“Home is where you know how the shower works.”
I saw that quote on some random Tumblr a while back and immediately thought Yes. This is so true, especially for Missionary Kids (MKs) while traveling on furlough/home leave. When driving across your passport country, a new house or hotel every week, or every other day, you see a lot of showers. And there is a whole range of control options.
Overseas, I grew up with something like an older version of this:
So what is a kid to do when confronted with something like this? Which may or may not have hot/cold labels. Some of these take some serious force to turn on too.
Then there’s the ones with the lever-shaped handle in the middle. Some of them you pull to turn on, some you turn one way or the other for on. How do you tell which end of the lever is doing the pointing with the turn-y ones? Is it the end you grab, so you want to direct that towards the hot/red enamel/engraved H/worn spot? Or is the opposite end? How long do you wait for the hot water before you try the other way?
The third control, besides on/off and hot/cold, is what I now know is called the diverter. It’s what makes the water stop coming out of the tub faucet (if there is one) and start coming out of the shower head. If it has been left engaged, you may get a shot of shockingly cold water while trying to figure out the strange controls. I think we had the separate-lever-on-the-tub type of control growing up (or wait, was that the drain?) There’s the popular choice these days of the little knobby thing on the top of the end of the faucet that you pull up until the water changes directions, which may require varying amounts of effort. But there could be the thing on the end of the faucet itself, which you pull down to get the same result.
These are just a few of the options for three possible controls – not to mention if you have flow controls in the shower head itself or an ultra-modern shower with temperature degree controls – and the combinations are numerous. So, if you’re having a traveling missionary family over, during the house tour, you may want to double-check that the shower controls are understood, especially if you have an esoteric combination. Also, if your pipes make strange noises, you might want to let that be known. For a confused eight-year-old who is basically just pulling levers and hoping something works, those shrieking or thumping sounds can be alarming!
And shower pitfalls aren’t limited just to the controls. There is the classic one I pulled at my brother’s house just a few months ago, of getting out of the shower and realizing you forgot to bring your kindly-provided clean towel in with you. In that case there is nothing for it but to hope there’s one in a cabinet somewhere, or that your mother is close enough to hear you yell. (I’ll always remember the kind Southern lady who told us “I’m the sort who puts towels out to look at, the ones to use are in this cabinet here.” The towel sets displayed on the rack were indeed beautifully arranged, but I was so glad she told us or I’d have used the wrong one.)
So, making sure you remembered your towel and clean clothes, making sure you either remembered your soap/shampoo or know which ones already in there you can use (investigating the incredible range of liquids in some showers can be a fascinating way to lose time), and making sure, before you start taking things off, that you are familiar with the controls are all good steps. Another one, at least if you’re as blind-without-your-glasses as I am, is to remember to check the shower for multi-legged shower companions before you take your glasses off. Squinting and leaning to find out if that blur is a hairball or a spider feels so much more vulnerable after you’ve already got the water going. If you’re the proprietor whose basement shower tends towards such denizens, that might be another nice thing to warn travelers of. (Depending on where they’re from, they may be used to showering with things like geckos or small tree frogs, but I’m pretty sure no one likes to share with spiders.)
Eventually, after enough houses, enough neglected towels, enough scrambles for something-to-get-it-out-of-the-shower, you do learn. Helpful hosts can ease the learning curve a bit. But, in the end, there’s no place like your own familiar shower.