You often hear people talk about how when they travel they are always happy to get back home and sleep in their own bed.
For me, instead, my comfort is the shower.
I can sleep just about anywhere...in a motel bed, on the ground, in a cardboard box. But give me my very own shower anytime.
While I don't travel as much as I used to, there was a time when I had my own business that I was gone as much as four weeks at a time from home. It was a great experience in many ways, seeing a lot of things and going a lot of places I never would have gone if not for where my customers were located. But it was a business I operated on a shoestring. I was a one man show and often my stays in various towns was a short sleep over then back on the road again. Therefore I seldom stayed at Hiatts or Marriotts; I was looking for overnight bargains. That is where I explored the world of shower stalls and shower fixtures, of all kinds, sizes, operations and non-operations.
I spent a lot of nights in small motels along interstates with low rates. I couldn't see paying $150 in the mid 1990s to stay in a place I drove into at midnight and then left again at six the next morning. So I found, you know, bargain motels. They were the ones that were owned by people like Ma and Pa Kettle, where much of the maintenance was done, shall we say, red neck style. Oh, and I also stayed in some that I swear Norman Bates may have owned as well.
I over-nighted in rooms where the curtains fell off the wall if you tried to open them, where beds had more lumps than a horny toad and where mushrooms grew in the corner of the clothes closet. Some had six locks on the door, while others didn't have a door lock at all, but a bar across it from the inside. Some had cracked windows, others broken ones. In some the toilets flushed so fast that they almost sucked you down the drain, while in others whatever was in the bowl floated around a long time before it ever left my sight.
I had some where the dresser drawers were screwed shut and the televisions were still black and white, and the only station you could receive was the one where they showed city council meetings as the entertainment of the evening.
I experienced just about everything while staying at these kinds of motels. A drug bust went down in a room next to mine in a small motel just outside of Chicago, Ill. A drunk used his room key to get in my room one night and laid on the bed while I was at McDonalds one night in a room near Cleveland, Ohio. I stayed in one place that had an iron gate that opened and closed to the parking lot, had bars on all the windows and a slide latch system on the full steel door on my room in a motel in Carson, Calif. All night I could hear gunshots in the distance.
But the lasting experience for me was the showers and everything that had to do with them. I think there is no place where you are more vulnerable than when you are in the shower, as the Psycho movie proved. But beyond being attacked by some crazy motel owner with a knife, is all the other things you have to deal with, sometimes creatively.
My shower at home is just right. I know just where to turn the faucet to get the right temperature of the stream coming out of the shower head. I know not to shower when my wife is running the washing machine or someone else is taking a shower, thus avoiding the cold-hot cycle. In a motel shower you never know what you are going to get.
In one motel outside of Denver, the water valve went the opposite direction from normal and when I tried to make the water colder when it fluctuated, I turned it instead to scalding. There were parts of me that were not the same for weeks after that. In another motel in Tulsa, Okla. the valve kept turning and turning and turning yet the water would not get above very luke warm. I tried one more turn and it came off in my hand and a torrent of water came out of the where the valve had been, shooting right between my legs against the back wall of the shower with such force it was spraying water all through the bathroom. I couldn't get the valve back on with that strong stream coming out and it just kept going. Have you ever seen anyone show up at the front desk of a motel dripping wet in their bathrobe holding a knob off a shower? There was a crowd of people in the lobby when I arrived. I am glad I have never seen any of them again.
Then there are the shower curtains or doors. I have had numerous shower curtains fall on my head, and doors come off their tracks. In one case the curtain came down on me just as I was starting up the shower and the bar hit me in the head. It really hit me hard and I was seeing stars (and water was spraying all over the bathroom too).
Then there is the stuff they give to wash with. In some motels they give you a single bar of soap a fourth the size of a small Hershey bar to wash your hands, your body, your hair and whatever else you can as long as it lasts. The bars you get in these places sometimes look like the homemade lie soap I used to see people make when I was a kid.
In others they give you a whole assortment of soap, bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, engine coolant, windshield washer fluid, etc. In these cases the problem is not with the amount or quality, but with the packaging. I learned a long time ago that you always open any container or package before you get in the shower, not while you are standing in it having water blasted in your face. Wet hands don't work well for tearing open plastic soap packages or opening seals on small shampoo bottles.
Besides I have always been packaged challenged even under the best of conditions. It's why I always carry a pocket knife.
Finally there is the shower heads. I have mine at home adjusted just right for me; a nice wide spray with gentleness. In all motels they seem to either have those water saving heads that dribble or heads that knock you down when they start. It amazes me that motels will have all those signs about saving water and not laundering towels unnecessarily, yet while the shower head is engaged and you are getting a small dribble out of the head, the faucet down below is spewing gallons of water down the drain.
Nowadays I stay in nicer places when I travel and the shower appointments generally do not disintegrate around me while I am trying to get clean. The shower heads are usually better too.
But if I had my druthers, I still would rather be home in my own, self adjusted and comfortable shower.
It is a comfort I cannot ignore.