Apostle Islands Area Campground, Bayfield, Wisconsin
As Joan said in her post this morning, not a whole lot happened yesterday. We had to take Smooch to the vet because of vomiting and diarrhea, but I’m guessing that readers aren’t real interested in hearing the fine details about that. So since very little happened yesterday, except Joan’s terrific pictures of the rainbow over the sailboats, there just wasn’t enough to make a post, so I didn’t make one this morning. We actually had a pretty good morning today exploring one of the Apostle Islands, and I will write about that tomorrow morning like I usually do.
But I just had one of those experiences that get the juices rolling and decided I’d make a post today after all. I want to talk about Pay Showers.
Now, if you’ve followed our posts, then you know I am a very big man, many say too big, and, quite frankly, I don’t fit in the shower in our tiny little trailer. Not only does my head stick up through the ventilation fan shaft when I stand in it, but the curtain can’t go around my body if I’m in the shower. Lathering up is a very interesting experience as half of me has to extend outside the bathtub in order to even bend over. If I were to drop the bar of soap, well, its all over.
So that means I’m at the mercy of whatever public showers are available at or near the campground we are staying in. Sometimes it means I have to drive into town and find a public shower because the campground just doesn’t have any. National Park campgrounds typically offer just the basic amenities in a campsite and showers aren’t one of them. State and local parks almost always offer showers and they are also, almost always, free of charge. Usually, but not always, they are clean, the water is hot, and they are roomy enough that I can change my clothes. It may not be my personal shower, but it works and I get clean. We love state and local campgrounds because they give you so much value for your dollar and that includes a shower.
Then there are the private campgrounds. The story is a very mixed bag with these things. In the first place, private campgrounds charge anywhere from 50% more to double the price of a state park. The facilities cater to families with small children and, frequently, have swimming pools, recreation halls, playgrounds, and even, on occasion, miniature golf courses. KOA campgrounds take this notion to the extreme and, when no other options have been available, we pay $100 or more per night for the privilege of staying in these crowded and noisy, Disneyland wannabes.
Yes, they usually have showers and they range from tiny and dirty to large and clean with every possible option in-between. Frequently they are free, but just as frequently you have to pay to use the shower. And that is what I want to talk about.
You see, after our hike today, I needed a shower - it is humid here in Wisconsin, and I was sticky and dirty after our two mile hike and a boat ride, so I needed a shower. Now this is a private campground. Not a KOA, mind you, but a privately run affair. The sites are more expensive than our average campground, and they are packed together pretty tightly, in order to maximize income. So when eating dinner, it is not uncommon to see and hear everyone else eating dinner at the same time.
The public bathroom is an interesting building. There are six toilet stalls and they all have partial doors that open onto the public green. So people can see your feet as you are sitting there which also means that it isn’t very warm there either. (Needless to say, this campground isn’t open in the winter.). Not exactly the ultimate in privacy, or comfort, but I can live with it.
The showers are next door to the toilet stalls and offer a tad more privacy. They are large enough for me to turn around, and even have a stool to sit on when dressing and undressing. Oh, and the water was plentiful and hot, at least after about a minute of warming up.
But this is a private campground and so there’s a catch - it is a pay shower. Now, I knew that in advance, because I had scoped it out, anticipating that they might do that. Private campgrounds, after all, are more likely to have pay showers than public campgrounds. So I had gone in there and read the thing. Armed with information, I had acquired the necessary coins BEFORE I even went there.
It required six quarters just to get it started and the first five minutes. Then each additional quarter added an additional 50 seconds. Yeah, let that sit in there for a while. Not a minute, not even half-a-minute, but exactly 50 seconds!
OK, so if you are going to take a shower, you have to take with you the necessary coinage. I mean, its not like you have it stashed away in the folds of your skin - you have to plan for this. Thank god it only took quarters, that at least simplified the problem.
But how many did I need? Hmm, well at least six, but that gave me just five minutes. Would that be enough? Well, I don’t know. Exactly how dirty am I? Do I really know how long it takes for me to take a shower? No, I have to admit that I have never measured the length of my shower. I’m pretty sure it is longer than five minutes, but probably less than fifteen. Ten, maybe? OK, we’ll settle on ten.
So then, how many quarters do I need? Six to get started, but how much for the five additional minutes? Hmm, well how many 50 second intervals go into five minutes? Well five minutes is five times sixty seconds which is 300 seconds. And, well 50 divides into 300 six times, so I guess I need an additional six quarters. Oh, but what happens if I’m still not done? Maybe I need a reserve to make sure I can finish my shower. So maybe I take an additional nine quarters plus the six I need to start, so that means 15 quarters.
We actually do have quarters in the trailer because we need them to do laundry, so I raided the laundry quarter bag but, unfortunately, there were only 10 quarters in the bag. Damn. So off to the office I go to get some additional quarters. Now mind you, it is running a little late and I’m still dirty and sticky. But I get to the office and give them two dollars for change. So now I have 18 quarters. By my calculations that should be enough.
I gather all my shaving stuff, a change of clothes, and my towel and head on down to the public shower. Shaving was a bit of a challenge because the faucets are those kind that you have to hold open with one hand, or else the water shuts off immediately, not after a few seconds, but immediately.
I manage to finish shaving and head into the shower. Get everything ready, get stark raving naked, and then I have to confront the machine. Fortunately, I have my 18 quarters laying there on the stool so I can get them quickly. So I start to feed the machine. But, how many do I start with? Oh, and how does this machine work? Should I put all of my quarters in at once, or should I wait and see if I really need them? Especially since I don’t really know how long it takes me to shower! I know I need at least six in there and sure enough, right after the sixth quarter, the shower head starts spraying. Its frigging cold, though, so I look for a valve to turn to adjust the temperature - there is none. THEY have decided your water temperature, you don’t have a say. Great, I say, so I get to actually pay good quarters to take a cold shower.
Feeling the cold water, I now have second doubts about a long shower and decide not to put all my quarters into the damn box but to hurry as fast as I can and get the hell out of the cold, probably Lake Superior, water. So I stop after about 10 quarters. After about a minute or so, the water starts to get warmer, and, finally, the shower is really pretty hot and feels good. I start to relax a bit and enjoy the heat and the pulsating pressure on my shoulders and back. I wash my hair and start cleaning the rest of my body.
But wait, how much longer do I have? When do I need to put in more quarters? How will I know that I need to add more time? Does the machine beep at me? Yes, of course, it must - that’s what the car wash does, so what’s different here. Yes, it must beep a minute or so before its going to stop to give me time to add more quarters. Obviously!
Nope! Suddenly, the water just stops and there I am. Dripping of course, but half of my body still hasn’t rinsed yet. I feel my legs and my butt and there’s a slimy, soapy film still covering me. Damn, I’m not done, but I’ve exhausted my ten quarters. What do I do now?
I open the curtain and look at the machine. There are no instructions for a restart, there is no blinking light, no button to push. I’m screwed! I can either quit my shower now, with soap covering half my body, or I can take a second shower.
I’m not rich, but for a buck and a half, I guess I’m willing to finish things up and get completely rinsed off. So in go the six quarters to restart the damn machine, the water comes on, thankfully it is hot, and I finish showering. Since there is no way to stop the water and get my quarters back, I enjoy a few additional minutes of warm water splashing on my neck and shoulders.
The story here is obvious - pay showers are a total rip off and establishments who charge, especially a variable, machine controlled, shower experience should be ashamed of themselves. These mechanism do nothing to conserve water - the typical capitalist excuse for paying for stuff - because I actually had to waste additional water by running a second shower. (I suppose I could have offered it up to the next person, but there wasn’t a next person. And besides, I really wasn’t into sharing my stall with someone else.)
Bottom-line is this was just a way for the campground operators to make a few extra bucks. If you are going to charge for showers, make it a nominal standardized fee, like maybe $2. Don’t try to control water usage. Most campers are pretty conservative folks anyway - we have to be careful with how we use things like water and fuel, so we aren’t going to waste much, if any.
Pay Showers like this are one of Capitalism’s finest moments
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