Tuesday, June 18, 2024

In Mexico, I had to master the art of the 2-minute shower

“Why,” you may reasonably ask, “is it important to know how to take a two-minute shower?” 

Because, like me, you may one day have an apartment in Mexico where the hot water cuts off in about a minute. Well, to be honest, the hot water probably cuts off in just a bit over 45 seconds, but let’s not quibble. And before diving into today’s lesson, let me say that despite the challenges and the rapidity with which I have to wash myself now, the situation in my apartment is a vast improvement over what I had before, when I had no water at all. (On a daily basis, I carried up two 10-liter jugs of water from a well whose water temperature hovered a notch or two above freezing and then heated it on the stove to bathe with.) 

Here are a few tips I want to pass on should you find yourself in a situation when hot water is at a premium. 

The first thing I must do when showering, obviously, is turn on the hot water, which starts out very cold and turns scalding in a stunningly short period of time. Learning just how fast it happens was a painful lesson I unfortunately had to learn more than once. 

Just before it reaches scalding, I quickly turn on the cold water. Now, here it takes some real nuanced knob-turning because too much and the water’s too cold, too little and it’s scalding. Remember, I’m in a race against time, and fiddling with knobs is going to eat up precious seconds. 

After turning on the hot water (which, remember, in my case starts out very cold), it’s critical to collect some water in a small bowl. This is critical because soaping up means your hands have soap on them. Ever try turning a shower knob with soapy hands? I have. Not easy. In fact, it’s damn near impossible. There have been days when I’ve forgotten that bowl of water and almost resorted to walking out and getting a wrench. If things have gone reasonably well, which means I’m wet and can now soap up, I move on to the next part. Now the real fun begins.

Turn on the hot and cold water at the same time. Hope that the temperature’s fairly close to optimal; you’re not going to have much time to adjust it.

Grab the soap — gotta clean that face — rinse quickly and grab the shampoo. Now, here it may be a good idea, especially if your shampoo bottle’s more than half-empty, to keep the bottle upside down. You don’t want to lose more precious seconds waiting for the shampoo to slowly drip down. 

Lather up that head and begin rinsing off. All of this should not take more than 30 seconds — unless you want to rinse off in ice-cold water. 

With luck, and a lot of practice, you’ll master the art of the two-minute shower. Sure, you may miss the sensation of lingering under a torrent of hot water, but just think of all the things you can do with the time you’ve saved by jumping in and out of that shower like a grasshopper.

Being an unrepentant optimist, I’m convinced, daily, that one day, Juan, my landlord and good friend (despite being a Cowboys fan), will fix the problem and I’ll have plenty of hot water. I believe this because whenever I bring it up, he promises to fix it mañana. And when mañana comes, he’ll fix it por la tarde: in the afternoon. 

Sometimes my raging optimism convinces me that Juan has finally corrected the problem; there are days when I seem to have an abundance of hot water. And then I make the fatal mistake: I stay a few seconds too long in there. 

I’ll be enjoying the warm water, reminding myself to thank Juan for finally taking care of my request, when, without warning, the water turns ice-cold. 

When this happens — it’s particularly unpleasant in the winter — I simply console myself by imagining that what I actually have is a Japanese bath, the one where you soak in a hot tub and then plunge into the cold tub. People pay a lot of money for those things, and here it comes with an apartment that’s only costing me US $185 per month.

Like I said: I’m a raging optimist. So I consider myself lucky. 

Joseph Sorrentino, a writer, photographer and author of the book San Gregorio Atlapulco: Cosmvisiones and of Stinky Island Tales: Some Stories from an Italian-American Childhood, is a regular contributor to Mexico News Daily. More examples of his photographs and links to other articles may be found at www.sorrentinophotography.com He currently lives in Chipilo, Puebla. 

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