~a snippet from the recesses of my memory~
As I enjoyed my shower this evening, I thought of my dad. My dad has always been a frugal man, and one thing that particularly irked him were long hot showers. I guess the thought of all that hot water going down the drain was more than he could take. He had a very effective, and possibly unique, method of training his children to limit their showers. He built us a new house when I was about seven or eight years old, and there was a heat lamp over the shower. The switch to the heat lamp was a timer, and the rule was that you were to set the timer for no more than ten minutes, and be out of the shower before it shut off.
I loved long hot showers, so you can guess that occasionally the timer was set for longer than the allotted time. But that didn’t phase my dad. He had a backup plan. The exposed plumbing in one corner of our laundry room included a valve that wasn’t exactly standard equipment. It shut off the hot water. None of us knew this except Dad. When he decided that someone was taking too long in the shower, he would go down and shut it off briefly. If anyone mentioned the little shot of cold water they’d gotten during their shower, Dad said, “Hmmm. I bet you were just about to run out of hot water.” And sure enough, if you tested it out, after a couple of cold shots, suddenly you were showering in freezing water.
I grew up believing that hot water ran out just like the electricity during a power outage. It flickered a time or two, then it was gone! I never did catch on. I was married and in my own home for years before I finally heard about this trick. I must admit, it worked quite wonderfully. I still tend to take short showers and not waste time. Or hot water.