Tuesday, October 05, 2010

When the plumber don't come, sh!t gets Elizabethan

It all began two weeks ago, when I joined the bf in our new flat in Glasgow.  I suppose it began before my arrival, but I was blissfully unaware of the trouble that lay ahead.  An old Scottish house turned into apartments, you say?  Servants' quarters becoming living quarters, a great room now comprising a studio.  Delightful, I say, Positively charming!  And it is, our apartment, with its vaulted ceiling and myriad retro and antique lamps, collected by the landlady.  With an old house, however, comes an old infrastructure, and sneaky little problems, easily overlooked by an enthusiastic couple, looking for a cheap place to stay.

Who would have thought to check the water pressure in the shower, for instance?  Or the spare bedroom for draughty windows?  Not us!  We'll take it!

And so here we are, a month into the lease, without a functioning shower.  What began as a simple request to replace the shower head has turned into a saga of disconnected pipes, an absentee landlady, and the futility of baths.

Prior to my arrival, an electrician came to replace the shower head.  That's funny, you may be thinking, wouldn't a plumber be the more logical hire for this job?  I might have thought the same, but this new shower head would be more efficient! would heat water only as it was needed! would require an electrician for installation! would prove to be the beginning of the end of bathing as we knew it!

The combination water-heater/shower head was installed, but the electrician soon discovered not one, but two problems: the water pressure was still disastrously low, and the heating function was not working at all.  Yes, our temperamental, sometimes scalding, sometimes freezing, unenthusiastic stream of a shower had become a cold trickle.  The landlady was contacted (pre-absentia), and her suggestion given: to take the new unit off until she could buy a new one to replace it.  This would have meant cutting off the entire water supply to the apartment, and luckily the bf foresaw a near future of bedpans and latrines quickly enough to forbid such an action.  Thus, we were not made toiletless, but our shower remained unusable.

The story to present is a sad one, and probably too whiny and redundant to relate in its entirety.  I will be brief.  The landlady disappeared on two weeks of holiday; a plumber was promised and never showed (did I mention the electrician -- in his initial cutting off of water supply -- disconnected our washing machine and then forgot to reconnect it before leaving?); the shower head company was contacted by the bf when promises of such contact by the electrician never came to fruition; the problem was diagnosed as most certainly a plumbing issue, and the landlady sent a second electrician to install a new shower head, (without explanation or contact with us) who confirmed that this was, indeed, a plumbing issue; the landlady returned from holiday and left (again without explanation) a third new shower unit outside our door.  When the bf finally got her on the phone after leaving numerous voicemails and texts explaining the situation, she claimed this was the first she had heard of the plumbing issue!  And so here we are.  Whining complete.

The situation has, if nothing else, elicited a certain amount of creativity around the issue of hygiene in our apartment.  Baths were the first logical endeavor.  We cannot shower, but we can bathe (thanks to the separate nature of the bath faucets from the shower source)!  The (obvious) problem with baths -- other than the extreme waste of water -- is that they are time-consuming and not particularly effective.  Showering is usually a five- to ten-minute task for me, an easy fit into a somewhat rushed morning.  A bath I have to plan, to set aside time for.  After the tub is filled and my necessary cleaning attended to, I am left in a pool of soap and shampoo and the things that I presumably washed off of myself and, on shaving days, little floating bits of stubble.  I don't feel clean, and so I try to hold my head or shoulders or knees or toes under the running tap, but the cold and hot water run out of separate faucets, and I am alternatively burning and freezing myself in the effort, sometimes cupping a mixture of the two temperatures in my hands and throwing the contents over my shoulder and onto my back.  I feel like an ape, a desperate, soap-scummy ape, and then I think Eureka!  A bucket!

The bucket is a useful addition to the bath, allowing for more thorough rinsing as well as fresh-water wasting, but more and more I've turned away from bathing altogether.  On days that I go to the gym, I can use the showers there.  I have never been so excited to stand under 30 continuous seconds of running water, nor so unbothered by the notion of having to push a little button again so I can enjoy another 30 seconds of beautiful, high-pressure, hot, streaming water.  I can have as many 30 seconds of water as I want!  And I don't even want that many!

On days that I don't work out, I've taken to the Elizabethan trend of creating elaborate hairdos and applying additional makeup and perfumes to mask the fact that I have not bathed.  I find this kind of trickery a little too exciting.  What color eyeshadow shall I wear today to distract from my oily complexion?  If I slick my greasy locks into an elaborate updo, will no one notice my smell?

So far, I've met with no discernible room clearings, no audible gasps of horror, no out-and-out retching at the scent of me.  Perhaps this is a good thing.  Perhaps I have been liberated from the tedious routine of hygiene, cleaning myself each day only to find myself dirty again the next.  Maybe the Elizabethans had it right!

Or maybe I just need a shower.