I raised a few eyebrows when talking with friends recently when I said, “I haven’t taken a bath in over 50 years.” I quickly explained I’ve been a shower guy since my Air Force days when showers were the only means available to wash off the day’s grime and sweat. I can’t imagine what it would be like having no showers and only two or three bathtubs in a barracks with 60 G.I.’s lined up each night hoping there are no long-soakers ahead of them.

For non-barracks dwellers, however, the baths vs shower debate is yet another issue that divides Americans. The environmentally conscious on both sides cite published statistics. The Department of Energy advises the average shower uses 12 gallons of hot water while the average bath uses only 9. The DoC therefore recommends baths to conserve energy, but doesn’t say how much cold water is usually mixed in with the hot. For instance a Hollywood movie queen’s bubble bath scene would certainly require many gallons to provide a G-rated bubble level.

Besides showers and baths there are other ways to get washed up. Some are ancient and not entirely pleasant. I had my one and only sauna experience years ago when an editor sent me to cover the grand opening of a sauna center. I found myself trapped in a wooden box making small talk with a couple of other men while we watched the mercury creep up to 190 degrees. I wanted to take notes, but my plastic pen had melted.

If we had been in ancient Finland where saunas were invented, we’d have been sitting in an earthen pit with a pile of wet, steaming rocks. Just before we collapsed we’d have climbed out and rolled in a snowbank to cool off. The sauna center was in midtown and we guys were naked so we didn’t go snowbank rolling.

There are other types of baths – hot springs, steam and dry heat. Some of those bathers end the procedures by beating themselves with small branches or reeds to promote circulation. The more rugged might use Brillo.

I think I’ll always be a shower guy. A shower is refreshing, it’s quick and it’s simple. However, I do miss my rubber ducky.

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