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Project fraught with change orders

  • Updated
Janet Combs

I asked my husband to create from memory an outside shower at our beach home. This would be no problem for him to construct at all, except that he needed to create it from my memory, not his.

His memory of an outside shower is of icy water from a garden hose slung in a tree in an undeveloped area of the Hamptons on Long Island. He and his cousins would surf all day, come home to the family cabins, and stand under the frigid hose to wash off the salt. No soap, no shampoo. That’s not a shower to me, that’s a cruel rinse suitable for livestock. Yet, this is a fond memory to him — he speaks of these showers glowingly, like they were a spa treatment. Today, you can probably secure this in a fancy Hamptons spa — release your toxins with an authentic sand scrub followed by a pure Icelandic waterfall rinse, just $159.99! Or, you could swim in the ocean and stand under my husband’s family’s garden hose in a tree, for free.

My memory of an outside shower originates from a beach house on Fire Island. The shower was weathered and rustic, but it had hot and cold water, and a couple of hooks for bathing suits and towels. A wooden shelf held a mushy bar of soap.

All of this is to point out that sometimes, you and your spouse may say the exact same words—such as “outside shower,” but ascribe completely different meanings to them. And that is why this project has been fraught with change orders.

My husband very quickly discovered that hot water was a must for me, even down here in the South where the hose temperature is perpetually lukewarm. I explained that I planned on using the outside shower before work some mornings, just for the fun of it.

Change Order #1: run a hot water supply to the structure.

He described how he planned to construct the shower with a technique called shadowboxing to promote good airflow and harmonize with the design of our home. This involves alternating boards on either side of a central spacer, so from head-on, you don’t see any openings, but from the side,

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there are slight gaps letting in air and light. He asked for my opinion on how far apart he should space the boards.

“This is what I was thinking,” he said, positioning the boards just so inside the shower frame he had constructed. From a certain angle, I could clearly see out to the street, which meant that people on their bicycles or golf carts might enjoy a split-second view of my senior-citizen buttocks! I moved the boards significantly closer, because frankly, that is how attractive I am, naked.

Change Order #2: additional lumber.

There was a narrow opening to get into the shower. Once all the boards were in place and my husband had run the plumbing and installed the fixture, I stood inside to experience it. It was great, I exclaimed! Except…

Change Order #3: it needs a door. I made my husband stand in the shower with me, not for the first time, I might shockingly add so you readers know that all of us over age 50 are not quite dead. I pointed to a distant corner of our driveway. I asked him what if Llib and his wife Nna, whose names have been spelled backwards for privacy, walked up to say hi? They often do this with their dog, Lucy, whose name has not been spelled backwards because she can’t read. Yet.

My husband sighed. He wordlessly walked away and designed a charming door with a self-closing hinge. I didn’t even have to bring up potential Change Order #4, because he already installed a slide lock.

The completed outside shower is better than any memory. Which just goes to prove that with successful projects — and real love — it’s all about the change orders.

Reach Nick Masuda at 843-607-0912. Follow him on Twitter at @nickmasudaphoto. 

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