My friend just moved into a new place, and with nothing better to do on a Friday between noon and 4pm, I sat at his home to wait for the gas company to come relieve him of the last five days of cold showers. I can’t imagine five consecutive days of cold showers! If it were me, I’d just get some dry shampoo to help contain the grease accumulating in my hair, and use some baby wipes to clean up till the hot water came. Maybe even get one of those baby wipe warmers. Babies are so lucky nowadays. No shock of a cold wipe on the bottom. Spoiled. But look who’s talking. I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve had to take a cold shower at home, and it was never more than a day at a time. Camp was a different story though. I’ve taken many a cold shower at Camp. Not to mention it was while standing on concrete with nothing but aluminum siding to separate me from the great outdoors. Oh, and no roof. Let me explain.
My beloved Camp La Verne now has updated shower facilities, but even up until my high school camping days, we had to shower outdoors with the pine trees and clouds looming overhead. Our water was heated by a pufferbelly. Basically, water was pumped into a large tank that was heated by a rusty, cylindrical wood burner. Someone literally had to light a fire, and keep the fire going, in order for us to have hot water to shower with. We could tell how much hot water was left by running our hands up the sides of the water tank. The higher up we felt the warmth, the more hot water that remained.
The water was then drawn through the pipes attached in a square shape above our heads and along the side of our aluminum walls. It was communal showering, so we all wore our swimsuits; except for the older adult counselors. For some reason, those old women just loved to shower stark naked while we awkwardly adverted our eyes and cowered together under the furthest showerhead away from them. I’m pretty sure that showering naked with minors is illegal nowadays, but times were simpler back then.
In any case, due to the small water tank, and the fact that us girls take forever to shower, cabins rotated each day for showering order. On the day that my cabin was last, we were guaranteed to start off the shower warm, only to be suddenly hit with a blast of freezing ass cold mountain water that wouldn’t relent. Once the hot water ran out of the tank, there was no more to be had. If we still had suds in our hair, we had no choice but to let that cold water pelt our heads until we were fully rinsed. And don’t forget that all this was going on while standing outdoors with the fresh mountain air whisping away any sort of steam we could have created. We quickly learned that it was best to start our showers with shaving, since it is very much impossible to shave over goose bumps, then move to shampooing. If we were lucky, we’d still have warm water to wash ourselves, but if not, at least we knew the earlier shampoo suds had rinsed down our bodies.
Unhygienic, yes, but it’s easier said than done to complete an entire shower routine in those chilly conditions. Besides, as soon as we stepped into the adjoining dressing room, the bottoms of our feet were already covered with pine needles, and the trek back to our open-air cabins over the dusty dirt trails didn’t do much to keep our moist skin clean. All that said though, I kinda miss those pufferbelly days. On the occasions that the water stayed warm the entire time, it was actually quite the neat experience: showering while looking up at the clean, blue sky and hearing the birds chirp above. As horrible as those cold showers were, I wouldn’t take those days back for anything. Well, maybe the naked women part.