in five minutes, just so I can save a few cents on propane? So I can get a jump on the day? To hell with that.
Showers are a meditation. A relief from the pressures of life. There, alone, naked in my own scalding-hot rainstorm, I am free. My mind wanders. My troubles fade away. I get some of my best ideas in the shower, have some of my most stunning insights.
My morning time is sacrosanct. My Shower and My Coffee shall not be rushed. My coffee will be of a reasonable quality, not from a can, preferably French-pressed. My shower will be long, and it will be hot. I will lean my hands against the wall and let the water run over the back of my neck. I will let the scalding hot jets of water massage my lower back. Sometimes I’ll sit down. Sometimes I’ll dance to music only I can hear. Sometimes I’ll do math, writing in the steam on the shower door. Sometimes after work, I’ll take a shower while I drink a beer. And I don’t regret a second of it.