Suicide Showers

By: Linda Vissat

We have all heard that "electricity and water don't mix"; electrocution follows, so by all means, keep that in mind.  Don't mix them.  On one hand it is true.  I wouldn't mess with it.  But, in Panama "electricity and water do mix" in safe conjunction with each other.  "Suicide showers" are an example. 

Until I went to Boquete in the mountains of Panama, I had never heard of them.  In this part of the world "suicide showers" are common.  Let me explain.  In a tropical climate humidity is high and heat intense.  Drinking water and replacing lost electrolytes is recommended.  Cold water is preferred and most of the time necessary.  Hot water on a hot, healthy body doesn't make sense.  It's great if your ill or getting hydrotherapy treatments, but there many choose not to heat it.   

Americans take hot water for granted.  Hot water tanks and heaters as we know them don't exist in a lot of places in Panama and what I call "local atmosphere" of my style of traveling. 

Ed, a friend in Boquete introduced me to this method of showering.  I received an elementary lesson, which I don't recall ever having instruction on that subject my entire life.  My instructions were to turn the knob to the right, wait, and hop in when it's warm.  Ending with, "Don't touch that."

Luckily his timing was right.  To shower in his place the light switch had to be in the "on" position.   Under the showerhead there was one knob with no letters.  In the United States I see letters all the time; "H" and "C".  There, I imagined seeing the letters "C" for caliente and "F" for frio.  Well, that is not the case.

My eyes were open to this simple marvel and ingenious contraption.  EMT wire was pulled from the power source, in this case the light switch, and attached to the showerhead.  The switch activated the entire room and allowed a direct current of electricity to flow to the showerhead pipe heating the water in the half-inch, no pressure water pipe.  He didn't have the sink pipes wired.  Whew.  I washed my hands when I got there and wondered why it was cold.

I suggested a sign that warned, "Caution, HOT PIPE" or "It's WIRED, DON'T touch".  I didn't feel safe.  My eyes didn't leave the EMT wire.  Fear crawled all over me.  Was it going to fall off?  Man if it hit the water, well, you know. And thus the phrase was coined, "suicide shower."  In Ed’s apartment, that was the way of it.

Water can be heated with fuel too, sold locally in propane-like containers, much like our outside grills propane tanks.  Many who can afford this luxury have them attached to pipes under the kitchen sink.  In this case, the tank has to be turned on and lit to allow the fire to heat the pipes.  Unless water is hooked to fuel or electric it was just plain cold.

Having hot water at your disposal is nice to have in the mountains of Boquete as later in the evenings in warm blankets is advised.  In David or the heat of the Panama City I opted for cold.  On my visit with Ed, he would have been wise toArticle Submission, also.  It is said to calm down the libido.

I was relieved Ed walked me through the process of "suicide showers" before I began or my "goose" might have been cooked before we had a chance to sit down to dinner and possibly have a real "goose".  Goose in Panama!  Not.

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