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Have you ever woken in the morning, stumbled into the bathroom, showered, gotten dressed, hopped into the car to go to work, and only then realized that, mere minutes ago, your body was completely wet, and you didn't even notice?

When we were children, we spent long periods of quality personal time in the bathtub. There was no hasty and mechanistic washing and scrubbing of the body back then. There was play. There were toys. There was most definitely a moment when we realized that, by holding the rubber duckie under the water and squeezing it, we could create a powerful weapon with which to dampen any attending parent. Why have we lost this carefree time-dilated fun in the water?

Because we have to take showers now. We just don't have time for baths in the morning before work, and if you're like me, you need that shower to wake up in the first place. How can we combine the playful enjoyment of taking a bath with the speed and efficiency of taking a shower? I have discovered the solution:

Bring a balloon in there with you.

Yes, that's right: a manually-operated balloon, much like what you'd find Scotch-taped to every available surface at a child's birthday party. If you don't have any balloons, go get some. They're really cheap. Get a nice bag of many different colors, and keep it near the shower. You want round balloons, not long thin clown-type balloons.

While you're waiting for the shower water to warm up, blow up the balloon until it is large enough to be comfortably gripped in one hand, but no larger. This is important. For me, a sphere of about seven inches diameter seems to work well. You want to be able to hold it comfortably without squeezing it too much. Tie off the balloon.

Now, using the hand that's holding the balloon, test the water temperature. You'll be greeted by a loud noise, much like the sound of a heavy rainstorm on a tin roof. Listen to this. You'll be hearing a lot more of it shortly, but it gets more interesting than this constant hiss just as soon as you get into the shower.

Hop in. The trick now is to wash yourself completely without ever dropping the balloon. While trying to do this it's important to laugh at yourself, because you will not be able to succeed, especially once you have applied the soap.

Tips for keeping the balloon off the bathtub floor:

  • Bend one leg at the knee while standing on one foot, so that your lower body looks like a 4. Wedge the balloon in the gap between your legs and your crotch.
  • Pinch the balloon between your knees or thighs.
  • Sandwich the balloon between your body and the wall of the shower stall.
  • Remember to improvise. The circumstances of your shower stall and body shape will present you with many options for holding the balloon. This is supposed to be fun.

As you wash, the balloon hand (it's okay to switch, of course) will pass into and out of the stream of water, creating a variety of different sounds. Experiment with different shower head settings for a symphonic effect!

If you do drop the balloon, or are done washing, feel free to play "kickballoon" with the water for a little bit. The balloon is so light that it will move around a lot in the bottom of the tub, so it makes a great ball; the water will be an excellent opponent (especially on more advanced shower head settings.) Score goals by getting the balloon 'past' the stream of water, or by kicking the balloon such that it hits the faucet or drain.

Once you've started a new balloon, keep using it until it's useless. You'll know when you've maxed out the life span of the balloon because it will have shriveled up like your skin used to do when you played in the bathtub for an hour.

With practice, you can do all of the above easily in the course of a ten-minute shower. I hope you find that it puts some joy into your day.

Since when did you stop playing in the water except at the beach?

Important Safety Disclaimer: Please be careful while you are doing this. Bathtubs can be slippery places, and standing on one foot or kicking a balloon in the bathtub can be dangerous and cause a fall. Trying not to drop the balloon is still plenty of fun if you don't feel like you can safely stand on one foot. Having little rubber grips on your bathtub floor helps, too.

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