November 8: on taking a shower

As I was crossing Hungerford Bridge today I heard a woman behind me say to her friend ‘When I got into the shower I was a student nurse, when I got out I was a nurse’. I tried to work this out. Maybe the allocation of the nursing degree happened automatically at a certain time with the degree being dependant on a period of inhouse experience. This was what I concluded. Things can happen in a minute. You can get into a shower in the red before your salary gets paid into your account and get out in the black when the transfer of this month’s pay has gone through. This, of course, has nothing to do with the shower itself. It is not hygiene that makes you rich, though your whole life can switch round in the duration of a shower without you lifting a little finger to implement any change. You can give the order for someone to be bumped off at midday precisely, so that when you step out onto the bath mat your nemesis has been liquidated. You can reach the age of twenty-one and come into your fortune, inheriting daddy’s or Uncle Joe’s millions. You can make a simple decision that will transform the rest of your life. Give up drink, or drugs or cigarettes. It is in the breaks that decisons are made. At half-time the coach will rejig the team or in your night’s sleep or your afternoon nap, when nothing should be happening, that a decision will suddenly fit into place. Life happens to us as much as we happen to it. Though when I step into a shower normally no major transformations take place. I wash my hair and make perfunctory washing gestures around four strategic areas: the privates; the bottom and the two armpits. These are the major crisis points of cleanliness, I find. I rinse and step out. I look in the mirror. No change.

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