Volume 16, Issue 32 - August 7 - August 13, 2008

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Bay Reflections

Confessions of a Shower Slut

I stripped and showered through the neighborhood

by Valerie Lester

We get our water from a well, but last week we lost water pressure. A telephone call established that the problem was the water conditioner, so the water conditioner man came out and told us that we needed a plumber. After working for three hours and putting in some new copper piping, the plumber got the pressure back. He charged us $520, but he couldn’t get the water conditioner to function again. The water conditioner man comes back tomorrow.

In the meantime, the water that comes out of the faucet is red and gritty, and I don’t like showering under it, although my husband doesn’t seem to mind.

We are now six days into our plumbing crisis. Not wanting to overuse the kindness of a single neighbor, I have preyed on multiple neighbors for my showers, feeling a bit like Neddy Merrill in John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer.” Yes, of course I could go without a daily shower, but it’s gardening season, and I’m covered in sweat and dirt at the end of the day. 

I went diagonally across the road first. I’ve known these neighbors for 18 years, and we help each other out. They ushered me into their pristine, newly renovated guest bathroom, all gleaming glass and blue and white tiles. The view from the shower was through a long, narrow window that perfectly framed the trunk of a tall, straight tree. The whole experience was aesthetically delicious, the only problem being that the water was never quite hot enough. Perhaps I didn’t understand the fixtures, and I was too polite to whine.

The following night, I ventured into the children’s bathroom next door. Their father had recently wallpapered it in maroon and beige stripes, which he had color-coordinated with the shower curtain and valance. It had the feel of a bathroom at the Moulin Rouge. The evening view was gorgeous, out over the golf course and into the woods, and the pleasure was enhanced by my having to remove a tiny bikini before I stepped into the shower. The water was hot and the pressure was good.

On my third night, I ventured farther down the road, to the home of artists. They had designed and finished the bathroom themselves, transforming it from a gloomy, interior cave into a skylit wonderland. They had salvaged mahogany boards for the floor, painted the walls with blue sky and white clouds that soared up to the skylight and had made a jewel of a stained glass panel for the transom. The plumbing fixtures were custom-made and resembled those in turn-of-the-last-century hotels. Superb water pressure.

On the fourth night, I went directly across the road to my new neighbors’ house. They have twin 15-year-old sons, and I was secretly hoping to use the boys’ shower so that I could catch a glimpse of artfully flung jock straps, but I was shown instead to the guest bathroom. It was perfectly competent, but my neighbors hate it. They loathe the fact that it has no window and no personality, and they have plans to install a Solatube (the least invasive form of skylight surgery) to brighten things up. The bathroom contained the first corner shower stall I came across (all the others so far had been bathtub showers) and the first water-conserving shower head. The experience was sharp and hot.

I got into a MacMansion last night. I had taken a sweaty walk with a friend, and she kindly offered me the use of her facilities. The bathroom was huge, with bright turquoise walls and a spa tub sitting high and throne-like beside a picture window with a view into the woods. I couldn’t locate the shower, but was ushered into an adjoining, lime green room that contained a large, fiberglass stall (my first fiberglass of the week) and a toilet. The view from the window was of the blank wall of the next-door MacMansion. Hot water, good pressure and, best of all, a wet suit and gloves hanging on the door.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Perhaps a return to my own bathroom where, because it contains no window, I have compensated by having the walls painted with the pine trees, rolling hills and blue sky of a summer day in Maine. But I like that Solatube idea and those custom-made fixtures …

You feel a bit naughty, stripping and showering in someone else’s house. Naughty but nice.

Valerie Lester — the author of two books, Fasten Your Seat Belts! History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin and Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens — stripped and showered in Annapolis Roads.

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