I Lived Through Four Days Without Hot Water: A Survivor’s True Tale of Survival Against All Odds

Day 1

It begins.

It is Saturday, March 19, 2011. I wake up. I eat oatmeal. I answer e-mail.

It is then that I receive the text from my neighbor: “Do you have hot water? I’m wonder if it’s just me!”

I check the water. It is cold, cold as the killing fields. Cold as my grandmother’s hands after she’s been holding ice cubes.

Firemen come to the building, look at the boilers. The fix nothing. They leave us.

Alone. So alone.

Me after being without hot water for two days.

Day 2

It has been two days since my last shower. I am covered head to toe in mud and grime. My hair has grown long and matted. I smell like camel sex and sauerkraut.

I have church. I must shower.

The frigid water hits me first in the face, then the head, then the belly button. Knowing I don’t have much time, I switch to survival mode. I quickly loofah the most important regions and escape from the shower with seconds to spare.

The hypothermia has almost set in. My only chance is to create a fire in the living room from kindling and my roommate’s books.

My roommate finds me hovering naked over the fire. She tells me that it’s 75 degrees outside and walks away. She leaves me.

Alone. So alone.

Day 3

The condo is a frigid wasteland. It is every man for himself. The cat is hunting me like prey, wanting to tear into my entrails for warmth.

But I have grown lean and nimble, like the flamingo. My body has adapted to the lack of warm dishwater. I weave my own clothing and forget human language.

The days have run together. Perhaps many moons have passed since my last shower perhaps none. There is no way to know.

I draw a bath before work and heat some water on the stove to neutralize the bathwater. I wash quickly, efficiently, knowing the scavengers could find my camp at any time. The cat watches from a distance, waiting for one false step. One slip and it will end me. No one will know for weeks.

My roommate comes home from a jog through the wasteland and hops in the shower. She mentions nothing of the pain, the suffering, the loofah. It is almost as if the water isn’t that cold at all for her.

She will unseat me as leader of the tribe if I do not assert my dominance, so I, too, take a shower without even 15 solid minutes of whimpering beforehand. I thrust myself into the icy waterfall of doom. I look death in the eyes and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” Minutes later I emerge. Victorious. Towel-less. Alive.

Day 4

The end is near. I have eaten the last of the Girl Scout Cookies and have resorted to the crappy Mrs. Fields ones. I have not seen another human in many moons.

I catch a bird on my balcony and eat it alive, smearing the blood under my eyes to ward off predators. I have forsaken clothes altogether. Like a great flamingo I bask on the balcony, soaking in the last moments of sunlight.

Just before the end, my roommate tells me that the hot water is back on. I cry tears of joy, tears of ecstasy. I strip off my clothes in jubilation.

She asks me to please start wearing clothes again and that the loincloth I made really doesn’t cover anything.

I laugh. Oh sweet day. It is over.

It is over.

28 Responses to “I Lived Through Four Days Without Hot Water: A Survivor’s True Tale of Survival Against All Odds”

  1. Josh says:

    Best entry in the history of JameyStegmaier.com!

  2. Katie says:

    “Alone. So Alone.”

    Did you ever think that this abandonment by humankind that you were enduring had less to do with the hydropocalypse and more because you are apparently engaging in some type of strange activities that make you smell like camel sex and sauerkraut? Just a thought.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Katie, in a hydropocalypse (which is the PERFECT term for what happened), you do what you need to survive. Even if that involves helping two camels consummate or eating sauerkraut. Both are equally disgusting.

  3. Aaron says:

    I can’t believe I waded thru 300 pages of “The Road” when you managed to move me just as deeply in only a few short paragraphs. For that I thank you.

    However, the ratio of undressing scenes to dressing scenes is something like 12:1. Don’t get me wrong; that’s hot. It just makes the narrative a little jumpy.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      It’s a well-known tale among publishers that The Road was originally 900 pages, 600 of which McCarthy spent describing nudity and loinclothes. He just had better editors than I do.

  4. Anne Riley says:

    I just laughed so hard I cried… in front of an entire classroom full of students. Oh. My. Gosh. I am emailing this to all of my co-workers. By the way, my favorite part of this was how “I smell like camel sex” was immediately followed by “I have church.” You sound like my kind of believer. 🙂

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Ha ha…I didn’t even notice that juxtaposition. Guess I got lucky. 🙂

      I wish I could have been there to hear the explanation to your students.

  5. Ariel says:

    It is interesting to me that you responded to a lack of ability to clean yourself by engaging in so many dirt-related activities. When I don’t have hot water I usually curl up in bed with a good book and wait it out. Or go to my gym, which has showers.

    Also, your neighbor did not have hot water either. Therefore, you were not – in fact – alone. You two could have worked together; one person tending the fire and bringing over fresh hot water while the other person bathed.

    Great post.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Well, the joke was that I wasn’t actually alone–the roommate was there the whole time. But you’re right, I could have worked together with my neighbor to survive. I could have also gone to a friend’s house and showered, but that’s not the point. The point is that I was fighting to survive in a hyropocalypse against all odds. ALL odds, Ariel.

      • Katie says:

        Bear Grylls would be both proud and jealous of your strong survival skills. I can only hope, for your sake, that this traumatic event doesn’t continue to haunt you until your dying breath.

      • Ariel says:

        the roommate was not bothered by the lack of hot water, so you may have FELT alone, which is valid. I suppose the neighbor calling you to alert you to the area of concern does not necessarily indicate he or she was bothered by the situation. I’m glad you survived. Although, for the future, can we agree that should you not make it through the next hot water outage, I get Biddy?

  6. T-Mac says:

    I picture you on Day 4…dried bird blood smeared under your eyes and clad in a loincloth…letting out piercing cries of distress from your balcony like a wounded pterodactyl as neighbors hurry through the parking lot, shielding their children from seeing you and avoiding eye contact.

    Great entry!

  7. THE ROOMMATE says:

    Single white female in her twenties looking for a new roommate. In general: fully clothed persons are preferable. Applicants should posses a gentle nature (especially towards books), a normal body temperature, and ought to warn me before devouring all the girl scout cookies.
    I come with conventional hygiene habits, a calm disposition in the face of epic disasters, and I am an excellent grocery-shopper.
    Please call (314)-AWKWARD for further details.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      My next survival entry will be about how I got lost in my roommate’s room because of all the clothes and knick knacks in disarray on the floor.

  8. Jasmin says:

    Oh, this is funny! So funny that I laughed till I cried. My cheeks hurts. *Rubbing cheeks* Poor Jamey’s roomie. Hope her eyes are okay.

    Good thing you’ve got your hot water back since it’s snowing and cold again.

  9. Laura says:

    Hilarious! Laughed out loud, great post!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks! It was a tough couple of days, but we made it through. It was more difficult for Jess, considering the rampant, unnecessary nudity on my part.

  10. Laura says:

    PS – Roomate: we have a spare bedroom for you.

  11. EmilyRVA says:

    Though “camel sex and sauerkraut” made me want to vomit a little, I quickly forgot about this when realizing that your coping mechanism is the prompt removal of your clothes before crouching and engaging in various animal poses. You face adversity head on and fully naked (pun intended), just as our ancestors did.

  12. Red says:

    I’d hate to think what Day 6 would look like, if you had no hot water while it snowed.
    My Questions:
    1) It took you 3 days to add stovetop heated water to bath water?
    2) Are you a a University Employee? If so, can’t you (as Ariel pointed out) go to the gym for free?
    3) You switch into survival mode after the water has hit the belly button. Were you saved from the horror of iced junk?
    4) Same Loofah?
    PS. Recomend you read (or re-read) Hatchet, by Gary Paulson. I may still have a copy if you’d like to borrow it.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      1. Yes. What are you suggesting?
      2. No, Wash U doesn’t sign my paychecks.
      3. I’m not sure what this means, so I’ll say definitely yes.
      4. Different loofahs.
      5. Oh, I’ve read Hatchet. Way back in the day. Great book. Would have been even better if he didn’t have the option of walking to town for supplies.

  13. […] where credit is due: This post was inspired by Jamey Stegmaier, who wrote this story of survival in the midst of his own unthinkable […]

  14. Lindsey says:

    Hi! I found this entry through Sarah’s website and it is HYSTERICAL! I might become a regular reader, just on the basis of this entry alone. Nice work!

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