With no deliberate premeditation, these recent stories seem naturally connected.
Watch how this works.
Because too many Canadian visitors “looked me up” when they were in London, I was summarily evicted from my elegant Hampstead “digs” for being disruptive to the peace and tranquility of the landlady and her family. Can you imagine? Me, being “excessively sociable”?
For the next four months, I lived in a bombed-out Euston Station area locale, where the rent was dirt-cheap but the building had no bathtub and no shower. The best I could do was splash water on my face, hoping it dripped down to the necessary places.
For a while, leaving my showerless hovel twenty minutes away, carrying a bottle of shampoo shaped like “Popeye” wrapped (understandably) in a towel, I made use of the Oasis Public Bathhouse, where paying a shilling (about twelve cents), bought me a sliver of soap and a timed, fifteen-minute bath.
(That sentence, seeping with “Poor me” was exactly the way I felt. My sooty co-bathers, however, seemed totally comfortable with the arrangement. It depends what you’re used to, I suppose. I’m used to bathing in my own house, a luxury, unavailable to me at that juncture.)
Then I got a job at the recently mentioned Harrods, where – Glory Be! – the “Employee Washrooms” included two stalls of beautifully tiled showers.
The circuitous narrative triggering this chuckling reminiscence.
I took full advantage of Harrods’ available facilities, bringing my bath towel and “Popeye” shampoo there, along with a personally supplied bar of soap.
HARRODS: “Oh, the ingratitude! We offer showers and they chide us for not providing them with soap?”
Not at all. Just being documentarily accurate.
“Impudent ‘Colonial.’ You should be grateful we let you work there at all. You were a rubbish toy wrapper, you know.”
Hurtful, but accurate. (Probable payback for my regular napping on Harrods green leather “Banking Hall” couches at lunch hour, the accompanying “snooze-dribble” watering the upholstery.)
After a hearty subsidized lunch in the upstairs canteen, I repaired to the sumptuous Toy Department-level “Employees Washrooms”, enjoying a long, rejuvenating shower. And, as I have done all my life, taking advantage of the natural bathroom acoustics,
(DEEP AND DRAMATIC)
The Impossible Drea-ea-ea-eam
The Unbeatable Fo-o-o-oe
With unbearable sorrow-row-row-row
Where the brave dare not go-o-o…”
And so forth.
Coming out of the bathroom, squeaky clean and ready to rumble, I head back to the toy-wrapping room. It is then that I am intercepted by two jabbering co-workers, who immediately inquire,
“Did you hear it?”
“Did you hear it?”
“You didn’t hear it?”
“I was taking a shower. What are you talking about?”
“Yeah! It was everywhere!”
“Somebody was singing.”
“It came out through the air vents.”
“Anything in particular?”
“‘The Impossible Dream.’”
“That’s it. ‘The Impossible Dream.’”
“That’s crazy!“ Then, unable to help myself,
“How did it sound?”
“I don’t know, it was just singing.”
“Managers ran all over the store, trying to find out where it was coming from.”
“And poor you, with your showering, missed all the excitement.”
I returned to my workstation, relieved no one ever discovered the identity of the singer, but secretly hurt no one was saying, “He’s good!”
I continued showering at Harrods. And I still sang. But now, lowered the volume, singing quietly to myself.
It’s a pity, y’know?