To wash or not to wash, that is the question

I have a complicated relationship with international plumbing. Being an optimist who lives in the U.S., I expect it to be predictable and reliable. When traveling, I am often deeply disillusioned.


Before arriving in Rome, my study abroad group spent a week in England. I did not anticipate or receive frills at our London student-oriented accommodations. However, the basics, I hoped, would include functioning plumbing. In this I was to be disappointed. (Here I must point out that one can be in far more upscale British lodgings and have unhappy plumbing experiences.)

St. James Park, London

The first shower stall I tried had a large button for the water. Being a practical optimist, I press the button before entering the stall and twiddle with the temperature control until comfortable. I hop in and suds up, only to find that the water is on a timer and stops after a couple of minutes. No problem. I hit the button again. Aaaagh! The restart blast is ice cold. The stall being a very economical size, I take it on the chin whilst the water slowly warms. Next day, I select another stall without a timer button. Progress! The water offers a bracing blast. I hop in, suds up, and realize the water is getting hotter and hotter. More twiddling with the temperature control gets it to a bearable point, but I exit feeling like a boiled fish. Never mind, I tell myself, things will get better.

In Rome, we stay in rental apartments. The bathroom is definitely a few steps up. Time

Piazza del Popolo

for a shower. On goes the water – I’ll be generous and call it a gentle stream. Temp is OK but the removable shower head is hanging precariously on its holder and any touch causes the flow to redirect unpredictably. Under the trickle, I suds up. Pffft … the water reverses course and splutters out of the back of the shower head while shampoo is dripping into my eyes. As I turn to investigate, bam, down falls the shower head, never to hang above my head again that morning. It hits my noggin on the way down and I nearly fall.

Happily, I do not end up wedged in the bottom of the nicely tiled but frugally sized shower, naked and unlovely as a 60-something jaybird, trying to communicate with Italian paramedics. A new shower head is later installed that points directly at the wall, and all is well.


4 thoughts on “To wash or not to wash, that is the question

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