The relationship between the bathtub and the book is a complicated one. On one hand it’s unquestionably supreme relaxation, on the other hand an continuous frustration-filled process of milieu management. Sure, the idea of lounging in a gorgeous bubble bath, sipping a glass of Merlot, surrounded by artistically streaked wax candles on every non-flammable surface, and reading the latest and greatest from your favourite author is amazing. But is it? Is it really…? And note: this is my own experience so you may agree or disagree.
To me, reading in the bathtub is fraught with problems, which all boil down to one single issue that spreads out, like rings in the water where you just dropped your prized hardback. The problem is volume. I am a voracious reader. I start a book, like Muhammed Ali starts a prize fight, and I may have butterflies in my stomach, but I will sting like a bee until that sucker is down. I will read and read and read and read. And read. And because reading is such a cerebral pursuit, I will tune out the world. Which also seems counter-productive: to create such a relaxing space, and then completely tune it out; but I digress.
The usual bath-reading experience goes something like this:
After having spent twenty minutes running the bath, adjusting the temperature, adding salts and oils, and generally preparing the most optimal reading and relaxation experience, I finally enter the bath. I prefer to keep it around two degrees lower than the boiling point of mercury, but that’s down to personal preference. Finally, book in dry hands, I can get down to business. Pages fly by as I indulge myself. Wine is sipped, pages turn, all is good. The plot unfolds, characters act, more pages turn, and the water… turns cold. And not metaphorically cold. The temperature drops below my comfort level. At some point, the cool becomes noticeable (and after much ignoring, becomes a problem). Oh, and I start becoming part prune. Now, being in some discomfort, what do I do? Well, I actively engage with bath management.
So I open the faucet with my toes to add hot water to the mix, because using my hands would risk the integrity of the book, but the hot water is now accumulating at my feet, and I need to generate water flow to distribute the heat more evenly. By doing that I’m now thrashing about trying to make the water a uniform temperature, not really enjoying the whole reading bit. Somehow comfort returns, more pages fly and fly, but alas the bliss does not last.
The water cools down again, faster this time than before and the hot water tank, which is miserably small, is empty. Or at least it’s close enough to be considered empty when the gush of hot becomes a trickle of lukewarm meh. Now it becomes a matter of letting the air cool my various exposed body parts, and then re-submerging them aiming to feel the blessing warmth. Except now I’m constantly cold on some part of my body, which undermines the entire reading experience.
At some point I give up, take a quick shower, find a blanket and hide in my bed. Finally the real reading starts. Your mileage may vary as temper, temperature and typical bath-reading routines differ, but until I can hire somebody to manage my bath for me or find an app for it (who knows), I will refrain from larger literary achievements in the bath.
But what do you think? Is my obsession with the perfect bath temperature for reading just my own first world problem? Let me know.