Saturday, March 6, 2010

Back To The Old Bucket Bath

Well, I told you I was going to stay dirty and I tried to keep my word, but the dirt, oh the dirt! I just had to do something. When you've got a large tea kettle and a good -sized bucket, well, you improvise a bath as best you can. Again, I tried to wait, so sorry if I'm not today as smelly as you'd hoped, but being clean is more important (and more comfortable) to me than being true to my word.

So I filled the old kettle (actually, rather new and shiny, with not a scratch on it) with water from the kitchen tap, put it on the pathetic electric burner on the stove top and heated away. My plan was simple; I'd take my hot water to the bathroom, fill my bucket that sat waiting in the tub, take a cup for poring and rinsing soap from my well-toned, muscular body (okay, I deserve a bit of fantasy for undergoing my bucket ordeal, don't I?) and enjoy once again the innocent purity of cleanliness.

It all reminded me of bygone days. After my parents divorced I lived with my dad for a time, and one of the places we lived was a run-down old shack (it hardly could be called a house; once, during a steady rain, the walls actually started to leak and flood the floor) on a property with three other such "houses" (ours was in the back) rented from a retired guy who lived with his wife in a near-mansion in an exclusive neighborhood (the neighborhood where his rentals stood, however, was one of those where you were cautious walking the streets even in broad daylight). I once visited our landlord's (landLORD; sounds positively feudal, doesn't it?) estate with Dad as he discussed with our wealthy master an arrangement to do some handiwork at some of his lordship's other properties. The guy was apparently too cheap to hire real professionals, so he had Dad, for a small pittance (and since a pittance is small to begin with, imagine what a small pittance must look like) do all his handyman chores, including plumbing work. Sometimes Dad would take me along on his repair assignments, as they usually had to be done on weekends since he worked his regular job Monday through Friday. I remember once we went to one of his rentals to fix a toilet. At one point my dad had his bare hands down inside the toilet bowl, but I don't recall too much after that; it was getting near midnight and we'd been there since about three that afternoon.

Our own little dump had a tiny bathroom with ancient pre-1930s fixtures. It had no tub, just a shower that even Twiggy would have had trouble squeezing her body into. Well, it was a few months after Dad took the handyman position that our own plumbing problem developed. Dad attempted the repair, but ran into a slight difficulty; he made the problem even worse. In fact, it was so bad that the shower no longer worked at all. No water from the shower head, not a drop. I advised Dad to tell the landlord and have him get it fixed, but Dad refused, saying it was better this way, and we could take bucket baths inside the shower until he figured out how to correct it. I have tried (without much success) to erase all memory of those six months of showerless existence ever since.

But back to the present day. My water was finally nice and hot, so I carefully carried the steaming kettle to the bathroom. I looked for a place to set the kettle while I grabbed the bath bucket. I looked around, but only the top of the toilet tank looked like a good spot. I set the kettle there and went to open the shower curtain. It was then that I heard a loud crash. Turning swiftly in response, I saw the kettle on the floor, the water flowing everywhere. I picked the battered tin tea pot off the floor (it now had a deep, cavernous dint on one side) and with dismay realized it was empty. After using an entire weeks worth of towels to soak up the water on the bathroom floor, I heated a second pot of water.

When I had more hot water, it was with great joy and a sense of nostalgic adventure that I poured my bath water into the waiting bucket. After adding the appropriate amount of cold water from the faucet to make it just the right temperature for bathing, I climbed into the bath and began lathering up. There was enough water for a bath only, my hair would have to wait, but it felt good to wash again. The water ran out too soon, though, and I was left with soapy residue on parts of my body. It occurred to me why people in the days before running water took so few baths. It wasn't because they preferred being filthy, it was just too much trouble to prepare a bath.

The repairman finally arrived earlier today. It took him about an hour to make things right again. He was able to use the parts the water heater company had sent, so the only cost was for labor. With a functioning water heater once again, we have returned to the twenty-first century, but if I ever find myself transported back to the 1800s as the result of a time disturbance (or if a total economic and societal collapse occurs, which unfortunately is no longer in the realm of fiction) I'll be prepared.

In 1960 in Moscow Mrs. Heinlein and I had as Intourist courier a sweet child named Ludmilla-23, unmarried, living with her father, mother, brother and sister. She told us that her ambition in life was for her family not to have to share a bathroom with another family.

The next aesthete who sneers at our American "plumbing culture" in my presence I intend to cut into small pieces and flush him down that W.C. he despises. --Robert A. Heinlein

No comments:

Post a Comment

If the post you are commenting on is more than 30 days old, your comment will have to await approval before being published. Rest assured, however, that as long as it is not spam, it will be published in due time.

Related Posts with Thumbnails