We have classrooms. We have common rooms. And we have a gleeful abundance of library reading rooms. Yet, when it comes to a space for deep thinking, these all pale in comparison to the mighty shower.
It offers unparalleled privacy. Sure, does my head maybe pop a little bit over the top of the door? Yes. Can I hear when somebody is watching “Too Hot to Handle” while they brush their teeth? Yes. And do I eavesdrop just a little because, even though I feign a lack of interest, it’s kind of entertaining? Of course. We all do.
But in spite of these occasional distractions, the shower is a place of bliss. I’ma night shower kind of guy. For a while, in fact, I was even a morning shower hater, but a recent revelatory experience has shown me that starting the day under the nozzle can be euphoric in its own right. Same goes for cold showers. They’re not my default, but I can respect them. But, if there’s one hallmark of the Andrew Cramer shower that almost never changes, it’s the silence.
Showering is the only regularly scheduled time I have for my thoughts. During the day, there’s always a class or a meeting or a meal with a friend or some other event. Homework and job applications and other busyness seem to eat at more of my free time. And even when I’m walking to and from all of these places, I usually put in headphones to listen to music or call my parents and friends. By the time I get in bed at the end of the day, I usually just want to fall asleep. None of this even mentions the easiest distraction of them all: the omnipotent iPhone.
So when am I supposed to think or reflect on my day? Exactly. The shower is our final refuge in the epic struggle to maintain thoughtfulness.
As an aside, one could counter that meditation is an obvious answer to this problem, but I just can’t get into it. And even if I could, I’m pretty sure it encourages emptying our mind. I’m aspiring for the opposite effect: more time exploring our own minds.
Many of my best and worst article ideas have been mentally drafted in the shower. With no distractions, there’s nothing to do but let the imagination run wild. In the same five minutes, you can ponder the Chick-Fil-A paradox — if you know, you know — and generate a thesis that you don’t really believe in for an Intro Ethics paper.
There’s something wonderful about getting so lost in thought that I just keep putting conditioner in my hair because I forget whether I already did.
When necessary, to be clear, I can shower as quickly as anyone. I’ve had a few five-minutes-or-less showers in the last week. But they aren’t as magical. There’s something special about grasping at profundity while a hot stream of water pounds on top of your ducked head.
However, not everybody sees the world this way. In fact, two of my bathroom buddies, or floormates as you might call them, skew all the way in the opposite direction. They bring a speaker into the bathroom with them and blast — I mean, we’re talking max volume — some tunes. I initially resented this. Who were they to set the vibe for the entire floor? What gave them the right? Of course, I never voiced this concern.
Fortunately, they have immaculate taste; We’re treated to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Taylor Swift and Billy Joel, to name a few. And even more fortunately, they’re both stellar singers. They sing harmonies to songs I didn’t realize had harmonies, and they sing in that joyous way that you only hear from somebody singing without an audience. Does this make me a voyeuristic listener? Maybe. But that label is a small price to pay for the radiant energy they bring.
So I’ve arrived at a dilemma. Was I wrong all this time? Is it time to accept my fate and admit that even the shower must fall to the overwhelming force of entertainment?
I think not!
It’s possible to hold both of these seemingly contradictory beliefs at the same time. I will steadfastly maintain that the shower should be a place to retreat to your thoughts. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to have a distraction, to have a break and to have a little splash of joy.