Friday, October 28, 2011


A word beloved by the compilers of cryptic crosswords is 'showers'.  It's obvious when you think about it.  Showers can refer to sprinkles of rain, a deluge of water in some or other cabinet that sets the day in motion, or (and this is the bit the compilers like) show-ers, that is, people that show.  Bear this in mind as I relate this recent experience.

I attend a gym regularly. Reasons such as the desire to age gracefully or not at all, don't matter for the moment.  Like all gyms, this one has showers in the changing rooms.  For years the showers were a puzzling mixture of a sort of open-plan and private possibilities.  So there were three or four ranged next to one another separated by nothing other than air, frequently foetid.  And there were others that were arranged singly, either behind their respective curtains or, in one case, behind a lockable door.  Having little or nothing to hide, I almost aways used the open plan variety, lined up beside others similarly absorbed in silent but watery reflection about their sagging muscles.  There were inevitable sidelong glances for purposes of comparison, over the years the glances decreasing as the comparisons became more fraught.

Occasionally, the communal stalls being full, I would be forced into one of the singles.  This always made me uneasy, so I would leave the door well open or the curtain un-pulled.  Why? Well, sometimes one would be quietly changing and someone would stride purposefully into one of the more private showers and firmly pull the curtain across or, in the more extreme case, close AND LOCK the door.  Those who did this would always be in their private stall for a long time.  What defines a long time for a shower?  Anything longer than about the two or three minutes it takes me to deal with all possible bodily contingencies.  WHAT ON EARTH ARE THEY DOING IN THERE BEHIND A LOCKED DOOR FOR ALL THAT TIME?

It is almost impossible not to speculate, however disturbing the speculation might be.  It is precisely the same question that arises in an airport when, after several calls, including the final call, for a particular flight, the announcer, sounding slightly frustrated, asks for Mr McCavity and Ms Savanarola or some-such to please join their flight.  What are they doing?  Where are they?  They know as well as all of the other travelers when their flight is due to board.  Are they deaf, drunk, hopelessly self-absorbed, or up to something unspeakably interesting behind one of the intriguing No Entry doors?

To return to the showers, it is almost impossible to see someone go into one of the lockable showers and then come out again.  It takes too long.  One could be getting changed several times, something in itself that might occasion sidelong glances.  But sometimes someone emerges from a lockable cubicle who has been in there before one's own trip to the changing rooms.  Said person always has a towel wrapped and fastened in that cunning tucked in sort of way around the waist.

Now, emerging from showers, whether communal or not is in itself a matter for comment.  It can be done with the wrapped towel, with a casually draped towel, or with an insouciant, mildly extrovert abandon.  But the person from the locked cubicle always has the wrapped towel.  Again, it is impossible not to wonder about this.  What is there to hide? Is there some or other size extreme?  Is there some deformity or question of number?

Anyway, this is not the point.  I have simply been setting the scene.  Recently, the changing rooms, my changing rooms as I think of them, were closed for several weeks and alternatives had to be used.  A good thing, my gym colleagues and I thought.  The rooms were clearly in need of refurbishment.  Eventually, they re-opened and with some relief and mild interest one could return to a familiar pre- and post- exercise routine.

At first blush, there seemed to be little that was different.  Some walls had not been refreshed, the floors had not been re-sealed, the lockers were still in their usual positions.  It was the showers.  The communal showers were gone.  There were now five cubicles in a row, all with their individual lockable doors.  What was one to think about this?  What had those who run the gym been thinking?  Had there been complaints about what went on in the communal showers from people who felt that the sidelong glances were too much?  Had there been complaints from gym users who wanted their own lockable cubicles?   And the absence of choice in the matter is disturbing.  Perhaps I'll have to learn to fasten the towel in that special way.

And then I noticed a hair drier hanging from a coat-hook but chained to the wall.  I have not yet seen anyone use it, but it's presumably only a matter of time.

In the end, then, there might be less difference than the cross-word compilers believe between showers and show-ers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.