I’m on the road, and the road begins in Chicago—Hog Butcher of the World!—and if you want to wash off after butchering some hogs, this is what the very nice Chicago hotel has to offer:
This is in many respects an excellent hotel shower. The big square rainfall-style showerhead produces a generous and warm downspray of water. The free shampoo is effective and nicely scented with grapefruit. The lighting is good.
It just…doesn’t have a shower door. Or curtain. There’s just a glass wall covering part of the length of the shower, like half of a set of sliding shower doors, and then nothing. Open space.
Showers without curtains or doors are a thing that happens in foreign hotels sometimes, where they don’t really believe in showers, and there’s just a handheld nozzle and you wipe down the whole bathroom when you’re done. But this is a very assertive shower-style shower. There’s just no real way to keep it inside.
Why? Shower technology is more or less solved. You go to any Hampton Inn and there’s a nice strong showerhead and a perfectly fine shower curtain to keep the water from the showerhead inside the shower area. But somebody decided the very nice Chicago hotel needed a design flourish.
Over the weekend, I was down in the moneyed futurescape of Hudson Yards, and I needed to use a restroom there. The sinks, to more than one person’s confusion, appeared to be set up with triple sets of chrome taps: there was a motion-sensitive water tap, and a motion-sensitive soap dispenser, and then, next to those, a motion-sensitive hand dryer, to blast air into the hand-washing water at the bottom of the sink. So that made for three finicky sensor-devices, at cross purposes, put uncomfortably together because someone wanted to put their own stamp on the basic and fully established process of hand-washing.
Still, I doubtfully formed a hypothesis that maybe this hotel-shower design flourish was secretly good design, that the shower creator had the challenging but correct belief that conventional doors and curtains were overkill, and that the shower water would stay in the enclosed end and not splash out the open end. I pointed the rainfall-style showerhead straight down, maybe even a little backwards, and tried it.
It was not a relaxing way to shower. Chilly dry air streamed in through the open part of the shower structure, into the steam-and-water experience, and I found myself restricting my movements to try not to splash water around. A shower is splashing water! When I was done, there was a little lagoon on the floor outside, between the threshold and the now-soggy bathmat. Just hang up a curtain!