…I tell myself as I head to the washroom. Forget the gold-laced bathrooms of the Holiday Inn. I’m a full-throttled Chinese student, and I will live as the Chinese Everyman does. I will take a cold shower.
Here I am draped in a goofy towel, locked in preparation. I’m ten feet from the washroom, and already my shivers are enough to jolt the space-time continuum. My sandals flop against the tiles like pigs plunked onto the slaughter board. I snail toward the forbidden door.
I gulp air, and squeeze it back out. Cold showers build character—I repeat that line again and again. I repeat that line again and again. I repeat that line again and again. I force two more steps, hoping that ozone shenanigans will have steamed the water supply by the time I reach you-know-where.
The bathroom tiles chill through my sandals. I marshal my moxie and then plod though stalls about as clean as Chicago politics. Within seconds a frosty nozzle is grinning at me, coiled, perched, ready to strike with a thousand pangs of ghoulish glee. I was staring into the face of Everyday China.
Cold showers build character, I remind myself. I turn the knob a 90 degrees. Cold showers build—glugluglug SPTANG! the iciness lurches forth like a satanic Niagara, sploosh! as the water clobbers hair to skull. Short breathes as my body slams into survival mode. This cold water is the mother of all colds, the kind of cold that every other cold secretly tries to outdo.
But that’s ok. The water fire-hoses dirt off my body and leaves me fresh. Taking a dip under this frigid waterfall has invigorated me, banished me from mammoni-dom and baptized me in the pizazz of everyday China’s runny nose. What’s more, Ricky and I are now ready to mount our own climb, ready to rise above the need for hot water and Western frills, to leap off the launching pad of our hardened characters and rocket skyward on the fuel, the currents, of cold showers and goofy towels.
But tomorrow we might just wake up ten minutes earlier to catch the hot water.