A Showering Guide for Amputees
For those of us who wear a prosthesis, staying clean in the great outdoors can be a real test of patience and persistence. Some campground shower stalls are so small, Houdini would have found them claustrophobic. They often consist of nothing more than refurbished telephone booths divided in half by a curtain. The space on one side of the curtain is for undressing; on the other side, the telephone has been removed and replaced with a showerhead. Some stalls lack hooks for hanging one’s clothes, and/or a seat. With luck, there may be a microscopic shelf where one plunks one’s leg, clothes, shoes, towel, etc.
When faced with one of these bare-boned, seatless, hookless, upright coffins, amputees who don’t wish to smell like the wildlife should proceed as follows:
1. Locate shower meter/timer, usually found on wall outside stall. Insert required number of coins/tokens. (This allows showeree to pull chain attached to showerhead, providing a three- to four-second trickle of lukewarm water. When water stops, pull chain again. Sequence can be repeated until metre/timer has gobbled up all of showeree’s coins/tokens – a period lasting from one to three minutes.)
2. Enter shower stall. Since there is no seat and it is physically impossible to undress while standing on one leg, sit on floor.
3. Using yogic contortions that would qualify one for employment in a pretzel factory, disrobe.
4. Position bar of soap between big toe and second toe on good foot and secure with a bungee cord.
5. Standing on heel or three unencumbered toes (so as not to disturb bar of soap), place prosthesis, clothes, shoes, towel, etc. on minuscule shelf.
6. Seizing curtain rod firmly with both hands, showeree must hoist body until she/he can bite down firmly on curtain rod. Release one hand. Showeree will now be suspended, naked, dangling by her/his teeth and one arm, approximately one foot from floor. (Cautionary note: This manoeuvre may be challenging for those with false teeth. Consult dentist.)
7. With free hand, yank chain repeatedly as previously described (see #1). Simultaneously twist, raise and contort soap-attached foot in such a manner as to lather as much of body as possible between chain pulls.
8. Notice plugged shower drain and flooded floor. Make mental note to advise campground maintenance.
9. At approximately the one-and-a-half-minute mark, tug on chain for 27th time. Showeree will observe that nothing happens; no dribble, no trickle, no drips, zilch.
10. Lower soap-encrusted body from rod. With agility that would make Nureyev envious, stand on heel or three free toes in grimy water. Retrieve more coins/tokens from pant pocket on mini shelf.
11. Open shower door wide enough to reach meter/timer. Slide required coins/tokens in meter/timer’s hungry slot. Slam door shut. This action will likely jostle the shelf, dumping leg, clothes, shoes, towel, etc. into small, polluted lake on floor.
12. Resume hanging position on curtain rod (see #6). Repeat #7 as necessary to complete shower.
13. Showeree may now descend from rod. As there is no seat and no other alternative, she/he must sit in murky water. Using hitherto-mentioned yoga techniques (see #3), wrestle body into drenched prosthesis and clothes.
14. Exit shower.
15. Return to tent, attempting to ignore loud, unpleasant whooshing-and-swooshing sounds (similar to a plunger clearing a badly clogged toilet bowl) emitting from waterlogged prosthesis.
16. Encounter a woman/man on her/his way to shower. Return salutation, grin broadly, feel perplexed by woman/man’s look of disgust, and keep walking.
17. After a moment, realize that something is missing.
18. Return hastily to shower, now occupied by aforementioned woman/man. Knock on door. In garbled voice, plead with woman/man to retrieve and return teeth left hanging on curtain rod.
19. Place said teeth back in mouth while you whoosh and swoosh away. Proceed to have a nice day.
(Maurice Richard is a freelance writer and traveller from St. Pascal Baylon, Ontario, currently showering in many unfamiliar places.)
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