Another Cruel Invention: Personal Hygiene and Camping. Recycled Sundays.


Now that the weather is warmer, I see some of my neighbours cleaning out and preparing their campers. I’ve never had one, just a tent. I have fond memories of Sleeping Giant Park and, although it was enjoyable, one thing I disliked about tenting was the struggle for personal hygiene. Going for a shower was a challenge equivalent to hiking The Chimney.

In the evening, enough sand had been tracked in by campers to start a new beach in the comfort station. Little creatures had set up residence. But, it was drier than in the morning because the cleaners were very thorough in washing every tile, bench, shelf and hook. Unfortunately, they were not similarly thorough about drying. I couldn’t sit on the wet bench to dress or undress. There was no place to set my clothes. (By afternoon, other campers had dried off the seat and racks with their towels and clothes.) I carried everything in a plastic bag and dressed in the flamingo position.

I can’t keep up with technology. Only a sadistic individual could have invented the electric eyes or beams or whatever you call them. I think of them as the shower genies. Getting them to work right was as likely as getting a wish granted from a Budweiser bottle on the beach.

If you’ve never had the joy of showering in a comfort station which uses these, let me explain. There are no faucets in the shower stall. Instead, at about shoulder level, is a glass circle the size, appropriately, of a loonie. There are no instructions as to how to work this.

I turned on the water in the bathroom sinks. The slapped the top faucet ran for only five seconds. The electric eye took three or four tries to work but ran the water for a full twenty seconds. I rescued a few bewildered tourists standing in front of the electric eye, slapping the top of the faucet, with their mouths full of toothpaste. But, the shower was beyond my capabilities.

I waved my hand over the shower eye, slowly, quickly, up, down, back and forth. Nothing happened. With all the strategy of Napoleon, I plotted my approach. I tried waving it close to the wall. Far from the wall. Approaching from the left. From the right. I slapped it gently, firmly. I positioned my body as far from the beam as possible. After 67 varieties, the water gushed from the shower head. I leapt in, ignoring the slug making its way up the corner of the tiles. At that point, it would have taken a plague of leeches to budge me.

Just as I poured the shampoo on my hair, the water stopped. I searched the recesses of my camping dulled mind. What was the magic movement that triggered the water? I tried, again, and again. The cold air seeped under the door. My skin resembled the plastic bubble sheets used for packing fragile items. The shampoo solidified on my hair. I considered wrapping it in a towel and rinsing it out in the bathroom sink. The one with the slap the top faucet. Naw! It would probably be in use and then I’d be stuck with the one with the electric eye.

I slapped and waved a few more times, adding a chant. Suddenly the water came on. I shampooed and rinsed at a furious pace. I got the shower back on two more times, enabling me to wash off the layers of sunblock, insect repellent, dirt, insect repellent, campfire smoke, insect repellent, cooking grease, insect repellent, mosquito guts, insect repellent, calamine lotion, insect repellent, sweat, and insect repellent. I wondered if I was creating a new toxic blob in the harbour.

After drying and dressing, while balancing on one foot, I realized I had forgotten my shampoo in the shower stall. As I reached for it, the electric eye was triggered, the water shot out, drenching me. My suspicions were confirmed. The electric beam only worked on the first try when I was fully dressed.

Now that I am older, and a little less sturdy, I restrict my experiences at provincial parks to only day visits. I have always enjoyed and have been deeply grateful for the luxury of a hot shower. So much more so at the end of a day at the beach, in my own bathroom.

Published Sunday, March 30, 2010 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Click on the image for more information about the camping product.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


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