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The get away capsule
This Side Up

This is the perfect time of year to be in the water.

Why else would the Henriques family and their friends plan to jump into the Bay Saturday at noon? The event is the second annual Rhode Island Polar Dip to benefit Camp Sunshine to be held at Oakland Beach. Or, why else would firefighters chop a hole through 6-inch ice on Sand Pond behind Vets High School? In that case, the divers are appropriately attired for a plunge, with dry suits, neoprene gloves and tight caps to keep the water from soaking their heads. But then, members of the firefighters’ dive team are carrying 60 pounds of gear and heading for the murky bottom, where they can’t see 2 feet, in clouds of silt stirred by their kicking feet. No, that’s not my idea of fun beneath the ice.

But there are few better places than the tub during cold winter days.

Oh sure, you can say the tub is a gal’s domain and guys take showers. Well, if that’s the case, you’re missing out on a good thing.

I was introduced to the tub at an early age. I can remember bath time as great fun. I was the master of the seas, creating waves that swamped the Ivory soap, the boat that couldn’t sink. My grandmother wasn’t too keen on my antics, forever reminding me not to get the floor wet. Her warnings were of little use. The floor was always wet, which meant pushing the bath mat around with my foot.

When we bought our first house after I got married, a beachside Victorian in Riverside, it had no shower. There was an enameled cast-iron tub that stood on claw feet. A showerhead at the end of a rubber hose pushed over the spout served for a quick rinse and that’s all it was good for. But the tub was marvelous. Once the metal of the tub was hot, it would keep warm until your fingertips wrinkled and you felt like you were melting. There was no better place to read a book, as long as you remained awake.

When we moved to Warwick, we got a genuine shower, even if it was in a tub. It had a regulator that was independent of the faucets for the tub, and a curtain that ran along a rod extending from the wall. The shower was quick and easy, a decided improvement from the hose arrangement in Riverside.

It was the tub that beckoned when winter winds rattled the windows. It was cast iron but of a more modern vintage, with high rounded walls and an X-shaped handle that jutted from the tiled wall with the neatly enameled letters, “drain.” Twisting it triggered a clunking sound from under the tub and the filling or draining the tub.

Fact is, we would probably still have that tub if it wasn’t for decades of dripping feet, splashing kids and compromised grout between tub and floor and tub and wall. My grandmother had good reason to be so fussy.

In any case, the living room ceiling started showing signs of the tub about 20 years ago. At first, the paint flaked, leaving a snowy dust on the couch. Then the ceiling started to bulge and crack. The bulge was a near-perfect outline of the tub.

Carol and I never took it too seriously. We joked about making a splash landing in the living room. Somehow, guests were not amused. They always avoided the couch.

Finally, we took the plunge and remodeled the bathroom last year. Before starting, the contractor wedged two-by-fours between the living room ceiling and the floor and between that floor and the basement floor below. The tub won’t be falling through the ceiling.

Actually, the living room ceiling, which we ended up replacing, sprang up a couple of inches when the tiled concrete flooring and tub were removed.

In the old tub’s place, is a longer, fiberglass model with a row of pin-like holes about five inches from the bottom. With a turn of a dial, air jets from the holes create a bubbling cauldron that is supposed to gently massage your body. I don’t find it that soothing, although Carol uses it occasionally.

On the other hand, the tub is a dream.

The reality is that it is nothing more than a rectangular container. It’s a great place to read, even take a snooze. Short of a flight to Florida, it’s a cure to the polar vortex and no longer do we wonder if we could end up in the living room.


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