Just Letting Off Steam


Right now on these pages, there are many liberal ideas being dissected, diagnosed, debated, defined and destroyed. This is good. This is necessary. My grandson’s future depends on it. But I’d like to digress for just a moment’s rant on a topic that really burns me up.

Some of the finest showers in the truck stop world are to be found in Indiana, at the Fort Wayne Travel Plaza (intersection of US 30 and I-69, please stop in for some good eats too). The architect of these wonders of hygiene even thought to design the shower so that the water temperature can be adjusted without having to stand under the shower head, which means that you walk into a deliciously hot blast of water from the very start.

This was accomplished by building the shower on the design of the letter “S.” You walk in at the bottom of the letter and the water controls are on the wall of the southeast curve, see? The actual shower head is at the northwest curve. No need for curtains to keep the cold air out .. no need for a sliding glass door either, as the cold air never makes it around the curve. Just adjust the water temperature to your comfort before ever setting foot in the shower, and life is good. In a job which doesn’t afford a daily opportunity to bathe, this humble innovation made me as happy as if I had good sense.

I don’t know who designed it, but that person deserves to live in comfort without any further knowledge of life’s worries and hardships. And if that genius is no longer with us, I hope he has a nice headstone celebrating this singular accomplishment, because he can’t be the same person who designed the plumbing system which connects water temperature to the flushing of toilets in the same vicinity.

The first sign of trouble is a barely perceptible decrease in the water pressure, after which all of the cold water evidently is evacuated to assist with the toilet flush, leaving the hapless victim in the shower on the receiving end of a good scalding. As best I could tell, someone must have heard me yelp, because it wasn’t long before another sadist got in on the act. I would have ceased with the shower right then except I was already lathered up like a poodle at the Hot Diggity Dog Wash and Boutique. Reduced to performing an impromptu version of the Hokey Pokey, I experimented with first one foot, then the next … then a knee cap, and so on until I was convinced it was safe to resume.

That’s when a whole busload of flushers arrived at the truck stop. At first, I judged that a group of them flushed simultaneously. But the results were not much different than a single flush, since a single flush removes all the cold water in any event. And so that attempt was a wash. So they began to organize. One after the other, with only the slightest pause between scaldings. This is called a Royal Flush, and will fricassee your vital statistics 13 ways to Sunday.

And this was no haphazard effort either. No sir, this was nothing short of a full-on convention! There were ladies and gentlemen’s delegations. One would perform a medley of synchronized flushing, which would be answered by the delegation down the hall. This is called the [Redacted] flush, so called because the [Deleted] cold water was [Redacted] away from my part of the [Expletive] building and sent like an [Expletive Adjusted] out of the [Rectified] recesses of the [Expurgated, Bowdlerized and Overhauled] (sounds like a law firm) building. I don’t know what these people had eaten, but they all registered their votes with relentless efficiency whilst I was just down the hall doing the Mexican Hat Dance with the agility of a cow on a pogo stick. It was the worst nice shower I’ve ever had.

I thought to complain about it. I had plenty of time to think of what I would say while waiting for the flushing to stop, after all. But I knew in advance what the answer would be.Yes, they would be sorry. And yes, renovations are scheduled for this year, during which time all the showers will be closed, and after which time the perfect design of the showers will give way to the telephone booth design found at most truck stops. And someone will complain about those too. After all, some people are never satisfied and would complain even if you hung them with a new rope. So I made the best of the situation, ate a hot breakfast in the restaurant afterward, and here I am! But I’d sure like to know what causes this phenomenon …. and which bus tires to slash.

There are 30 comments.

  1. Member

    Sorry for your experience but you are a genius story teller.

    • #1
    • January 12, 2013 at 1:09 am
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  2. Thatcher

    Dave, I was visiting friends in England last fall. They had the S shower in the bathroom I used. It was fantastic! Mr. S and I are hoping to tear our house down and rebuild (remodeling would be too painful, as MANY shortcuts were taken when it was originally built), and I really like that shower design. And we’ll remember the plumbing.

    • #2
    • January 12, 2013 at 4:40 am
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  3. Inactive

    The showers were designed by a structural engineer. The plumbing (and in particular, the sizing of the cold water feed piping) was done by the mechanical engineer. Unless the scheduled renovation is going to go all the way down to the plumbing (which is to say, “renovation” and “demolition” being interpreted as synonyms), I’d find a different shower to look forward to.

    But I appreciate your description!

    • #3
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:21 am
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  4. Member

    Your story is the perfect allegory of all of the simple pleasures which we soon learn to disdain, unless every once in awhile the ideal shower is interrupted by the occasional flush.

    • #4
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:21 am
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  5. Member

    The “S” design, if understood correctly, has been used in high end designer homes for some time.

    The real question might be, did you perhaps announce your entrance into said enjoyment of a shower ? Did the communal flush come with an audible snicker in the background ? Could lead to paranoia there.

    • #5
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:22 am
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  6. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    wilber forge: … the communal flush come with an audible snicker in the background ? Could lead to paranoia there. · 4 minutes ago

    I couldn’t hear over my own profanity.

    • #6
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:28 am
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  7. Inactive

    I feel your pain Dave, I once had the unfortunate chance to live in an apartment that had a similar problem, when the neighbour next door flushed their toilet, we got scalded in the shower. It got to the point that I learned her daily routine so I knew when she went to work, when she got home and what time she went to bed. If she was in the apartment I would not take a shower, but sometimes she still got me, if she got up to use the bathroom after she had gone to bed, for example.

    I have a trades background, just about any job building a house I’ve done and many others. What really bugs me about this is the reason the flush and the scald go together, someone saved some money on some pipe and a valve. The pipe run to the shower and to the toilet should be separate, which means you have to run some extra pipe and or a pressure valve that does not allow the pressure in the shower line to drop because of a flush. 


    • #7
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:28 am
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  8. Inactive

    …The problem is that someone decided to save a few buck on pipe and a few hours labour. When we had our 7 floor building built here in Tokyo in 2001, I went over all kinds of stuff like that with the architect, I can and do read blueprints. At first he was reluctant to let me in on the process, but I soon turned him around, mainly by pointing out that it was my wife and I that are on the hook for the next 30 years with a mortgage and that he should do what we want, or I’ll find someone who will. Then when the building was being built, I checked many things and caught some bad errors a few times, contractors that had bid for say six electrical outlets in a bedroom, but when I checked the work they had only put in three, saving themselves some money on the bid they made, yes that contractor was removed from the job.

    I will bet that your scalding shower is due to this kind of problem, someone was either ignorant of the problem, or they were saving money.

    • #8
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:34 am
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  9. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Stu, that’s as good an explanation as I’ve ever seen. Thank you. But I still think a sadistic streak is at work here…

    • #9
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:36 am
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  10. Inactive

    C’mon, Dave, we used to do the flush-en-masse in the college dorm for fun. Or at least the conservatives did it for fun. You might convince me today that the future liberals did it out of malice. But I was too dumb at the time to see the trends.

    • #10
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:45 am
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  11. Member

    Well, I live in a country where you can go some places and see “C” for chaud on one tap, and “C” for cold on the other.

    • #11
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:46 am
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  12. Inactive
    Erik Larsen: Well, I live in a country where you can go some places and see “C” for chaud on one tap, and “C” for cold on the other. · 3 minutes ago

    Well? In a socialist nation hot and cold must be equal lest someone be offended.

    • #12
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:55 am
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  13. Member

    The same plumber worked on the barracks I occupied in Korea. I learned to dance in that shower. Since I lived on the first floor I also had the delightful experience of knowing when the plumbing was backed up.

    My home was as cheaply built as possible but the plumbing was one item the didn’t skimp on I’m happy to say.

    Don’t knock liberals too much, it was liberals who founded this country. Conservatives were called Tories then.

    • #13
    • January 12, 2013 at 8:57 am
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  14. Member

    I’ll throw in my useless 2 cents. (Wait…*pat*…*pat*…I don’t have 2 cents)

    I’ll say it anyway. In a lot of places, they got these here regalations that say “old folks burn themselves in showers” so they dictate what they call “anti-scald” regulators. And they are meant to prevent exactly what is happening to our beloved local steamed crawdad. They have maximum temperature settings (which work various ways). Some places even mandate them in commercial work.

    One of the problems is they’re a bit high zoot, so I don’t know of FWTP will spring for the extra. But it would seem that if they would, they might even be able to keep the stalls as is and keep the “Dave Carter Said Too Many Cuss Words Today” jar from have to be fed so many dollar bills.

    • #14
    • January 12, 2013 at 9:07 am
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  15. Member

    Poor Dave! Adapted home showers work this way, too (for the reason Stu cites). Anti-scald mixing valve my everlasting foot…I empathize…

    • #15
    • January 12, 2013 at 9:55 am
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  16. Inactive

    Same genius that used lovely,tiny copper piping for the sink in our house…and ran it under the house, below any insulation. (Thank goodness, they did NOT get to put the shower in.) I seriously expect to see ice chunks about now.

    Townhouse before managed to make it so that the bathroom where you could hit the water heater with a bar of soap somehow had a minute plus delay for hot water to reach it, while the master bedroom on the far side of the house had instant hot water. (All I can guess is that they ran it down stairs, under the kitchen sink, then up the far wall…..)

    Gorgeous building, though.

    • #16
    • January 12, 2013 at 10:39 am
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  17. Inactive

     This is called a Royal Flush

    I’d hate to experience a Full House in your shower, unless I was preparing Lobster Bisque.

    • #17
    • January 12, 2013 at 11:11 am
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  18. Member

    They were ‘Bama fans, I just know it.(still stinging)

    • #18
    • January 12, 2013 at 11:46 am
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  19. Member

    It also could be a modern adaptation. In the apartment complex I live in, they recently decided to go with low-pressure shower heads to save water and gas for heating the water. I’d love to know how it has worked out, because my average shower time is now up to thirty minutes as I step back from the shower and wait for it to either cool off or heat back up while it fills one of the other seven toilet tanks or they wash their hands or whatever. We never had the problem until they put in the low-flow shower heads late last year. I intend to complain, just as soon as I find a way to do so that doesn’t involve the sort of words my daddy used when he was doing plumbing projects.

    • #19
    • January 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm
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  20. Member

    Thank you for the story. That was fun to read, if not to experience.

    • #20
    • January 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm
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  21. Inactive

    I recall this happening in military barracks many times. Of course, I was never the type of person to do the flushing. :)

    • #21
    • January 13, 2013 at 4:30 am
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  22. Inactive
    Arahant: We never had the problem until they put in the low-flow shower heads late last year. I intend to complain, just as soon as I find a way to do so that doesn’t involve the sort of words my daddy used when he was doing plumbing projects.

    With a little Googling you can find instructions to fix those low-flow heads. All you do is open it up and remove the thingie that blocks the flow and you’re in business. Or, if you’re worried about your security deposit, you can order your own full flow head online, use that and then just put the low-flow back on when you move.

    • #22
    • January 13, 2013 at 5:55 am
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  23. Inactive

    I love that S design. One of my pet peeves are motel showers with cloth curtains that get sucked up against your body. I don’t want to make a mess, but the choice is between soaking the floor and allowing an unsanitary curtain come in contact with delicate areas is an easy one.

    • #23
    • January 13, 2013 at 6:14 am
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  24. Inactive

    Thanks for the good laugh, Dave! 

    Good showering in future, and no cause for swearing! :-)

    • #24
    • January 13, 2013 at 6:57 am
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  25. Inactive

    Oh you are hilarious! Now let me explain how simply this could have been avoided during construction. By installing anti-scald shower valves…simple enough you say? This clever invention, designed, no doubt, by another mechanical engineer with a demented sense of humor, causes the opposite effect. When a toilet is flushed the water goes COLD. And not just room temperature cold, as if the water in the pipe were re-routed through your refrigerators ICEMAKER LINE before it reaches your body. In your resulting panic, and yes, shrieking and cursing, YOU reach over and instinctively turn the hot water knob higher and the cold water knob lower to get immediate warmth and you guessed it…as the water pressure resumes YOU GET SCALDED! This lovely invention was designed to sense a pressure drop in the cold water supply and counter by temporarily closing off the hot water supply to avoid scalding. I’m here to tell you that once 2 teenagers realize how funny it is to hear Mom screaming and threatening death from the shower, the toilet gets flushed A LOT.

    • #25
    • January 13, 2013 at 7:38 am
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  26. Inactive

    Next time you are in Fort Wayne, you are perfectly welcome to use our shower and stay for lunch too! We live about 15 minutes away from your beloved showers and I promise I won’t run the water while you are soapy. Can’t promise anything about the two year old though.

    • #26
    • January 13, 2013 at 8:05 am
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  27. Inactive
    ThePullmanns: Next time you are in Fort Wayne, you are perfectly welcome to use our shower and stay for lunch too! We live about 15 minutes away from your beloved showers and I promise I won’t run the water while you are soapy. Can’t promise anything about the two year old though. · 0 minutes ago

    I am beginning to feel of a button that allowed me to register a laugh! :-)

    • #27
    • January 13, 2013 at 8:28 am
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  28. Member


    No reason to be paranoid. Wasn’t sadism – just incompetence on the part of the architect or a cheapskate buyer who had them underscale the necessary plumbing diameters.

    We have had the same experience in the showers in the dorms at the Nevada Test Site for decades. Fortunately, the walls are thin enough you will *hear* the flush – and if your reaction time isn’t dulled by too many beers at the Steak House – you can jump out of the way before the scalding wave arrives.

    Love the way you write…


    • #28
    • January 13, 2013 at 8:55 am
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  29. Thatcher

    1. Dave-great story! I’m happy to find another person who truly appreciates probably the most perfect, and least expensive product of human ingenuity. Many times in the shower I have said to myself that a hot shower is the LAST comfort technology I’d give up.

    2. One of the advertisers on our local talk-radio station is a company called Repipe Specialists. Yep, they mention the condition you describe, and say that the only cure is re-piping your house. They offer to do it quickly and offer discounts to listeners.

    • #29
    • January 13, 2013 at 11:24 am
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  30. Member

    Army Thing: Anyone who flushes in a communal latrine/shower without first sounding off with “Fire in the Hole!” is a Blue Falcon.

    • #30
    • January 13, 2013 at 11:44 am
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