Posted by: sean | May 19, 2008

Showerers Anonymous

My name is Sean and I have a showering problem.

I take long showers.

God, it feels so good to get this out in the open. Cathartic, even. You don’t understand what it’s been like, all these years… It is not uncommon for my showers to be interrupted by impatient knocks at the door or for me to find roommates waiting patiently outside, twiddling their thumbs. I often come to in the morning and realize that I am in the shower, my fingers pruned. How long have I been there? I have no idea. I’m a monster.

I guess it all started when I was a kid. I realized I had a problem when my family confronted me about an interesting correlation they found between my taking a shower and the absence of hot water for the rest of the family afterwards. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t mean to hurt them; I was just a kid, man.

When I got older, I kept looking for bigger and better showers. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but there were times when I rushed out to buy new showerheads in a quest to perfect my shower experience. It is hard for me to describe just how prominently a good shower fix features in how I rate the quality of my life.

My first few days in Liberia were rehab. The water trickled and I had to hold the showerhead close to my skin to approximate pressure. Sure, back in the States I would have called a plumber, bought a jet spray, maybe even moved, but here I am without any enablers. The very fact that I have a trickle of water is luxury here. So, I did the unthinkable: I took luke-warm, five-minute showers.

It was difficult. The shakes, the spins, the sweats – I had them all. There were times when I thought I wasn’t going to make it – I’d rather live in stench than shower like that. It’s not a shower unless you fling open the shower curtain at the end and the bathroom is covered in a dense mist. Yet, day by day, I grew more accustomed to my new life without a fantastic shower. Soon, having a quick shower made me feel productive. And, guess what, my new life was agreeable. I felt like a Nazi war criminal opening a small bakery in Buenos Aires; I had done horrible things, but now I was ready to make good in my new life.

Then I went to Harper.

I’m weak.

Our office in Harper is a sort of utopia. I say this not because roosters live side by side with goats in perfect harmony in the yard, but because the office has probably the most beautiful, simple, life-affirming contraption I have laid my eyes on…an outdoor shower. This isn’t your “at-the-beach” spicket – this is a suite. The office/residence has no running water, so the guards built an enclosure out of bamboo, irrigated the floor and put down a twine mat. The ol’ three-step.

I was Robert Downey Jr. stumbling across a secret Colombian coca plantation. Memories flooded back, filling my mind, an overflowing bathtub of emotion. I was hooked by the mere idea of the outdoor shower suite.

Imagine. You wake up and it’s hot. You grab a bucket of water, your towel, and head out to the porch. Good morning goats. Good morning rooster…thanks for reminding me when 3am came around last night. Excuse me chickens, pardon me, just walking to the shower. And a good day to you, security guards! You move the curtain flap aside and enter.

This is your Fortress of Solitude. You will do your best thinking here. The sky above you is clear blue. The twine mat beneath your feet tickles your toes. You take a small bucket and fill it with water from the larger bucket. Slowly, you raise the bucket high above your head and hesitate only a moment before you let the water cascade down over your body. It’s cold, but refreshing. Quickly, you refill the bucket and throw water at your face. You perfect intricate moves. Sideways Grasshopper: Head tilted right, right leg raised, flinging water from the bucket at your face from the left side, so that as it passes your face and falls to the ground, it hits your feet as well. You have turned the outdoor shower into an art form.

You walk back to the house. What do you mean rooster, “I don’t have a good singing voice?” Goats, check out these opposable thumbs here, thems what help me take an outdoor shower – no shower for you!

This day, after this shower, will be a productive day. The world seems sharper, thoughts crisp into plans of action. Great novels are written after showers like these. You understand why Hemingway was a drunk, why Poe used opium: this shower is a drug, a muse.

If you think that I’m exaggerating about the powers of this shower, then I submit to you the following two pictures. Now, you could say, “Um…Sean, why do you have pictures of guys showering…that’s a little….strange.” You’re missing the point. These are people so moved by the outdoor shower suite that they felt a need to document the experience. Look at the silent joy in their expressions. They are at peace; they are alive.

How does a man go back to a trickle shower in Monrovia after the Harper shower suite? He can’t. I used to take long showers. Now I realize that even those showers were nothing compared to the Harper shower suite. How can I feel productive with my five-minute trickle shower when I know that the Harper shower suite is only a two-day drive away? I can’t. I am left with memories and nostalgia. It’s a problem.

My name is Sean and I have a new showering problem.


  1. In this time of high heating bills, it only stands to reason that now that you no longer live here sucking up our hot water, while watching the propane meter nose dive, you finally have admitted your addiction. The road back is long, and the weaning process difficult, but we are all willing to sacrifice for you as you try to beat this terrible affliction. Have to go now…the bath water in the tub is at the perfect ‘prune’ temperature and neck high…o.k. maybe I will sacrifice for you another day.

  2. Reminds me of the time in al-Anbar, when I had to take a shower with propane and then light myself clean. Now that was a power shower.

  3. Hmm, I think you might be on to something with this shower problem idea. When I was in Costa Rica, I used to empty my trash every day before my shower and use my trash can to mix boiling water from my secret electric kettle with the cold shower water. I decided warm trash can showers were much better than cold regular showers. My host family never knew about my problem…

  4. That explains those ridiculous water bills @416 Sean… 😛

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: