Library Rambler: Frying water for a bath
In the old camper I once lived in, the door would sometimes freeze shut so that I could not get out. This happened because I did not have running water. To get washed up for work, I first fetched water from the livestock spigot in two five-gallon water bottles. Ten gallons often lasted me three days.
To heat water, I used a large electric frying pan. Once it had come to a boil, I dumped it into a pail partly filled with cold water. This was my washing up water.
Unfortunately, all the steam from the boiling water would penetrate the gaps between the camper’s metal door and the metal door frame. On mornings when the temperature was -10 or colder, the steam froze resulting in a door that did not open.
I did have a rear door on my 32 foot camper, but opening it was risky. It sometimes fell off its hinges. So, I was very reluctant to open it, especially during cold, wintry mornings.
The first time the front door froze shut, I tried to muscle it open, but it would not budge. It took me a while to realize what had happened and then how to heat the door enough to melt the ice. Later, I bought a milkhouse heater but, on that first morning, I only had a hair dryer. After heating the door for about 20 minutes, I got the door open.
Driving to work, I tried to think of some believable excuse for why I was late. I was starting to build a reputation for improbable excuses and needed to avoid doing it again.
My most recent improbable excuse was saying that I was out sick because I had cat-scratch fever. I got it from a cat scratch, and should have said cat-scratch disease (that is what my physician called it, although, to be honest, she was actually a veterinarian). At that time, the phrase cat-scratch fever was a euphemism for something more alarming.
I blame my years living aboard a destroyer escort in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for my unfamiliarity with the popular tune by Ted Nugent called Cat-Scratch Fever. Years after my unlucky use of that phrase, I learned that my co-workers and my boss knew the tune. They all knew, too, that the fever referred to in the tune was something you get from being especially promiscuous. At the time, I did not even have a girlfriend.
So, when I matter-of-factly told my boss, within the hearing of my co-workers, the reason for using sick leave was because I had cat-scratch fever, he seemed shocked. Believing that his shocked expression was concern for my well being (when in fact he was probably reacting to what he saw as a form of effrontery or even insubordination), I assured him that my veterinarian had loaded me up with enough antibiotics to take care of the problem.
“I meant to say ‘doctor’,” I said.
He looked at me for a couple seconds, trying to determine if I was a crafty person and, finding nothing to suggest that likelihood, said “good” and left.
It was 10 years later before all the parameters of my social blunder were explained to me by one of the women who worked with me. Even without that explanation, the guffaws I heard from co-workers as I was talking to my boss were enough to persuade me that I had said something quite ridiculous.
So, on the day my door froze shut because I was frying up some water, I decided that my frozen-door excuse was just as unbelievable as cat-scratch fever. Instead, I decided to go with a story about forgetting to turn on my alarm.
Rhinelander District Library director Ed Hughes is available at 715-365-1070.