By Tim Mollen
Journal entry: March 22, 2007 (age 37)
Dear People Who Engineer Bathtubs and Showers:
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Your invention of a shower curtain rod that curves outward in the middle has improved my daily life. It has ended the regular attacks on my person by a billowing, mildew-covered shower curtain liner.
This is just the latest feat in your storied past. One thinks of the particularly fastidious Cretan who built the first known pedestal bathtub out of hardened pottery. Your forebears in ancient Rome gave us the communal bath, which paradoxically made the community cleaner and dirtier at the same time. By 1833, the Kohler Company was selling cast-iron bathtubs to the general public. This is notable despite the fact that Kohler marketed the tubs primarily as “hog scalders.” (An unfortunate side note: My wife, Amanda, regularly honors the hog-scalding tradition by flushing the toilet while I am in the shower.)
But the results of your research and development have slowed down. Before the curved curtain rod, the last high-water mark in tub and shower history was the installation of a White House shower with the water-propulsion quality of a crowd-control fire hose. (The shower was installed at the request of President Lyndon Johnson, who presumably wanted to identify with Vietnam War protesters while rubbing a few dubs.)
So I am seizing this moment to call on the next generation of tub and shower engineers to take us to a higher level of bathing enjoyment. This can be done by attacking a few key problems with our current bathroom technology. First, most showers have a knob or handle that changes the water temperature from hot to cold. These can be turned 180 or even 360 degrees, giving one the illusion of control. Unfortunately, however, every shower fixture I have ever used has a tiny, impossible-to-locate tipping point between “not hot enough” and “molten lava.” Can these fixtures be engineered in a way that allows one more precise control over the temperature gradient? I urge the international teams that competed to map the human genome to turn their attention to this important matter.
Another problem is the color of tub caulk. Its current, blinding white color makes any miniscule amount of mildew stand out in wince-inducing clarity. My suggestion is simple: mildew-colored caulk. I’ll let you tubby braniacs work out the details. On another front, I have to believe there are a lot of grants out there that could fund efforts to create a rotating set of tub drain covers. Each time a shower or bath ends, the hair-and-“I’d-rather-not-think-about-it”-filled drain cover would retreat into some kind of corrosive acid wash, and be replaced by a shiny, new tub colander. Most of the Nobel committee bathes, so the most ambitious among you should take a look at this.
Finally, for the love of all that is soapy, let’s install a recorded message in the shower that, at timed intervals, says, “Hey you – stop spacing out and resume cleansing activity!”