I want to tell you about the best shower I ever had.
It happened on July 30, 2005 at a Sheraton Hotel in Iowa City.
I’ve always loved showers. For me, time does not exist in the shower. A really long shower is the closest I will ever get to traveling through time in a TARDIS. Unfortunately, the shower-TARDIS only allows you to travel alarmingly far into your own future.
I fear one day I will take a long, lazy shower and I will step out into a post-apocalyptic nightmarescape where Amazon drones scan your stomach to see if you’re hungry and then fire a Taco Bell breakfast burrito at your head and autocharge your wristwallet 72 bitcoins. Then, a newspaper would waft down the street and wrap around my leg. I would pick it up and look in shock at the far- flung future date. Except it wouldn’t be a newspaper, it would be a forty pound iPad Maximum and it would break my ankle when it came flying down the street.
That whole paragraph is procrastination.
If we’re honest, that’s why I like showers. Sure, they clean the body if done correctly, but I read early on in my writing career that Douglas Adams avoided his writing with long bathing sessions.
“If it’s good enough for Douglas Adams, it’s good enough for me,” I would often say out loud to myself as I abandoned my computer for the loving embrace of the shower.
Despite the wisdom of Douglas Adams, I’ve found the best showers are not wet soapy avoidance; they’re hot, cathartic rewards.
So it was in the summer of 2005.
Back in this chapter of my career as a comedy human, I was primarily writing and performing comedic plays for the stage. I was desperately trying to finish what would end up being the most successful theater-type show I produced.
The show is called Adventures in Mating. It started life at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. After that it was performed in Minneapolis every Monday night for two years straight. The show has played in Seattle, Las Vegas, New York, Indianapolis, Dallas, the UK, and it’s still running on and off in Bulgaria. No, really, Bulgaria. I even wrote an essay about the creation of the show for MIT Press.
Adventures in Mating is a romantic comedy inspired by Choose Your Own Adventure Novels. A poorly matched couple, Jeffrey and Miranda, meet at a restaurant for a horrific first date. A much-suffering waiter attends the combative couple, pauses the action when needed, and gets the audience to vote on key decisions: white wine or red? Should Miranda stay or go? Should Jeffrey answer his cell phone or should the waiter? What kind of cheese should they get on their burgers?
In the spirit of the original Choose Your Own Adventure novels, if the audience chose poorly, characters could even die.
Every choice was scripted. The original show was an hour long, but in order to make the concept work the way I wanted, I had to script about four hours of show.
“That’s going to take a lot of showers,” I thought. “But I can do it.”
The first person I told about the concept of the show was my future wife, Sara, and I told her about it on our first date.
She thought it sounded great.
So did I.
But who wants to spend all their time writing four hours of romantic comedy when you just started dating the love of your life?
Ironically, the whole summer of 2005, I put Sara through a bizarre, unintentional one-sided romantic comedy.
It was like the writer of my life got nervous and decided to dump every conflict they could think of into those few months.
My car broke down. I had some conflict with my immediate family. I had some conflict with ex-girlfriends. I was seriously injured performing children’s theater and spent four weeks on crutches. I went on a 17-stop bar crawl and decided to have a drink at every bar. I saw Revenge of the Sith in the theater twice.
The rehearsals for my comedy epic were usually just me apologizing that the script wasn’t done yet. But I was making good progress: I had three scenes out of twenty-seven.
I drew flowcharts to explain all the scenes I still had to write. Over the summer, I watched the cast’s eyes slowly fill with horror as they realized how many words I wanted to make them put into their brains. Once, I canceled rehearsal and bought them ice cream.
“I can do this,” I thought trying to manage an ice cream cone, crutches, and my LIES.
The clock ticked down. The script had to be done on Sunday, July 31st for our tech rehearsal. We could finish actually rehearsing and memorizing the show before it opened a few days later.
I had pared the concept down to only require about 15 different scenes for a total of two hours of potential show.
“Okay,” I said to myself on Thursday, July 28th, “Let’s finish these last seven scenes real quick before you drive to Iowa tomorrow to go to one of Sara’s best friends’ wedding.”
I opened up the script. My computer died.
I wanted to rage flip the world and just go see Revenge of the Sith for the third time.
But I couldn’t. I still didn’t have a car.
Sara picked me up, drove me to the Apple Store to drop off my broken laptop, and then she let me use her computer. I spent the night reconstructing the script out of the individual scenes I had already emailed to the cast.
On Friday we raced down the highway to Iowa and Sara listened and questioned as I pitched her ideas for the final scenes. We went to the rehearsal dinner. The wine was delicious. No one else there had seen Revenge of the Sith. I told everyone about the script. They all thought it sounded like a great idea.
I got up early Saturday morning on July 30th, 2005 and hunched over my girlfriend’s computer, pounding away at the keys, in a Sheraton in Iowa City.
With an hour and a half left before the wedding, I typed “THE END” on the third possible ending of the show.
I sent the show off to one of the cast members back in Minneapolis to print, I took a deep breath, and then IT HAPPENED.
The best shower of my life.
My clothes fell away from me. I managed to walk to the shower without even using my cane. I stepped into the shower and adjusted the blissfully easy-to-understand dials. The warm, steady water blasted down. Angels sang. The angels’ song was a power pop rock ballad with a killer bass line and just the right amount of cowbell. I remembered a lecture from a cultural studies class I had taken in college about Sigmund Freud’s concept of human happiness as the “oceanic feeling” — a worry-free state of amniotic sense memory.
My mind wandered toward the future. In that hotel shower, I correctly imagined that this shower would alter the course of my future.
Since 2005, I’ve been behind on many writing deadlines many times. Whenever possible, I promise myself a shower at the end of the script. Every stress-filled deadline becomes an opportunity to chase that perfect shower — that wholesome, warm, cathartic high. Like being back in the womb, but with just a little joyous cowbell.
I reeled my mind back from all the future showers to the present. Unlike other indulgent showers, this one had to last just the right amount of time. I had a wedding to attend.
I turned off the shower. The moisture level in the room was perfect. My body seemed to auto-dry. I put on a nice suit. I joined the rest of the wedding party in another hotel room. Someone asked me if I had finished the script. I nodded yes. He said “good job” and he handed me a glass of Johnnie Walker.
It was clean and neat. And so was I.
Thank you, Mating Shower. Thank you.