From down the hall, I heard an agonized shout.
Startled, I listened. For a few seconds there was only the sound of rushing water–then a frantic groan, followed by a painful moan. When I recognized it for what it was, I sat back in my chair, shaking my head.
I told him not to do it. I told him that standing in front of the bathroom sink filled with a little water heated on the stove would work just as well. I assured him no one would ever suspect–but all to no avail. He was determined to take that shower.
Now comes the part where I admit that my dedication to hygiene doesn’t match up to his. It does not extend to taking cold showers, no matter how long we might be without a hot water heater. I know they did it in the pioneer days; I know “washing in the creek” is supposed to be a hearty, stalwart sort of thing to do. So here’s where I accept that I’m not a pioneer, and that being hearty and stalwart is something I gave up around the age of 50, when I gained the wisdom to admit it was OK to like a few luxuries.
It’s true I never really thought of a hot water heater as a luxury. It’s just one of those things you take for granted–like lights when you flip a switch, and ice cubes on a hot day. Hot water on tap has become a given.
So I was crushed and dismayed when, after a day of housework and gardening I turned on the water for a much-anticipated shower–and was pelted with icicles. No matter how long I let that water run, it only got colder.
Disgusted, I turned it off and padded down the hall to my husband.
“I don’t think we have any hot water,” I said, still hardly able to believe it.
“My shower did seem to cool off pretty fast,” he agreed.
We made our frantic call to the plumber immediately, but for a variety of reasons, we didn’t get the new hot water heater for a full week. During that time, we developed chilblains doing the dishes, fought off piercing headaches after rinsing toothpaste with ice water, and became thoroughly reacquainted with that standby of yesteryear–the sponge bath.
It was midway through that week of privations that George decided he’d had enough of tepid water in a puny sink and soap suds on the bathroom rug. That was when he decided a cold shower really couldn’t be that bad. That was when I heard my husband “sing” in the shower for the very first time.
He emerged in record time, clean as a whistle, but blue around the lips and cold as a corpse.
“I will–NEVER–do–that–again!” he vowed, rubbing vigorously to restart his circulation. I barely heard him. I was too wrapped in admiration for his bravery, awestruck that he had gone through with that torture willingly. He might, just might, be ready for the jump-in-the-snow-after-a-sauna crowd.
The new hot water heater finally arrived and was installed. Dish washing is no longer a punishment, brushing my teeth no longer painful, sponge baths are once again a thing of the past–and I haven’t heard my husband sing in the shower even once.