Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Shower Cubicle Shimmy

Growing up in the seventies and eighties, most of my holidays were spent in camping grounds and caravan parks.

We started off with a hand-me-down ancient white square tent that falteringly sheltered my parents and Rob, with youngest brother Dave and myself shivering in the FJ Holden inside two leopard-print blankets that Mum had sewn together. A couple of years later we got a more serious tent – with an internal bedroom with a fabric divider between us three farty, fighting kids and our folks - and serious stuff like a gas stove (that never stayed lit), a porta loo (that took up at least half of the equipment space and reeked), Antartic-level sleeping bags (I’d hate waking up with the hood over my face) and matching enamel mugs.

By 1978, we had a caravan: twenty three feet of luxury that literally ensured that every single school holiday was going to spent packing it, towing it, unpacking it and living in it. Such gargantuan quarters meant that Caravan Parks featured largely in my life. “Hey Kath, David, while Dad’s unhitching the van and Rob’s putting up the annexe, why don’t you run over to the ablutions block, check out the toilets and give us a score out of ten?”

We loved doing that. “Mum, it’s at least an eight-out-of-ten because they’ve got toilet paper instead of sheets and there’s a shelf in the shower for our dilly bags!”

The negative thing (amongst many) about staying in a caravan park was the 1am toilet run. I’d waste at least an hour lying in the lower bunk, listening to the asthma-snuffle snores of David above me and Rob’s deadly dutch ovens to the right, trying to convince myself that the need to wee would soon go away and I’d soon drift off to sleep and be right by morning.

That was never the case of course, and my bladder would eventually send enough signals to force me to get up, grope around for my tracksuit, thongs and dolphin torch. The entire van would shake as I’d step off the metal step – Donnnnnggggg! – into the darkness and start the resolute march across the dewy grass to the toilet block with my eyes closed, telling myself that I was still asleep and would not be jerked awake by flickering fluoro lights being dive-bombed by kamikaze moths.

Somehow I’d lose a thong on the stagger back and arrive back into the van – Donnnnngggg shake shake squeak squeak – with wet feet covered in grass that I’d attempt to dry off by doing a meek ‘run’ whilst lying in bed under my sleeping bag, shivering.

And thus, thirty years or so later to this weekend, camping in the Grampians, the same needs arose and more. No van this time, so the 1am ‘Donnnnnggggg’ of the step was replaced by “Zzzzzippp Rustle Zzzzzzippp – ‘Oh Phark!’” of the infernally twisted sleeping bag; then the internal fabric bedroom ‘wall’, the fly screen and the outdoor tent flap. If Love Chunks and Sapphire weren’t already awake by the time I’d wrestled myself out of the slippery parachute material of my coffin-like bedding then they surely were by the time I’d tripped over the hiking boots, put my parka on upside down and nearly garrotted myself on the guy ropes holding the verandah up.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve returned home with cracked lips, a thumping head and clear signs of dehydration in my efforts to stop my bladder from waking me until at least 7am by which time the tent is already too hot to sleep in as the sun is up-and-blazing and bread could be leavened in there instead.

However, as an adult, the sad realisation is that there’s one thing even more annoying that the zip-and-trip fest that accompanies the wee hours wee - the Wet Shower Cubicle.

The campsite’s showers had one hook, no shelf and transportable floors that thoughtfully dipped in the spot that any sane person needed to stand in to get dry and dressed. As such, getting undressed was a matter of carelessly flinging every garment too dirty to wear again onto the sopping floor, but strategically hanging every reusable garment (trakkie daks, t-shirt, parka) over the door hoping that there wasn’t a plethora of dried moth carcasses resting on the frame and that it wouldn’t slide off just as you were in the shower with shampoo running down your face.

The shower itself is – and was – quite adequate but not likely to easily accommodate anyone eligible as a ‘Biggest Loser’ contestant. By keeping my elbows in and butt squeezed tight, I managed to avoid making contact with the clammy plastic walls or the shower curtain that breathed in as it attempted to cover my body and coat me in some long dark hairs left behind by the previous occupant.

Those trifles aside, it’s the stepping out of the shower and into the clothes that requires the utmost care and precision. Here’s my cheap holiday makers’ guide to modern interpretative dance:

Towelling myself off in the cubicle, I stand on one foot – not a pretty sight when nude, admittedly – wipe the other foot and insert it into the ugg boot that has been strategically placed directly in front of the cubicle but farther enough away from the drips of the shower curtain. Then the other leg; which finds me completely dry and starkers except for my footwear. The one-legged posture happens again when the knickers (clean of course) are gently teased out of the pocket of the parka I’ve meticulously draped over the door – one leg, two legs – and the same again for the tracksuit pants. Without the uggs I’d be filthier than before entering the ablutions block.

Such a process can take up to ten minutes, but it’s time well spent compared to the agony, frustration and disgust of dropping one’s knickers into the wet, muddy and hairy puddle on the floor.

Unfortunately, this essential ritual became even more complicated if I had to wash in cubicle number two, because the friggin’ lock didn’t work. The door would sort of stay closed if enough clothing was over the top to weigh down the hinges and would at least signal to other queuers that the cubicle was engaged. But it would inexplicably decide to swing open the very moment I was poised on one leg with my knickers half-way up to my knee and wobbling with determination and effort.

“Dong!” The first time this happened, I fell back into the cubicle, getting covered in a new layer of mud, hair and water, but – joy of joys – the knickers were intact, and, most crucially, dry. This fact alone meant that having a second rinse in the shower was not an annoyance but a tiny victory of sorts.

….either that or take on Love Chunks’ method – not shower for the entire weekend.


franzy said...

May I suggest a variation?
Step on the ugg boot after getting out of the shower, then you won't have to employ some other appendage to lift that foot through two more leg holes.

Or, if my father read this blog: pick up the ugg boot in your hand, carry it to the camp fire ... and put it on top of the flames! Ha!
He doesn't like ugg boots and forbids my mother to wear them outside the house.

ps. Word Verif? "ORGAN" I'm not kidding ...

Kath Lockett said...

Actually Franzy, I did end up using the uggies as stepping stones.

My Dad hates uggies as well and I do agree that - apart from walks to and from the ablutions block - mine are never ever seen outside. Same goes for Crocs.

River said...

Under those ditions, I'd favour Love Chunks method, with the slight variation of a wet flannel swipe under the armpits. But wait, here's another idea...a longer parka, or a bathrobe, (shorter than the average dressing gown). Shower, step into your crocs, no need to dry the feet, wrap up in the bathrobe, get back to your tent and dress in comfort. Place crocs out in the sun to dry. Of course, given either of these choices I'd opt for staying home...

River said...

"ditions"?? CONditions...

ashleigh said...

When I was 14, my family travelled overseas spending 6 months in camping grounds. 5 of us spent that time in a motor home. Oh bliss. (Then SWMBO and I did much the same for 3 months, back in our 20's.) I have little interests in camping grounds now. That + holidays makes a cumulative total of about a year of my life lived in camping grounds. I figure thats enough.

We developed a routine, though - I would check out the dunnies and showers, and grab the toolkit to effect running repairs if needed (I got to be quite good at getting recalcitrant Italian and Greek showers going).

We also had a shower technique (having seen the good, bad, and ugly). We have specially made wire hooks, very tough (I still have one somewhere) bent like a big S shape, so you can hand ANYTHING on a door that otherwise has no hooks (you take your own make-a-hook with you). 2 plastic shopping bags, one for clean clothes, one for dirty hang off the hooks. Towel goes over shoulder, and hangs off hook as well. For in and out of the shower - standard Aussie thongs. Wear them to, from AND IN the shower. This avoids contact with the floor and spread of tinea, and avoids contact with the grot. Easy to stay clean. Thongs only used for this purpose, tho.

These tricks did make the whole shower trauma somewhat less than it might otherwise have been. When you finish the long trip, just chuck the things. The rest of the time they live in another plastic shopping bag, thus preventing the spread of grot.

The wire S-shaped hooks are a doddle to make - some stiff steel wire about 1mm diameter, double it up, and then twist over the length so its tough. Then bend to the S-shape. Any goose can make enough for a family in about 1/2 hour. And they last forever.

Miles McClagan said...

The only camping I want to see is from John Inman on old eps of Are You Being Served...I'm terrible at camping, on such an evocative and interesting place as Eggs and Bacon Bay, only I would take a book...

drb said...

Great tips Ashleigh!! Thanks!

Baino said...

Oh that brought back memories! At least you didn't have to contend with sand as well. I hate getting out of campsite showers and theres wet sand all over the floor. The odd thing is that at home, I never get up in the middle of the night for a pee but somehow when camping, the urge hits about 3am!

The Man at the Pub said...

Showers. They're overrated.


LOL@post. YOU described the ordeal so well I have no doubt you've killed the camping industry single-handedly and re-traumatized people wo took 30 years to forget enforec, childhood camping.
Well done. :)
I HATED camping!

What's a dilly bag?

Kath Lockett said...

Ashleigh, you could write a book on how to survive caravan and camping holidays with your dignity (and auto-immune system) intact!

River, staying home is attractive I'll admit, but getting *back* home after a trip away is even better.

Miles - I read all the way through every single loch change on our canal boat holiday in England in 1981....

Baino - I *swear* my bladder knows that the nearest toilet is a mere 400 metre stagger away.

MATP - is that something you should be sharing with us?

Ubermouth - a 'dilly' bag is your bathroom bag - shampoo, soap, toothpaste, clean knickers etc.