CAPTION CONTEST! Win a free Daniel Jacobus mystery! All you have to do is come up with the best caption for this photo (taken at the Zwinger Palace in Dresden) and I’ll send you an autographed copy of a Daniel Jacobus mystery, absolutely free! (As many entries as you want until May 11. Everyone is eligible. All entries will be posted on May 12. Winner will be chosen solely at the discretion of the judges. I am the judges.)
If you’ve read any of my blogs, you’ll know I’ve written extensively about the many challenges orchestras face on international tours: the jet lag, living out of a suitcase, different acoustics everyday, etc. But perhaps the most daunting challenge of all, the one that causes me the greatest angst, which exhausts my mental and emotional capital is…You know what I’m going to say. Yes, you’re right: shower technology.
Everyday a new hotel. Everyday a new way to turn on the shower. You might think I’m being frivolous, but consider this. There are always three variables: volume, temperature, and source. When state-of-the-art, space age technology doesn’t provide an inkling how to control those variables, the result is a daily disaster. Edward Snowden hacking into NSA computers is child’s play compared to figuring out how to use some of these showers.
Take, for example, the Nemesis I Model. Look at the photo. That’s everything. No knobs, no switches, no instruction manual. What do you do, kick it? I approached it cagily, analyzing its every chrome-plated detail. Nothing. I continue to probe. Suddenly I detect its weak spot: the ends of the metal rod at the bottom rotate! But which end controls volume and which controls temperature? There’s only one way to tell, but I don’t intend to be a human guinea pig. No, not by any means. I have no intention to be outfoxed by a shower.
I grasp the handheld shower head in my right hand and point it away from me to avoid the potential disaster of being inadvertently sprayed. Once that’s in position, I rotate the left knob away from me, believing I’ve got the better of Nemesis I. But no, like HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it’s not nearly ready to concede. I am inundated by ice cold water from the shower head on the ceiling.
After overcoming the mental and physical shock, I quickly un-rotate the handle and turn off the water. Back to the drawing board. I pace around the shower, pressing anything that looks like a button that will divert the water flow, and finally find something that moves. I try Step 1 again and am gratified that not only water is now coming out of my handheld shower head, I can also control the flow.
Now, for the temperature. Using unfailing logic, I conclude that if the left handle was for volume, the right handle must be fore temperature. The question is, which direction makes it hotter, and how much of a turn will it require before I boil the skin off my chest? The two answers are: forward, and much less than I expected.
We become collaborators if not allies, Nemesis I and I. I manage to get through the next five minutes of our uneasy truce relatively unscathed. But as President Reagan so perspicaciously stated: “Trust, but verify.” To make sure I don’t unintentionally lose the aggregated warmth of the shower, I take the left handle firmly in my grasp and, with great conviction, rotate it in reverse. But no one told me that the handle is capable of going beyond the starting point. As a parting gesture of indisputable intent, Nemesis I dumps a gallon of ice water on my head from above. I curse Nemesis I, but only after I am at a safe distance away.
You may call me a conspiracy theorist, but I firmly believe hotels actively collude to provide different shower technology in every hotel. I believe there’s a devious logic behind this: Because it takes about eight weeks to thoroughly master any given shower, it encourages people to return time and again to the same hotel rather than risk being scalded at a new lodging where you have to learn an unfamiliar system. If this were not true, there would only be a need for one shower technology. Or, the hotels would offer an instruction manual (or video) prior to bathing. They could even print something right into the tiles on the shower wall. Of course, it would have to be in large print so people like me wouldn’t have to wear reading glasses in the shower, which I have to do anyway to figure out which minuscule tube is the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.
Or, here’s a final possibility. They could come up with something that looks like this: