Ronnie and I did a lot of traveling this year. I thought I'd spare you some of the usual blue sky, majestic mountains and beautiful beaches commentary and cover some more basic issues. You know, the kind of things that you have to confront at some time or other, whether you want to or not. For example. Ronnie is beginning to document all the different types of toilets that there are in the world. Now, you would think that a rudimentary bodily function would dictate a certain conformity in design. On the contrary, it just proves how creative the human mind can be.

     She is mostly interested in the ingenuity involved in the flushing mechanisms. There are any number of different ways to get the process started. First you must find and recognize the contraption that sets it all off. There are switches, levers, buttons, knobs, chains, pedals and slides. These can be pushed, pulled, poked, kicked and stepped on. Special mention must be given to the one disguised as part of the wall. That took a while to find. For the truly adventurous, there’s the spring loaded seat which, I believe, is designed to expedite the entire process for the unwary. Ronnie's particular favorite automatically wrapped the seat with an individualized sheet of plastic when the cover was raised - the height of luxury!

     Although I share Ronnie's curiosity about the latter, I am more intrigued by all the methods that have been developed to really screw up a shower. There are the usual techniques, such as changing the temperature of the water every 15 seconds or so, in order to alternately scald the upper layer of skin off you and then, after you've been sensitized, blast you with water cold enough to bring on coronary arrest.

     Total loss of water pressure is also popular, usually timed to occur when you are fully soaped up. This year I have run into a couple of new ones. In Zagreb, Croatia, after I had adjusted the temperature and flow to my liking and was busily soaping away, the water totally stopped and the pipes started clanking and banging. "Aha", I surmised. This Is a variation on the old loss of water pressure trick. A sixth sense told me to switch the flow from the shower head to the faucet. While I watched and listened in total fascination, suddenly everything let loose and a gush of bright red water came shooting out the pipes. Do you know how fast a 51 year old man can move when he has to? I was a blur getting out of that tub!

     In Sofia, Bulgaria, I ran into a refinement on the billowing curtain effect. As you must have observed at some time or another, the warm air rising from the shower causes the curtain to tend to move Inward. The Bulgarians have managed to create a curtain that exploits this. When I switched to the shower from the faucet, the curtain suddenly transformed Itself into a wild animal and attacked me! Not only did It react instantly to the warm air and jump at you but it had the proper consistency and weight to stick to any part of the body it touched. You literally had to pull it off you. It made me wonder how long it took the former Communist regime to develop this. I can't believe it was merely an accident.

Things are different in eastern Europe. There's always something new to discover. This year, I was asked to take part in a computer road show in the Ukraine, except we used a boat.


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