Headmaster’s Thoughts – August 2012

It is deep summer and time to attempt to relax. I am afraid I find that easier said than done. Let me extol the one place that always gives me a sense of leisure: the bath.

I know, Americans like showers. But we did not have a shower in our family home in London – not even a flexible hose with a spray end that is common in American baths. At school, we had showers which everyone somehow avoided, preferring to go home smelling of mud and sweat after a rugby game as though that was the perfume of manhood. Indeed, I did not get used to showers until Oxford because there were no baths there. I missed them.

I have been reliably told by people whom I respect that showers are far more efficient in water usage. I have even been told that baths are not as cleansing as showers. Maybe! But, unquestionably, showers are over too fast, and I defy anyone to think through some great idea while taking a shower. Let us not forget that Archimedes was in the bath when he cried “Eureka!” after figuring out his law of water displacement that we now call “Archimedes’ Principle.”

Perhaps the inspiration for this piece is Woody Allen’s film, “To Rome with Love,” which I saw recently. In the film, the mortician father of Woody Allen’s daughter’s fiancée — yes, it is complicated; it is Woody Allen, after all! — can sing superbly only while taking a shower. Woody Allen plays an opera director, and he wants the father to star in a new production ofPagliacci. Ultimately, Allen stages the production so that the father is able to sing from within a shower, which is moved around the stage. Frankly, it is the funniest “bit” in the movie (I don’t think describing it spoils the experience of watching it). Woody Allen obviously taps into the idea that people have a tendency to sing in the shower. I have always doubted this — that people actually do sing in the shower. I never have. Jayme never has. Why would one?

No, baths are far superior. No contest! They take the tension out of your body. The placid hot water invites you to stay and develop interesting ridges on the tips of your fingers. There is no technology that can invade the bathtub unless one is fool enough to install it. And who would put a phone or television in the bathroom?

Soak. That is all one can do, and all I want to do.

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

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