Query: why don’t Persian bathtubs join the floor — that is, why isn’t there a piece of pipe running from the hole in the tub to the hole in the floor? They just sit there, the tubs, with no pipe whatever attached to their drain holes; you pull out the stopper, and whoosh! — the water rushes out and richly floods the room, since the giving hole in the tub seems much bigger than the receiving hole in the floor through which the torrent must eventually make its way out of the house.
Result: shoes and whatever clothes were left neatly piled on the floor during the bath arc respectively floated and soaked, while the bather splashes about frantically in water that rises rapidly to his ankles, and above. Because it is Persia, the strangeness of the custom of not joining tub to floor is somewhat offset by another practice — the erection of a little dam at the bathroom door. Thus, ultimate destruction of the entire house is averted; the whole contents of the tub emptied onto the bathroom floor does not quite overflow into the other rooms.
Only after three such floatings and soakings of my apparel did I manage to remember and cache my shoes and clothes on various bits of high ground — w.c. and medicine chest and suchlike — before entering the tub. That way it became a sporting proposition: emerge from the tub, plot my course so as to grab up everything on the way, then pull the plug and race for it. I got so good I could hoick everything up and out before the onrushing flood caught more than the bottom of my last heel.
I should note that finally, after about four months of this kind of salvage-racing, punctuated by an occasional relapse into forgetfulness and consequent float-soaking, I arrived at what I believe to be the ultimate wisdom: I deduced that it was not necessary to pull that damned plug before dressing. No, one could emerge from the tub, in complete leisure dry oneself, clothe oneself, stroll about cleaning one’s teeth, inspecting one’s nails, weighing oneself, and performing all the other little chores suitable to that circumstance and place, and at last, completely clad and prepared to rejoin the world, stand a little away from the tub, pull the plug, and with hardly a suspicion of haste, step backward and out of that flooddoomed room — as dry as a bone.
That it took me so long to figure out this apparently obvious maneuver was indeed somewhat distressing, but at least I did at last manage it, thus, in my own mind anyway, removing myself from the category of the hopeless or “the walnuts.” There is a Persian proverb: “The training of the unworthy is walnuts on a dome.”
But why are Persian tubs unjoined to Persian floors? In three of the four houses I inhabited such was the case. I asked Mohammed. Said he, “Why, because if there was a pipe between tub hole and floor hole bad smells would come up.” Said I, “Wouldn’t worse smells come up from the floor hole itself?” Said he, “I don’t understand plumbing.” Said I, “Neither do 1.”
I asked Hassan. Said lie, “The bathrooms were built before there were tubs, and it would not be convenient to run pipes all the way across the room from where the tub is to where the hole in the floor is, which was put there for the shower.” I thought of a bathroom I knew that 1) had the floor hole directly under the tub hole, innocent of joiningpipe, and 2) had no shower. But I deemed it wiser not to pursue the matter. I had once before asked Hassan a similar question: why do the electric linemen string their power lines across the very tips of branches of trees, so that they are pretty sure to he blown off, rather than poke them down to where the branch joins the trunk, so that they might not be blown off for several days or even weeks? It would require hardly any extra effort. Hassan had replied: “Because our people are natural. They live in the present. Yesterday was not, tomorrow will not be, today is all. That powerman wakes up and walks out with his long stick, to poke power lines back onto trees, and it is all the same to him whether he does it on this street or the next, or whether he did the same thing yesterday or the day before. The day is the day, and work is work, and — ” And by the time that answer was finished, I felt I knew far less about men and trees and power and Persia than ever before.