A Week Without Hot Water; How I Learned to Love the Basic Luxuries (TheByteWeek Issue 18)

Date: November 10th, 2013

TheByteDaily

A Week Without Hot Water; How I Learned to Love the Basic Luxuries (TheByteWeek Issue 18)

The normal human body temperature is 37°C; limits are +/- 0.5°C, but I must make the point that the average healthy body temperature for every single human on the planet is close to 37°C. This internal temperature exists on a very fine razor’s edge and a few degrees Celsius in either direction is often enough to tip the balance and make an individual incredibly uncomfortable. This isn’t to say that the body can’t handle extreme external heat or cold, because it can, but once the body’s internal temperature changes, life becomes uncomfortable.

Thankfully, because of the inconsistent distribution of humans — a species that literally spans the globe — we’ve all become accustomed to varying levels of external comfort. What we should be able to agree on, however, is the idea that hot water — whether for cleaning or otherwise — is intrinsic to our existence. I write to make the point that no human should ever have to exist without hot water for bathing, cooking, or cleaning, and anyone who argues that water doesn’t need to be That hot hasn’t gone a week without hot water.

In developed nations, the average person spends approximately 10 minutes in the shower. Without taking the environmental repercussions into consideration, 10 minutes in a warm shower can be relaxing, calming, and comfortable. It’s enough time to enter dirty and leave clean, and it’s more than enough time to shampoo, condition, use a loofa, and shave. In those ten minutes, the average person sets their water temperature to 40.6°C, which one will notice is 3.6°C higher than the normal body temperature. One will also notice that 40.6°C is the average hot water temperature, and it’s true that the real number might be higher or lower depending on the person.

In those ten minutes, using water set to a temperature of 40.6°C, humans are decadent. We sing, we dance, we rehearse arguments we’re never going to have, and we clean ourselves. The first three minutes in the shower are safe moments. We wash away the day’s tribulations at night, we prepare ourselves for the day in the morning, we stand still and let the healing properties of water help us overcome our fears and insecurities. Minutes 4-10 are dedicated to cleaning and returning to a state of comfortable zen. Then we’re done.

Cold water showers don’t take 10 minutes.

Cold water showers aren’t set to 40.6°C. Cold water temperature is determined by the outside temperature — it’s water that hasn’t been heated by an internal water heater yet. In cold climates, cold water can be close to freezing; Anchorage, Alaska’s average cold water temperature is 3.7°C. That’s 33.3°C less than the normal body temperature, and is a whole 36.9°C less than the average hot water temperature in developed nations.

I found that my body took 2 seconds to realize that the water was cold; it took 15 seconds for the shivering to become uncontrollable. After half a minute I couldn’t stop shaking, and after 45 seconds I lost feeling in my extremities. At a minute I realized that my heart rate was racing and it then occurred to me that my body thought it was under attack. 15 more seconds and the headache kicked in; the cold water, and the fact that blood was rushing back to my chest to allow my heart muscles to continue pumping caused the amount of blood in my brain to drop substantially.

A minute and a half and the headache became a migraine. I’ll pause and mention that warm clothes, warm milk, medicine, and six hours were all it took to get rid of my headache.

During all of the time in the shower, my breathing was erratic due to the shivering, which ironically only made things worse. Breathing is important for maintaining homoeostasis — the body’s natural increases and decreases — and staggered breathing reduces the amount of oxygen we inhale while messing up the amount of carbon dioxide we exhale.

I was effectively choking myself.

Two minutes after I first entered the shower, my face and head muscles were so constricted that I didn’t realize that I’d gotten cold water in my ear. Normally, water enters your ears regularly throughout much of a shower, but the difference between warm and cold water is the effect it can have on your sense of balance. Hot water doesn’t do very much — it’s effects are negligible to the point that it really can be said to not do anything at all. Cold water, contrarily, if run through the ear canal can lead to headaches, infection, loss of balance, vomiting, temporary hearing loss, and permanent deafness.

Our ears do more than listen. Liquid within the ear works alongside our cerebellum to assist in maintaining balance and posture. That liquid exists at 37°C, and if cold water happens to interact with the ear canal, the liquid’s temperature eventually lowers causing a host of problems that begin with falling over and end with deafness.

After two minutes and 15 seconds, I concluded my shower. In that time, I got wet, used soap, cleaned off the soap, nearly asphyxiated, and I gave myself a migraine that lasted six hours that took careful treatment to rid myself of.

This was on the first day.

Ignoring the obvious physiological ramifications, I found I was soft-spoken, quiet, exhausted, easily irritable, and not at all willing to perform any activities other than curling up with a warm blanket in bed.

It’s true that the human body is resilient; it can acclimate to a variety of different conditions, including cold water, without resulting in serious permanent harm. I also admit that hot water is a luxury, but in no way do I believe that it should be anything less than an expected necessity. Ignoring the future fresh water crisis that the world is going to face, hot water should be a given for every single human on the planet.

Not fulfilling this basic requirement — not allowing one’s fellows the basic luxury of hot water — is and should be tantamount to a universal human rights violation. Hot water is undeniably a luxury, but it shouldn’t be.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, thank you!

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