Problem Solving in the Shower

black shower head switched on
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For as long I can remember, my showers have been orderly affairs of strictly utilitarian purpose, varying only by season. In the depth of winter, I take them scalding hot. In the heat of summer, I don’t even bother with the hot water faucet. Aside from that, I’ve tried to make my showers as quick and efficient as possible: wash hair, scrub body, shave (if necessary), and done.

If shave, my shower might run five minutes; if don’t it is usually closer to three minutes. I multitask while I am scrubbing and lathering. Showers are a great place to think great thoughts. Thoughts and ideas come to me more frequently in showers than anywhere else, perhaps because my mind, like my body, is totally unencumbered beneath that virtual rainstorm. On occasion, I may linger in a shower as an idea catches, I turn it this way and that in my mind, forgetting everything else. Usually, a good idea forces me out of the shoewr quickly. I don’t want to lose it.

And that is just the problem: sometimes, I lose things in the shower. The most common thing I lose is my memory of washing my hair. Though it only took place four or five minutes earlier, as I get older, I frequently find myself wondering, Did I wash my hair? I had the same problem trying to remember if I took my vitamins in the morning. I solved that problem by crossing out the day on my Field Notes work station calendar immediately after taking my vitamins. I have no such tool readily available in the shower to make note of the status of my hair.

This morning, I decided to push the shower to work for me on the problem. As I do with various thoughts and ideas for stories, essays, blog posts, I considered the problem of remembering whether or not I washed my hair, even as a scrubbed away at my scalp. Is there some trick or mnemonic that would work?

I was nearly finished rinsing (no need to shave today) when the shower came up with the solution, and a completely obvious and workable solution. So obvious, in fact, that, creature of habit that I am when it comes to my showers (and other things), I might never have stumbled upon the idea on my own. The idea, elegant in its simplicity, was this:

Wash your hair last thing instead of first thing.

It will take some getting used to. I’ve been washing my hair first thing in the shower for more than forty years now. But if washing my hair at the end of the shower instead of the beginning will help to guarantee that I won’t forget if I’ve washed my hair by the time my shower is over, then I’m all for giving it a try.

Having written this out, I do spot a flaw in my plan: will I forget whether or not I scrubbed my body by the time my shower ends?

I think I’ll leave that problem to tomorrow’s shower.

Written on May 25, 2022.

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