A few weeks ago, the shower door came off its hinges. Lucas was the unlucky one taking a shower, and just as he pulled the door handle to get out, the top hinge snapped and the entire door fell forward. In this house we have only one shower so this was bad news for anyone else who was interested in personal hygiene. Well, not entirely. We do have two bathtubs here, but for those of us who prefer a shower, we would have to wait until the guys from maintenance could come over to fix it.
Our Chinese bathrooms, like much of Shanghai, are decorated in what can only be described as excessive sparkle. They might not be showcases for usable space, but they glitter like nobody’s business. These bathrooms are an appropriate place for jazz hands if ever there was one. The shower is one of the many things in the bathroom that, at first glance, looks fantastic. It is a rectangular glass box with all sorts of jets and nozzles–a certifiable fancy shower. Once you step in, however, you immediately notice a few shortcomings. The space inside is surprisingly small and the door has these strange plastic pieces all around it that are intended to keep the water inside the shower. These pieces fly off frequently, and rarely if ever become a barrier of any kind. This means that showers, particularly ones taken by the under twelve set, result in large lakes being formed on the bathroom floor. Using the fancy jets only exacerbates this problem, so we have had to use the shower’s most exciting features sparingly.
The door isn’t the first thing to go wrong with our super shower. At one point Mark made the startling discovery that the shower only provided cold water no matter how far you turned the temperature nozzle. The kids had taken showers the night before and the rest of the house had plenty of hot water so the problem appeared to be only in the shower. Off to the gym went Mark while I was left to deal with the workmen and the shower situation. After a lengthy discussion involving elaborate hand signals, the problem was fixed. Hooray! Hot showers for everyone! There was one glitch, however. The workman informed me that someone adjusting the water temperature had caused the problem. What? No one had done anything to the water heater or any of the complicated controls on the wall in the kitchen. I was sure of this because none of us could read what any of the buttons said. We were afraid to touch them. Oh no, he explained, someone had adjusted the temperature of the water inside the shower. That was a no no. No more changing the temperature to suit personal preferences. He had set the temperature and we were not to bother the handle in the shower. I had pressed him a little on this. What if it was too hot for the children? That was crazy! No, he insisted, it was not. If we wanted to shower we would need to use the water the way it was. No more fooling around! Needless to say, we all ignored this and haven’t had problems with the water temperature since.
The door was another matter. It was heavy and I was afraid to try to move it or reattach it by myself. The glass hadn’t broken, but there was always the possibility that the bottom hinge would snap and the whole thing would come crashing down. Mark moved it a bit when he came home from work, but other than that we left it and I called the management office in the morning.
While many things are frequently left undone by our management company, a shower door hanging by only one hinge apparently sounds some sort of alarm. A workman was sent over right away to get the door reattached. I showed him the problem and he immediately decided that it was a job requiring more than one person. The door was bulky, and it took one person to hold the door and one person to fix the hinge. He got on the phone and management sent one more guy over. Together they started the work and I went back downstairs.
A few minutes later there was a loud thump. No crashing, no cursing, and no screaming– just a very loud thump. I thought about going upstairs to check, but wedging myself in the small bathroom as two guys tried to fix the shower had been unpleasant the first time I tried it. And once I joined them in the bathroom, I would need to try to explain myself in Mandarin. I decided that if there was a problem I would certainly find out. No need to rush bad news by going upstairs and poking around, right? Not five minutes later one of the workmen scurried down the stairs. He had wrapped his right forearm completely in toilet paper and was holding the mummified appendage above his head. He didn’t make eye contact with me. He just walked out the front door, got on his bicycle, and rode off. He was steering with his good arm.
Now I was forced to go upstairs and investigate. Sure enough, the shower door was broken and the other workman was three inches deep in glass shards. His arms were cut, but apparently he thought his wounds weren’t serious enough to warrant leaving the job site. He asked for a broom and some bags and started shoveling the glass bits off the floor. I got the vacuum in an attempt to contain what had exploded out onto the bedroom carpet. The management office called. The developer was on his way over. Ten minutes later five new guys appeared at the door and rushed up to the bathroom. They didn’t even bother to remove their shoes, which I took to mean this was serious business. Of course, it could just mean they were jerks that didn’t care about tracking dirt in my house. Either way, they brought glass downstairs with them when they left, spreading it all over the stairs and into the dining room.
Only the lone workman remained and he stayed all day. Once I thought the mess was reasonably taken care of I encouraged him to leave. I tried to explain that I could clean up the rest. He deemed this absolutely unacceptable and kept right on running his bare hands along every surface. He winced whenever he found another tiny glass shard, would pull it from his flesh, and immediately go back to sliding his hands on the floor again. He took everything off the counters and shook the glass loose. He moistened an entire roll of toilet paper and used it to basically mop the floor. When he was finally finished he apologized profusely.
We waited two weeks for the replacement door to arrive. When it did they delivered it at night, and left it lying in the tiny strip of grass between our house and the neighbors’. Mark only noticed it when he went out to make a phone call. It wasn’t in a box, just a long sheet of glass propped up on thick wads of paper. Luckily, no one stepped on it. The door was finally installed on Sunday morning and we are now back to flooding the upstairs bathroom every night. Unfortunately, even after all that, my triceps are still a bit flabby.