For the most part, I like to avoid categories. I resist labels and acknowledge a wide range of possibilities between extremes of living habits.
Still, in small telltale ways, we learn who our kindred spirits might be - the people who think it perfectly reasonable to drop everything and have a cup of tea - the individuals who take baths ... or showers.
A lot can be learned about a person when you find out if he or she prefers a shower or a bath. A bather seems to be the kind of companion who resists too-rapid activity. Showerers, on the other hand, tend to let their minds wander less. They get things done.
A bather is the woman who leans against the newspaper box to read her paper instead of striding forth or the man who drives by his destination because a certain old song is on the radio.
This, of course, is only an informal observation made in an offhand way when people indicate how they'd like a ``soak'' in a tub or that they need to ``dash'' into the shower.
My son, Dylan, is a bather. He has been known to spend entire mornings in the bath. He reads, muses, and occasionally hums songs.
It looked as though my theory might have some major flaws when my daughter, Hallie, came along. As a small child, she whizzed from one activity to another, rarely stopping to eat, never mind actually sitting down. Yet she spent hours wrinkling her tiny hands playing with boats and small rubber animals in the bathtub.
Her true nature was revealed, though, at age 4, when she took her first swimming lessons. After her initial pool shower, she saw how little time one could spend on getting clean. The long leisurely soaks in the tub were history.
I have had some of my best conversations with my son through the bathroom wall while I cooked dinner or washed out lunch boxes in the kitchen and he bathes.
Bathing encourages a mental process that is far slower than what one needs to tackle the duties of a day. The bathtub is a place where one can stop and ponder, a rare thing in these times. A sentence or two may be born. Decisions are contemplated.
I admire high-activity people. They often are the workhorses of any project, accomplishing 20 tasks to the one or two of their slower counterparts. I am not one of them.
While I can be perfectly spontaneous, I am not quick to move, sometimes taking weeks or months to mull over major decisions.
There seems to be time, in this world, to be lonely as people rush and move past one another, but there is little time for solitude.
Solitude is where I make my decisions. It may be a simple matter of deciding the next day's plans or as complex as a major life change.
There is something to be said about quieting enough to hear not only the gentle swish of water, but one's own mind as well.
After the children are in bed and the dog has settled for the night in a corner of the living room, I run a hot bath. I begin the silent dialogue with myself that allows for give and take, back and forth, the conversation that occasionally lets a word or two slip out loud.
``What did you say?'' hollers Dylan.
``Nothing,'' I holler back.
Of all people, my son would understand this dialogue in the privacy of the tub, but somehow I can't bring myself to share this time with anyone, not even another ``bather.''
I know all the arguments about how much water is saved by showering, not to mention time. If you want to know statistics, just ask a person if he showers or bathes.
The shower-taker can quote the amount of water saved, the energy conserved. The bather wrestles with guilt. The feeling is momentary, though, and is gone in the time it takes to run a hot tub.
I work equally well with showerers or bathers. But I know, too, that I may soon hear about all the exceptions to the bathing/showering rule, so I will state now: ``My survey is informal - very informal.'' In light of world events, it has little meaning and perhaps even less impact.
But in the continuing attempt to order my own world, I like knowing that if I want to walk a slow and steady pace on the beach, my companion will most likely be another bather.
And when faced with problems of any magnitude, I'm happy to say, that help is only a bathtub away.