An excerpt from my book, “Tales From My Sea Bag”…
We heard it many times…as I mentioned before…water restrictions. And they came at some of the most inopportune times. Water restrictions meant one of two things…
– You have three minutes to take a shower or…
– There will be no showers today.
When the second option happened all hope was not lost, we were allowed a bird bath. What’s that? We were allowed to fill a sink and wash cloth or sponge ourselves clean doing our best to hit all the major areas. If we were fortunate to still be able to take the three minute shower it was a lesson in Rapid Cleanliness. You had a total of three minutes to get wet, soap up, rinse off, and get out. I remember there were times when I was in Deck, we had a guy stand outside the shower with a stopwatch. Ready or not when your time was up, you got out.
Many times there was an added challenge that took time from us, getting the hot/cold water balance right. Sometimes it could take up to a minute to get to at least lukewarm water. As time went by, I learned to get it all complete in the three minutes allotted, sometimes less if I just used my shampoo to do my entire body…don’t judge, times were tough. But using that method I can proudly report, my body never had dandruff.
The least preferred option was the no water usage at all. No shower, no bird bath. So what did we do? Well, that was a time when you got to experience what was everyone’s favorite cologne was.
Most unfortunately there were a few that had no concern with water restrictions. They simply didn’t bother whether restrictions were on or not. For the few that unwisely practiced this, they got to experience personalized lessons in hygiene from their shipmates. I’ll let your mind wonder as to what may have taken place.
Water restrictions weren’t all bad. They turned out to be a valuable piece of training. The faster you got in, the faster you got out. Now why is this important? First off, sometimes there was no hot water at all. This was especially rough during winter months. It also presented a problem with certain body parts disappearing for days. Second, there were roughly 60 or so people in each berthing compartment and we had to share two bathrooms known as “Heads”…Goggle it. There was one on the port side, and one on the starboard side (left and right for you civilians). Each head had two showers, two urinals, and two toilets. While showering the odds were very good (especially at sea) that someone else would come in. The odds were even greater that they were there to do more than shower. While showering, the trick was to get in and out before another person came in and unleashed what he had been holding in all day, thereby turning the head into a gas chamber. And heaven forbid someone else came in at the same time and used the second toilet. You’ve now been sentenced to death.
JFK was once quoted as saying while he was in the Navy during WWII, “You aren’t a real sailor until you have experienced brushing your teeth (or in this case showering) while a guy was taking a dump three feet away from you.”
The three minute shower often still happens with me today. Some things just stick with you especially when there is a line of family members waiting their turn. My kids can’t figure out how it’s possible for me to get in and be done so quickly. Sometimes while they are showering I go in and sit three feet from them so they’ll understand.