Water, water everywhere . . .
Jerry Seinfeld has a funny bit about water:
"I find the human fascination with water is amazing. We're constantly going to beaches, pools, lakes, rivers, we're swimming, we're snorkeling, we're scuba diving, we bathe in it. Our bodies are mostly made of water. Everyone is carrying around these bottles of water. We can't get enough water, unless it rains. Then we're like, 'Oh, look I'm soaked. I am literally drenched.' For some reason we have a huge problem with small flying water. It'll just stop us right in our tracks. 'Uh, I felt a drop, We're gonna get caught in it! Everyone cover your water bottles, run!'"
This has always been one of my favorite stand-up observations, but journeying to Budapest, Hungary reminded me of it. Before coming here, I didn't know much about the city, except that it was famous for its abundance of thermal bath complexes. So naturally, visiting one of these spas was on the top of my Budapest to-do list.
I decided to visit the Széchenyi Baths, because it is the most famous. Twelve out of the fifteen different baths were inside a huge, yellow building. The other three were outdoor pools. They all varied in temperature incrementally, from cold to room temperature to hot. All of them were labeled in Celsius.
Once I got inside the complex, I was a bit surprised. Most of my swimming experiences have been at friends' pools, camps, or community centers. Usually children are swarming, splashing around, and older people are taking advantage of the lap lanes for exercise. It was not at all like this at Széchenyi. It was eerily quiet, and in every single pool people were just standing or sitting completely still. It did not look as fun as I imagined, to say the least.
But I was there in my swimsuit, so I tried it out. I was skeptical, and pretty sure I’d just wasted fifteen dollars. But while sitting there, I got to thinking about how amazing water is, how all the people around me had just paid money to sit in big bowls of it. I can be easily bored, so usually activities that involve extensive sitting are not fun. But this was different. The varying temperatures made me really aware of the water in which I was submerging myself. It sounds weird, but it made me appreciate water in a new way. I ended up having a blast going from bath to bath, trying all the different temperatures (not knowing how to convert Celsius temperatures made that an adventure) and relaxing.
Jerry Seinfeld is right, people are fascinated by water. All the cities I visited this summer, Florence, Paris, and Budapest, are on rivers: the Arno, the Seine, and the Danube. So is my hometown, Memphis. Some of the most beautiful sites I saw abroad involved water, like the Trevi Fountain in Rome or the beaches of the Cinque Terra. Most of us are fortunate enough to live in a society where water is abundant. Even in droughts, we can go swimming, carry water bottles, and water our plants. We flock to water because it’s a human need, it's true. But in the end, it can also be a luxury, a pleasure.
Let’s see if I can keep that in mind the next time I get caught in a rain storm!