from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #50: Strange Handicaps, Part I: Hot Showers

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This is the first part of an installment on peculiarities I have that made the Army difficult for me beyond the obvious handicaps of language and culture. I’m hoping it won’t come out too much like I’m bitching but rather that it will be informative for the few people I’ve come into contact with who are considering going to the Korean Army for some reason. Everybody has their own quirks and these are the ones that made a difference.

I enjoy hot showers. Hot is actually a gross understatement. I enjoy scalding, third-degree burn heat where the nerves in your whole body tingle, there’s so much steam you can’t see a foot in front of yourself, and you come out of the shower red like a cooked lobster. Even in the summer. These days, after I come out of the shower, I’m sweating more than I did going in.

When I was growing up, it was a constant complaint from my younger brother. Needing to take a hot shower, I’d wake up first to take a shower and when Jason would go into the bathroom, he’d always wave the steam from his face and say, “Damn, Holden.”

It’s also that I don’t just enjoy them, I have to take them. Lukewarm water is too cold for me. I’m a pussy when I go to the pool or beach because the water is rarely close enough to the temperature my body needs. If you see a grown man who still has only his toes in the water after ten minutes, it’s probably me.

I know that there’s a possibility no one else has this particular idiosyncrasy, but who knows? When I was in the Army, people kept telling me that they knew of other people in my situation but I still have never met another in person. I did see someone post something on a message board once but he ignored my private message. My point is, just because I’ve never personally met someone like me doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.

The problem with the Korean Army is that there is only hot water three months of the year. The other nine months, the water isn’t lukewarm. It’s skull-splittingly freezing. I swear every time I washed my hair—to prolong not taking a shower in ice water—I ended up with a headache. Externally caused brain-freeze.

I couldn’t understand how water that wasn’t cooled could be so cold. I’d think it was a possibility that they cooled it on purpose but Army bastards are also cheap-asses. When it got to the point where I had to take a shower, I’d try to find a time when I’d be alone because of the chance of getting hit by spray from an adjacent showerhead and wet my hands and give myself the equivalent of a sponge bath. I don’t like being the stinky kid in the bunch but my threshold for stink is fairly high. I also like to think that I naturally don’t give off any body odor but it might be along the lines of thinking my shit don’t stink. (It normally doesn’t unless my stomach is bothering me but that’s a story for another day.)

Afghanistan was my salvation. Despite being in extremely hot surroundings, the US contractors supplied us with hot water daily. When I returned to Daegu after my deployment, I was at a rank where it didn’t matter that I stunk anymore.

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