Our shower is not working properly.
I realise that that in itself is not necessarily the most stunning sentence I have ever uttered, but it did occur to me today that because I have friends on both sides of the Atlantic, not to mention other points on the globe, it can mean different things to different people. For example, if an American person reads the above sentence they might perhaps assume that it's leaking, or that there's no water at all, or the drain is clogged.
However, here in Britain, it can be translated as "there's no hot water" which might put an expression of deep puzzlement on your average American's visage. Let me explain a little.
In America, where I lived for 18 years and so feel that I am somewhat qualified to talk about these things, showers are commonplace. I certainly cannot think of a single house I lived in (and I lived in a lot - apartments, duplexes, condos, big fancy three-storey houses, trailers, townhouses) that did not come with a shower. Even the poxiest little tin box-trailer that I lived in for a month or so had a shower, despite the fact that it had no air-conditioning (this was in midsummer in Georgia), the bedrooms were barely big enough to fit a human sized bed in, they'd let you have a washing machine but not a dryer, was in a seedy trailer park in a terrible area of town, all the neighbours gave you that "say-hello-and-I'll-kill-you-in-your-sleep" look and the landlord's agent frequently answered the door in his bathrobe.
All of them had a shower, and that is because installing a shower when building a house in the States is easy, because all the houses are fairly new in the grand scheme of things, and they are built on a wooden frame, which means that the interior walls are just wood and gaps. Even installing a shower where there previously was none is easy because you just have to know where to knock a hole in the drywall to get at the pipes and run a T-joint and a pipe where you want it. The showers are plumbed in to the main water supply just like your sinks and taps. So if your shower is not working properly, and it's not clogged or leaking, then there is a problem related to the entire household water supply.
Here in the U of K, Merrie Olde England, things are a little different. Showers are a relatively new concept. Sure, we've known about them for a long time. We've watched American TV shows for decades. We remember Pam waking up and finding Bobby in the shower. But because a lot of our houses are a lot older, and they're mostly made of solid brick, anytime you wanted to have a shower put in you'd have to do an awful lot of knocking things about, which could get expensive. The cost of doing it was prohibitive, so we contented ourselves with baths. The first house I ever lived in with a shower installed was a house I rented after I got married for the first time in 1990. However, after I moved out of there I did not see another shower installed in a house until I moved to the States over a year later.
When I was at school some of my mates had houses with showers, because I seemed to have friends who were a bit more posh than myself (and I'm not using any kind of reverse-snobbery here, it's just a fact), but that was purely because the school system was different back then. Back then you just went to the nearest school to where you lived, unless your parents had enough money to send you to a private school or even a boarding school. You had no choice until you were in your second year of secondary school (age 12 or 13). These days if you want to go to the school just down the street from you, there's a whole system of applications and interviews involved, and even then you might not get in, which is why you see kids going to school on the commuter trains more and more. This totally blows my mind. How screwy is that? But I digress. As I often do.
Okay, I was talking about showers. I love showers, I am a shower guy. Don't get me wrong, baths have their place, in fact sometimes if one has had a hard day at work or whatever, a nice hot tub can be very relaxing. But you are not washing yourself in a nice relaxing bath. You are not scrubbing yourself, using the pumice stone or using the loofah. You are just soaking. But if you come home from a tiring day and you have plans to go out for the evening that require getting changed into a fresh set of duds, you are not going to have a bath, are you? You aren't going to waste precious time running the water and getting the temp right (testing it with your elbow) just for a quick dip. No, you are going to turn on the shower and hop in and be done in five minutes flat. Plus, you really can't sing in the bath the same way you can sing in the shower.
Also, showers use less water than baths, so I am a bit biased, being a bit of an eco-lefty-commie-pinko-greenie bugger. But beyond that, I like showers better because they just feel better, I feel like I'm getting cleaner in the shower because of the constant scrubby-rinsey sensation of the water (and if the shower has the 'needle' and 'pulsate' settings, so much the better. And 'needle+pulsate', pure heaven.) whereas sitting in the tub, you scrub, you rinse, congratulations, you are now sitting in a hot puddle of your own grot. Eww.
I view taking a bath the same way I view visiting a swimming pool. Don't expect me to take any exercise or use sudden movements. I hate swimming because why would anyone in full possession of their faculties want to get into some nice warm water and then be expected NOT to relax? Which is why you will not find me in a pool, but you might find me in a jacuzzi if there is one available.
So what we are left with in the UK now that showers are more and more commonplace is the electric shower, one where a little box is fitted onto the wall of your bathtub, attached via the wall to your cold water pipe, and a little electric heater inside the box does all the water heaty-uppy business. That's what we have. And that little water-heaty-uppy device inside our little shower-box-on-the-wall is, to put it bluntly, knackered. No matter how much you turn the dial on the box, the water never gets above tepid. Which is fine in the summer, when the last thing you might want is a hot shower. But now it is November and we have taken the proverbial plunge and acquired a new shower. We just have to have it installed. Which then puts us in the strange-sounding position of having to have a shower installed by an electrician.