Scrub A Dub Dub
After graduating from TEFL International, in Ban Phe, Thailand, I took my TESOL certificate up to Bangkok to begin my illustrious ESL teaching career. This was just after Teddy Roosevelt went up San Juan Hill.
Having grown up in a household that had a bathtub, and no shower, I was initially discombobulated with the showering facilities in my new digs near the school.
It was a large ceramic vase set next to a faucet, with a stamped tin bowl.
The idea was to keep the water vase full, and to dip the tin bowl in it and pour it over your head, as often as you wanted, soaping up in between pours, until hygiene was achieved.
At first it seemed a barbaric practice, but I soon grew used to the sharp intake of breath at the first splash of cool water, and came to appreciate the bracing effects it had on me early in the morning while the sleep was still leaking from my eyes.
Never to be forgotten was the morning I started my ablutions by pouring not only a bowl full of water over my head, but also a bowl full of water snake, which had somehow gotten into the vase during the night.
The snake, a harmless creature, thrashed wildly on the tile floor, merely seeking a means of escape. I, too, thrashed wildly, and let out a bellow that could be heard all the way to the Victory Monument.
Both the snake and I escaped the bathroom at about the same time. The snake blended into the surrounding bushes with ease. I, on the other hand, was standing stark naked in the middle of a courtyard shared by several Thai families, who were now staring at the crazy farang with unabashed curiosity. I found my towel and skedaddled.
After that I checked carefully for snakes. But it was harder to check for small frogs and water striders, which occasionally joined me in a proper wash up.
Eventually I moved into a more expensive place that had a water heater attached to the wall in the bathroom. Now I could take hot showers – if I could only figure out how the darn thing worked.
There was one dial marked ON and OFF. Another dial with dots around it, apparently to control the water temperature. And then there was a button marked TEST that I supposed one pushed to make sure everything was shipshape and Bristol fashion.
When I turned the dial to On a green light glowed weakly. At that point I would set the water temperature at about the halfway mark. Then turn on the water. Which dribbled out like piss from an invalid.
And stayed icy cold no matter what I did.
I fiddled with the mechanism for several weeks, with no results, until one morning I noticed that there was yet another dial under the wall unit, attached to the shower hose, with Thai script on it. I couldn’t read it, but gave it a twirl anyway.
The water gushed out in improvident amounts, scalding hot. It raised a fine crop of welts on my delicate Nordic skin before I could turn it off.
By the time I got the cursed thing to work properly my lease was up and I had a new ESL teaching position across town, so had to move anyways.
The new place had the same kind of water heater on the wall, but also had the old-fashioned water vase and tin bowl as well.
I opted for the vase & bowl. Just call me a Luddite.
Recently I visited my daughter back in the USA, staying in her house. There was a fine American bathtub, which I decided to make luxurious use of.
I filled it with steaming water, added some decadent bath salts, stepped in, and sat down . . .
Alas, I had forgotten that Time’s winged flight had robbed me of my svelte youth some time before, and that now I had rather the proportions, and skill set, of a mature walrus.
Water sloshed out of the tub by the gallon, sending a modest, scented, tsunami onto the bathroom rugs.
My daughter good-naturedly laughed the whole thing off.
But I noticed afterwards that the plug to the bathtub drain was gone, so no more messy tubbing could be done.
My own daughter, it seems, had sent me to the showers . . .