Hotels, it seems, believe that the complexity of the shower controls should have a direct relationship to the quality of the room. Stay in an inexpensive chain motel in the US and the shower control will be one simple handle. They all want to be different so they all have a variation of pushes, pulls and turns needed to get some nice warm water, but it’s easy to figure out.
A more expensive hotel may have two controls and more variations of twists, turns and pushes are needed before you can begin. These can be challenging especially for a foggy brain still waking up after a night in a strange bed, but they are still workable.
I am staying in a very nice hotel in Barcelona on this trip. This is the first time that I saw an instruction sheet on the door of the shower. I knew I would be in for an interesting start in the morning but, fortunately, I didn’t comprehend the perverse ingenuity of the designer of this shower before trying to sleep.
After fourteen hours of travel and another six hours of meetings, meals and wine, I collapsed into bed early (for Spain) at about eleven. This morning I was awakened to bright sunlight streaming into my room. I was supposed to be at the first meeting of the day at 9:15 and it was already past 8.
I jumped out of bed, (actually it was more like falling but I landed on my feet so I’m claiming a jump) and hurried to the shower. There on the door was the instruction sheet. I should have resigned myself to smelling bad for a whole week but I was foolish and decided to attempt to use it.
The instruction sheet had two circles drawn on it with arrows, lines and buttons drawn on and around them. The top circle had three arrows pointing out from it, one left, one right and one on top. These were labeled “chorros frontales”, “ducha” and “ducha de mano”. Hmmm, I know a smattering of Spanish so I know “ducha” meant shower. “Ducha de mano” probably meant “hand shower” but I wasn’t sure. “Chorros frontales”, though, was a complete mystery.
The bottom circle had a small red button on the top and a large uncolored button on the bottom. Arrows going around the circle indicated that, whatever it was, it should be turned. There was a arrow pointing to the red button and a long string of Spanish saying something about pressing the red button and doing something that included the word “IZQUIERDA” (all in caps) followed by more Spanish that said something about the temperature of the water. The larger button on the bottom had another string of Spanish that said something about the “opening of the water”.
Now my brain had not fully engaged yet so, rather than screaming and running from the room, I opened the shower door and stepped in. There I found myself facing a panel that went from floor to ceiling. A flexible metal hose hung in a loop and a large shower head projected down from the ceiling. Between them were two ominous round knobs projecting from the wall. I had little idea of what the instructions said while I was reading them and nothing that I saw now added any understanding so I decided to twist, turn and push these knobs until I was able to get a shower running. After all, how hard can a shower be?
The lower knob had a handle projecting out the bottom so I started by grasping the handle and trying to turn it. It didn’t move in a clockwise direction but twisting it the other way produced a vigorous spray of water from the end of the metal hose, directly at the wall behind it. That wasn’t helping much so I turned the handle back and the spraying stopped. Ok, this was some kind of off/on lever; this was progress. Now the question was how to get water to flow from the shower head.
I grasped the upper knob and twisted in both directions. Nothing moved. I got a better grip and twisted again and discovered that there was a ring around it that would turn either way but nothing happened when it turned. I pushed on it and tried to slide it up or down, nothing.
I returned to the lower knob and moved the lever to make water spray at the wall again. Then, with the water running, I twisted the upper knob. Instantly a strong stream of water hit me in the face. I couldn’t see anything and I had no idea where the water came from. With my eyes tightly closed, I felt around on the wall trying to find the lever to turn it off. After getting water in my eyes, up my nose and in my mouth, I found the lever and turned it off.
I was now wide awake and I stopped to look at the controls and relate the instruction sheet information to the controls that I could see. Looking very closely at the upper knob I could see three little dots pressed into the panel, one on the right, one left and one on top. I remembered the instruction sheet said “ducha” on the top so I turned the movable ring to the left and then to the right and determined where the middle was. Holding one hand in front of my eyes, I turned the lower handle and was rewarded with a shower of cold water cascading from the shower head above me. Now I was really, really wide awake.
Suffering through the cold shower, I tried twisting the handle further to get a temperature change but nothing moved. Then I remembered the drawing of the red button. There was no red button to be seen but there was a small chrome button on the top of the lower knob.
I pressed on it and it pushed down into the knob but that didn’t change anything. I was panicking as hypothermia was setting in. Then, holding the button down I twisted the knob vigorously. I was immediately rewarded with a scalding hot blast replacing the cold shower. Leaping back, I hit my head, and other body parts, against the back wall. Now I had to find a way to reach the controls on the other side of the boiling cascade and turn the water off. I had little time to think since steam was rapidly filling the shower stall and soon I wouldn’t be able to see the controls.
In desperation, I slappped my hand down on the lever and was slightly scalded but the boiling waterfall was now just a small trickle of steaming water. Being careful not to get my arm, or any other part of me, in the steaming trickle I pressed the button again and turned the knob. The trickle became cool. I could now control the infernal device.
With great caution, I adjusted the temperature of the water then turned the flow up and took my shower. Then slightly burned but clean I went to my meeting only a little late.
The chorros frontales, by the way, were a series of small nozzles that looked like rivets holding the panel to the wall. Each of them sprayed a strong stream of water toward the spot where a person would be standing. I was actually sprayed from head to foot but the spray in the face was so alarming that I didn’t notice the rest of the sprays until I later experimented with the settings. I don’t really know what their purpose is but evidently some people like a shower that sprays water in your face.