Saturday, November 25, 2006

The hot-water bath

A considerable part of my life as a traveling salesman has been spent in unraveling the many mysteries of hot water taps in bathrooms all over the world.

In the early days of my career, few hotels of the class I was eligible to stay in had water heaters. All one had to do was to order a bucket of hot water for two or three rupees and have it brought to the bathroom. Yes, that was an era when everything was so simple and gentle.

When attached baths with geysers and showers became the norm, life became more complicated. One had to guess which of the two taps was meant for the hot water, as failure to do so could result in getting scalded by steaming water or being struck numb by freezing water. So, mastery of this subject was vital as the consequences were life-threatening.

Then some wise designer raised the stakes and came out with taps marked H and C, to indicate, if you haven’t guessed already, hot water and cold water. The designer proposed, but the plumber disposed by frequently interchanging the taps. So, you were still left guessing. Like the riddles where, standing at the crossroads, you had to guess which road would take you to ‘heaven’ and which one to ‘hell’

The seasoned traveler learnt to beat the system by physically tracing the hot water pipe from the geyser and opening the right tap. Take that, you tap-worms, he would mutter triumphantly.

Outsmarted, but not outdone, the wily tap makers and their architects went into a huddle and hatched the diabolical idea of concealed piping, making it impossible to visually trace the hot water line.

The seasoned traveler retaliated by standing two feet away from the shower, opening one tap at a time and in random sequence and gently testing the waters for a few minutes, before plunging right in.

Smarting under this insult, the Chairman of the Tap Makers Association of India and the President of the Hoteliers Association of India had hurried consultations and unleashed their Brahmastra- a single tap with a regulator, to be turned clockwise to increase temperature or anti-clockwise to reduce temperature.

The seasoned traveler is flummoxed. Does one need to lift the lever or turn it? Turn it clockwise by 0.05 degrees and steam blows out. Quickly turn it in the other direction by 0.1 degree and ice comes tumbling down. What to do? What to do? Ha, hold the tap gently and carefully, as if you are trying to defuse a live bomb, and turn the knob by 0.001 degree, feel the temperature of the water with the protruding nail ( specially grown for this purpose) of the small toe of your left leg and then step into the shower.

So, it goes on, this no-holds-barred encounter with the hot water taps, that has wrecked the career of many a traveling salesman. Like in the eternal war between the constantly-mutating bacteria and the increasingly potent anti-biotics, who knows who will be the eventual winner?


Usha said...

hahha. I suffered similar pangs when I used to travel but the worst experience I had was in Dubai one sept evening. I landed around 8 and arrived at the serviced apartment by 9 and decided to have a cold bath after all the travel Bangalore - via humid mumbai - to a melting dubai. And I open the tap marked C and what do I get?? Steaming hot water right from the over head tank that has been steaming in the sun all day at some 50 degrees. I almost got boiled.
After a traumatic night when I mentioned this to my colleagues at work, they said I should have opend the hot water tap as the water stored in the heater would have been cold!

The normal convention is H on the left and C on the right, right> come to my house the plumber decided otherwise in the ground floor. in the first floor he got it right but fixed the C on hot water tap and H on cold water tap!

Sure you cannot beat them at all!

Raj said...

Usha,good to know that I am in illustrious company. Plenty of people find themselves in hot water!

Irfan said...

Hilarious Post as well as good blog that I found by accident, well actually from another blog website. But Very funny stuff here, including the RIP series.

I am from new york, and now in bangalore... and its just a daunting task getting through each morning shower. Even after turning the geyser for 10-20 minutes, I do my little dance in front of the falling shower of water and hope and pray a little bit before lunging forward and just take it all in... hot or cold...whatever. I have to get to work :-)

Anonymous said...

What about those who bathe out of buckets? :-p