“But how do they, the gods, decide how each will go? This fate for this one, that end for that? In Minna, in a bath, Ambassador Kolo slipped.” – @tejucole
Who dies in the showers? How does that even happen? Is there much suffering? Is it quick? Does there have to be foul play?
As I am learning in 21st Century parlance, these are questions that keep me up at night. They got me thinking about my own bathroom encounters.
My job takes me places I only used to see on tv, and I always stay at hotels, and it was at these hotels that I have had my close shaves.
It was 2006 and I had just arrived at London Gatwick airport after an overnight flight from Lagos. My colleagues and I picked up our suitcases from the tarmac from where we were transported to the terminal building. It was winter, I remember the cold nipping at my exposed fingers that gripped the handle of my suitcase as I pushed it along, my other hand was safe and warm in my pants pocket. The chill breeze kissed the tip of my nose, my lips and reached under the turned up collar of my jacket to cradle my neck in a cold embrace, my eyes watered as I walked. The thoughts of my warm hotel room and much needed sleep kept me going, and soon we were walking through the entrance to the Gatwick Hilton hotel.
In my room, I set the heater to a temperature I like to think of as toasty warm. I shed my clothes: my pants were draped over the back of a chair, my jacket and waist coat were laid out on one side of the bed, my shirt was balled up and thrown in a corner, my socks and shoes I put under the table. In the bathroom I ran a bath, stretching while I waited. Satisfied with the temperature, I slipped out of my undergarments and stepped into the tub.
I could feel the warmth seeping into my bones, the ache and tiredness seeping out. Music was playing in my ears from my SonyEricsson walkman phone, and I closed my eyes, stretched out even further and relaxed.
The burning sensation I felt was in my chest. My eyes flew open and for a second I had no idea where I was. I took a breath and I felt that burning again and then it all came flooding back. I was lying in a bathtub full of water, the soap suds gone flat, in a hotel in London, and from the pain the last time I tried to breathe, I was under water!
I pushed my feet against the end of the tub to raise my lower face and chest above water, then turned over onto my stomach, coughing up water that had gone in my nostrils. I reached under me and pulled the plug, and as I watched the water slowly drain away, I just lay there propped up on my elbows, wondering just how easily I could have drowned in a tub of bath water. My phone was safe where it was at the head of the tub, but the earphones were damaged. A small price to pay really, I told myself.
Slip and Slide:
One night in 2008 I had returned late from a local flight and so had to stay at a hotel for the night. The next morning after I woke up, I went into the bathroom for a shower, but found that the water pressure was low. I called reception for a bucket and I ran a bath.
I had just rinsed out the soap from my hair and face, and bent down to scoop some more water. As I straightened to pour the bowl of water on myself, I felt my feet slip from under me.
It all happened so fast, yet I saw it in slow motion.
My right foot was the first to go; it slid forward. My left foot slid backward to correct my balance. My hands were thrown wide and in doing so, I lost the bowl of water. Whatever purchase my feet may have found was lost as the contents of the bowl emptied into the tub. My hands flailed about as my feet did a kind of shuffle, and then I felt my world tilt as I started to go over backwards.
My heartbeat quickened when I realised what was happening, that I was going to crack the back of my head against the edge of the tub when I landed. I did not see my life flash before my eyes or any such thing, there was just a calm acceptance that came over me. Somehow, in the moment before impact, my body twisted sideways.
There was a warmth in my ear, a brief darkness, a burst of light, pain and then silence.
I tried to get up and each motion caused me pain, made me wince, but I was happy for the pain. I doubted that dead people felt pain, so it had to be a good sign that I could feel the pain.
I do not know how long I sat there in the tub before I crawled out of it. I limped to the bedroom where there was a full length mirror, and standing there I examined myself. What I saw in the mirror made me laugh. It was not a particularly funny sight, but I had imagined trying to explain to my friends that the cut on my lip, the swelling on my face close to my right eye, the bruising where my right side had made contact with the edge of the tub and my right shoulder that throbbed were not injuries sustained from a ‘brushing’ by a girlfriend or a jealous lover.
With my reputation, the latter would be their choice, I was sure.
Just last year in Dakar, I discovered that there really are over one thousand stupid ways to die.
I had set my alarm for 01:30, a good fifteen minutes before the hotel wake-up call. I got up a few minutes before my alarm went of and spent the time shaking off the last vestige of sleep. When my alarm finally went off, I threw back the duvet and rolled out of bed.
The room was cold because I had turned the air-conditioning pretty low. When I stepped into the bathroom, I hopped from foot to foot; the tile was very cold. I jumped on the bath mat and took it with me to the wash basin where I brushed my teeth. When I was done, I stepped out of my clothes and walked to the bathtub.
I was covered in lather when my wake up call came. The trill of the phone was loud and warbly, so it could not be ignored. Besides, from experience, a hotel staff was sure to come to check that I was okay if I did not pick the call – and I was not sure I latched my room door. I did not want anybody walking in on my naked bathing form.
Careful not to slip in the tub, I held the tiled wall as I stepped gingerly out.
A cold draft hit me when I opened the door. That, combined with the feel of cold tiles under my feet – I had left the bath mat at the basin – made me hurry.
There was a warmth around my ears as my feet went flying from under me, then a flickering like fluorescent bulbs struggling to come on. Pain wracked my body, and when I got off the ground, I was stiff. I just made it to the phone when the call disconnected. I quickly called reception to let them know I was awake before returning to the bathroom. I sat on the edge of the tub for a moment before limping across to get the bath mat. I finished my bath and went on the flight that morning, but it was not with a small amount of pain.
So when the other day I saw the tweet by @tejucole, a writer I follow on twitter, I smiled ruefully as Fela’s song came to mind.
PS: Maybe the gods have decided the tub is not the way to go for me, maybe the timing was just wrong. The one thing I will not do in this year 2013 though, is dwell on how they, the gods, function. I will live my life, as they say, at full crush. We all should.
Happy New Year!