Biff America: A lack of grounding
“If youth knew; if age could”
Technically, Keith was not naked.
He wore rubber galoshes and dishwashing gloves. Now, to be clear, this was not an ensemble he would generally wear around the house. He had just gotten out of the shower. And he did not simply exit the metal shower stall; he exploded out of it as if he were shocked — because he was.
One-hundred-and-fifty-dollars-a-month rent for a three-bedroom home was a pretty good deal back in the ’70s. Now granted it wasn’t really a home, but rather a trailer. And when I say trailer, I mean it still had wheels. When Keith, Spooner, and I arrived back in town, in the fall, after working the summer in beach resorts, the first order of business was to find lodging for the winter.
The trailer was on a lot in town. When we first stepped inside, I noticed it listed seriously to one side. I pointed that out to Doug, the landlord, and I was told not to worry, that the lean could be corrected by letting the air out of two of the tires on one side. Sure enough that seemed to correct the problem.
Keith and Spooner were ready to sign a six-month lease, but I was a bit more picky. I asked the landlord about insulation and if the place would be warm enough to keep the water from freezing all winter. He proudly pointed underneath the trailer at pipes wrapped like a mummy with electric heat tape. He admitted we might be wearing ski hats and coats on cold mornings, but he guaranteed the water would flow.
Seeing all that heat tape on the underside of the caravan and the landlord leaving his air compressor with us in case we had to pump up the tires to level our home, was good enough for me. I paid Doug and put Keith’s and Spoon’s shares on account (on account of they had no money).
There is always the worry for me when I write this stuff that people will think I embellish, exaggerate, and misremember events. Well yeah! Granted I’ve been known to accuse my mate of misplacing my reading glasses only to have her point out I was wearing them, but my long term memory is fairly good for a guy with a history of self-abuse and head injuries. This story is nonfiction.
Our new home was about 25 feet long and had three small alcoves with mattresses. The kitchen was a two-burner stove, small oven, and fridge. The bathroom contained a toilet, but no sink. Where the sink might have been, there was a very small metal shower stall. With one step, you could exit the shower into the living room.
I was the first to take the shower for a test drive. Doug warned us that the hot water heater was small, so fast showers were required. Turns out, his warning was unnecessary. After wetting, washing, and rinsing, I went to adjust the flow; but when I touched the faucet, I got a powerful shock. After my initial panic, I figured out I could nudge the faucet off with a shampoo bottle.
When I alerted my roomies to our shower shock situation, they assumed I was exaggerating.
Later that day, Keith and I were enjoying après-ski libations while Spooner was showering before work, and we heard howls coming from the bathroom. He obviously hadn’t figured out the shut off the water with shampoo bottle trick.
We immediately called a roommate meeting to decide what to do.
We did not want to make too much of a stink for fear the landlord would just refund our rent and tell us to seek alternate lodging. Plus, he told us he would be out of state for a few weeks.
I think it was Spooner who came up with the idea to shower wearing rubber boots and gloves. He reasoned we could wash our hands and feet in the kitchen sink post-shower.
There was one flaw, however. The shower stall was also metal, so if you inadvertently bumped any part of your body on the wall of the shower, that too would create a tremendous shock. That’s what happened to a certain part of Keith just before he exploded out of the shower.
Doug eventually returned to town and fixed the problem. I’m not an electrician, but perhaps we were foolish putting our trust in rubber gloves and boots.
But like Freud said, “If youth knew; if age could.”
FYI, Spooner’s hair is still curly…
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stoplights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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