My dad was in the navy during WWII and served on the USS Boxer, an aircraft carrier. When we kids were growing up, dad was always trying to instill naval discipline in us – especially in the toilet.
“You guys are taking too long in the shower!” he said one day. “From now on you’re all taking navy showers like I do.”
Then he demonstrated the procedure. Like a performing mime, he turned invisible knobs for hot and cold water and began his tutorial: “Wet yourself down for 30 seconds, then turn the water off… Wash yourself.” He moved an invisible washcloth around his torso, and then turned the invisible knobs again.
“Turn the water on and rinse the soap off. That’s a navy shower – rinse, soap up, rinse off. Two minutes; that’s it!”
“We’re washing ourselves with the water off?” I asked, horrified.
“Yes! With the water off.”
“How can I wash myself with the water off? I’ll get cold.”
“You won’t get cold because you won’t be in there that long. A navy shower is only two minutes long.”
“Two minutes! That’s ridiculous,” I said. “It takes longer than that for the water to heat up.”
“Two minutes!” he shouted. “And I’ll be timing you.”
Try as he might, we never took to the two-minute navy shower.
I forgot about the navy shower until we moved into this temporary apartment.
The bathroom here is so tiny; there are only 22 inches between the shower stall and the door. After my shower, I have to towel off in the shower stall because there’s no room to move around outside the stall without bumping into the toilet or the small triangular corner sink.
While in the shower, the water beats down on top of my head; there is no room to step away from it. To work up a good soapy lather, I have to hold the washcloth above the shower head, otherwise the water washes the soap off the washcloth before I have a chance to use it.
There’s no ledge to rest my foot on, so shaving my legs is quite a challenge. I have to bend at the waist and stretch down to the floor, extending my heel forward so my butt bumps into the back wall of the shower stall. It’s a good stretch for the calf muscle, but I hold my breath some mornings, hoping I’ll straighten up on my own, without having to call for help. As I reach the bottom of my leg, my head protrudes past the shower curtain, leaving a puddle of water on the floor. As far as the backs of my legs go – who knows what they look like? I can’t twist around and bend at the same time to reach the back of my leg without the entire shower curtain blowing out into the room.
There is a dim light bulb and no exhaust fan in the bathroom, so as soon as the water heats up, the room fills with a steam so dense, it becomes difficult to see and breathe in there.
I spent the first month cursing in the shower while trying to hold the shower curtain in place with one hand and washing myself with the other. One day, my father’s toilet tutorial came bubbling up from somewhere in the depths of my mind.
The navy shower!
“Rinse for 30 seconds. Turn the water off and lather up. Then rinse the soap off. Two minutes. Then get out!”
I tried it and it worked! It’s a quick wash, for sure, but at least I get a nice soapy lather and I don’t have to clean up puddles of water from the bathroom floor.
I take a navy shower every day now. I only wish my father was alive today, so he would know that his twelve-year-old daughter was listening to him, after all.
Anchors aweigh, my boys! Anchors aweigh!
Here’s to the navy shower!