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The State of Shower Faucets Is a Farce

Our showers are making us feel inadequate, and it needs to stop

(Ringer illustration)
(Ringer illustration)

Think back to the last time you showered somewhere new. Maybe you were staying with friends; maybe you were on vacation; maybe your parents downsized now that you and your brother have moved out, and you were left at Thanksgiving to sleep on a couch and sort through old baseball cards. Let’s talk about what happened the next morning when you borrowed a towel and pulled back the shower curtain. Let’s talk about how you reached for the faucet, got the water going, and then made a face. Let’s talk about how, for a moment, you had no earthly idea how to get the shower running. Friends, let’s talk about shower faucets, and the ways in which they are no good, bad, terrible, and unworthy of their vaunted place in our lives.

Some have a spinning temperature handle that you have to tug on, away from the wall. Some have a single knob that, ha ha, maybe the water is warm now, or maybe it’s way the fuck too warm, who knows! Some have a prong you have to pull up. Some have to be turned 360 degrees to work. Some have a separate temperature adjuster on top of the main handle. Some have a completely inexplicable ring hiding beneath the spout that you have to pull down to go into shower mode, an invention that apparently takes for granted that you, naked and sleepy and shivering, will climb around the bathroom digging into and yanking on every available surface.

Look at all these people in distress! Look at how sad they are — how confused and sorry they are about their inability to complete what should nominally be a simple task. Seriously: This woman filmed her shower appliances and posted the video on the internet! And it has more than 18,000 views!

There is, in fact, a whole cottage industry here. In the same way that you might turn to YouTube for a tutorial explaining how to swap out a cracked iPhone screen or recover deleted files, the brave hosts of YouTube are only too willing to offer shower-faucet demos. “OK, good morning,” begins one. “This is how you turn on the shower at the Hilton Garden Inn in Jonesboro, Arkansas.” “I am hoping I am not the only one that felt a little stupid out there,” the narrator of another offered, “considering on Google there is a lot of people searching for this same instruction.”

When it comes time to offer guidance, it is basically: Try everything. “First try moving the shower knob (the one that controls the temperature of the shower),” wrote one shower seer on Yahoo! Answers. “Try pulling it or pushing it in, or try turning it all the way in both directions while the water is running. Look for a pin-looking thing on the tub faucet.” Try tickling it. Try singing to it. Try knocking softly on the wall. Try clapping twice. (“Thank you soooooo much!!!!!!” the original poster responded.)

Why is taking a shower this complicated? Why do the instructions sound like a wizard’s guidelines to charm a dragon? Why are we left to pore over videos of strangers’ bathrooms like the Zapruder film? Yes: In the whole sweeping spectrum of problems facing mankind, not knowing how to coax your Holiday Inn into getting rid of your bedhead ranks pretty low. But are we not the greatest nation on the face of the Earth? Is America not a land of dreamers and builders, with the eyes of all people upon us? Are we content to let our problems go unsolved, our mediocrities fester?

The state of shower faucets is a farce, and it is time for it to change. I’m not asking for peace. I’m not even asking for efficiency. But to all the plumbers and bathroom-aisle salespeople of the world: Consider, maybe, some collusion, a brighter future where all faucets operate the same way. If nothing else, it’ll at least stop making people feel so dumb.