My Irish Up: Hot and cold running water

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

The pitter-patter of steel-shod feet overhead prompting the intended late riser to greet the dawn with excoriations; or the ramshackle piles of mulch and toys and lawn equipment and caskets in the hallway that casually lean out to trip up the darksome returnee to the nest; or the meager lawn-side parking space blocked off by the black Lexus of a drug dealer just as one’s homecoming organs of elimination raise a clamor for surcease of suffering — all aggravating.

But of all the hazards of apartment life, it is the intemperate shower that elicits the strongest plaints from the average renter.

I have yet to take a single shower in my second floor apartment without being alternately scalded and polar-dipped. Like a Yellowstone geyser, the shower’s water pressure and temperature seem to be sensitively calibrated to the levels and pressures in other parts of the system, so that when cold is turned on downstairs or upstairs, I get blasted by steam; and when hot water is used anywhere in Androscoggin County, I am instantly polarized.

I will be idling along, soap in my eyes, and within the space of a second, the stream’s temperature will plunge to arctic lows, or blaze upward to equatorial highs. As a species, I have not yet adapted to such local effects of climate change.

Usually, my scream can only be heard a couple houses off. But if the phase change happens to catch me when I am incautiously standing front-to or back-to, then my natural reaction is to step either forward or backward, and that maneuver changes only the section of chest or back being scalded or flash frozen. On these occasions my screams can be heard in Portland. You would think they would be heard in nearby apartments, but my nearest neighbors pay them no heed. In fact, I realize now that they expect to hear them. The timing of water use by these sadists has to be deliberate, perhaps coordinated through electronics installed on my faucets and monitored by the NSA or the CIA. The impeccable disruptions are otherwise unexplainable.

Mike, you advise, why not just take your monthly shower later in the day? Or, ha-ha, earlier? But you aren’t listening, as usual. I have taken showers at 8 a.m., 9, 10:30, 11:30 and noon; I have tried at 1, 2:30, 4, 5 and 8 p.m. It does not matter, the same routine is followed. I swear there is no other person in the house and I imagine I am safe and yet I am parboiled anyway, or flash-frozen.

When the shower torture began, I at first considered poltergeists, but what ghost would be that perverse? I put it down to chance; even the most omniscient of beings shouldn't be able to put up a 100% score. But it has to be my apartment mates, and it has to be intentional. Doesn’t it? Can I blame this on the aliens, or the National Security Agency? Mustn’t the aliens have better things to do? (The NSA, okay, not so much.)

I imagine people hear (through the walls, or through specially-installed spy microphones) my shower running and they then all twiddle their faucets evilly, perhaps in a set pattern, or maybe freelancing it, like a hip-hop VJ. Whenever the rush of water drums along for a good 60 seconds, nearby dutiful citizens take the opportunity to flush their toilets repeatedly. Also, all my enemies wait until I am in the shower to start a load of laundry.

Last Thursday, at 2 in the afternoon, I initiated Operation Constant Stream. I opened the shower full blast while standing outside the stall. I even sang briefly. I remembered to yelp a couple of times, in imitation of pain. After five minutes, never once having actually entered the shower, I shut the water off and crept back to my room! Tricked the tricksters!

And then, at 2 a.m. I arose to my alarm, got up blearily, climbed into the shower, taking care not to sing or even gloat much, started the water up, balanced hot and cold perfectly — at last! perfectly! — lathered up, turned a shoulder into the comfortable, soothing, just-right stream and — AI-YI-YI-YI!!!

Perhaps you heard my scream. My housemates must have heard it, and smiled. The wicked do not sleep.

Mike concedes it’s possible that it’s not all about him, and perhaps neighbors flush their toilets 24/7 merely for the entertainment value. Will the fall television season never come?



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