The Director of Aquatics

January 09, 2006

I have a strategy for dealing with the cold January evening when I just can't get rid of the chill.

But before I explain my strategy, I feel compelled to defend the contention it is ever cold indoors in Baton Rouge, even in January. The first thing to understand is that our house was built before that most innovative technology: insulation. There's none in the walls, there's none above the ceiling, and there certainly isn't any beneath the wood floors, built on piers above a big, cold, muddy plain beneath the house.


And because summer is so miserable, we have the biggest, hungriest, turbo-powered air conditioning unit that average people could possibly afford. But it's just as powerful a heater. The result of this is that the house turns into a sweltering rain forest, complete with monkeys calling from upstairs and the occasional flash of Macaw plumage within about five minutes of cranking on the heater. So, we usually just leave the central heat off.

Without insulation, it takes little time for the 40-degree air to seep into the house, and cool it down. Most of the time, this isn't a problem. The gas fireplace warms the TV room to bearable, and the down comforter makes sleep possible. Most other activity comes to a halt.

The exception is in the old bathroom downstairs. It was probably the only bathroom in the house originally. It has one of those old in-wall, fire hazard gas heaters. Then, during some subsequent renovation, someone put in a modern light/vent/heat fixture in the ceiling. I turn on both the electric heater and the gas heater and run a hot bath.

Normally, within 15 or 20 minutes, my chill is gone, and I've turned into a fat, pink, sweating body bobbing gently in a steamy pool. At that point, I could walk naked through a snowstorm for 100 yards or so before feeling chilly again. It's quite nice to be that hot when the house is so cold.

My current problem is that cat who I call "Director of Aquatics." He has a fascination with all things related to the plumbing. As soon as he hears a sink running, or hears you splashing around in the tub, he has to be there to oversee the experience. Rarely do I finish a shower without opening the curtain to find him there.

His biggest threat (although he has no idea) is that I will piss over the back of his head, as he steps up on hind legs to get a look into the bowl as I urinate.

Last night, I started a bath, but hesitated before closing the door. I knew the Director of Aquatics would be banging on it with his paws as soon as I got wet, forcing me out of the tub and into the still-cold room to open it for him. Don't suggest that I could ignore the racquet he makes when he detects unauthorized use of the plumbing.

So, I decided to leave the door open a crack. Just wide enough for a skinny cat to slide through. Unfortunately, the dog decided to nudge it all the way open. I didn't want to get out of the warm water, so I just let my double-heated air rush out into the frigid house, to be disbursed and cooled.

My bathroom never did warm up right, but at least the Director of Aquatics was happy.