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Electric Shower Dangers

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Well friends, I was nearly fried a few days ago in an electric shower in Guatemala. Vagabond Journey was almost left in a heap little more animate than a block of wood floating down a squalid river. But for a fleeting sense of civility, I was saved, and am now able to write this warning message to you today:

Travel Tip #12 – Electric showers are dangerous! Do not touch them! Ever!

Simply put, electric showers can – and DO -explode, malfunction, falter, and, essentially, screw up in a plethora of various ways that can have the result of electrocuting the daylights out of an unsuspecting traveler! It really happens, and nearly did so to me as I stood naked in a Guatemalan shower earlier this week.

Fried, butt naked, and soapy is not the way that I want to tramp out of this world. Please at least let me at croak with the decency of having a pair of boots on my feet.

In the words of an old Costa Rican woman, “Never touch the shower!”

Well, needless to say, my boots were off a few days ago as I stood inside the shower getting ready for one of my twice weekly cleanings. I was looking forward to this washing all morning as I labored through putting up another 50 travel photos, and just wanted to stand there for a few moments with the hot water running all down my body. So I disrobbed, stepped into the shower, and turned on the water on as I have done plenty of times before at this hotel. I listened with a smile on my face as the electric heating mechanism, that is placed in the head of the shower, kicked in and wrought a spray of nice, warm water down upon me. The water was perfect warm and I stood in it for a moment just thinking about all the good things that I wanted to do with the day. Then, suddenly and to my annoyance, I realized that I had to pee.

Now, having a few girlfriends in my time, I have come to the realization that it is a somewhat normal thing for people to urinate in the shower. I come from a family who taught me that people should pee in a toilet and not in the shower, so when I came of age and began showering with female friends I was initially taken aback by the fact that 8 out of 10 of them liked to pee in the shower . . .and all over our feet. I thought that this was odd at first, but after hearing my protests shot down of many a woman lecturing me that “everybody” pees in the shower, I came to realize that maybe I was the one who was odd. So I took this new found information in hand, and no longer found myself befuddled when showering with a peeing girl. I had been taught that urinating in the shower is a regular behavior for a good portion of the planet, and I have even been know to try out this new move on a few occasions.

But on this particular day in the Guatemalan shower I felt a rage of civility well up from within me, and I stopped short immediately prior to allowing a big stream of pee slip out of me for its journey down upon my feet and the wet floor beneath. From out of somewhere I was granted the good sense to stop short and step out of the shower and take my proceedings over to the toilet. I did not think that I would be gone from the shower for very long, so I just left the water – and the electric heater – running.

Now I am not the most civil of fellers by any stretch of the imagination, but this novel act of civility could have saved my hide. For as soon as I stepped out of the shower and mounted the toilet I suddenly saw bright flashes shining over head, heard an incredible boom, and looked up to find that the electric shower head had exploded in a burst of flames.

Pieces of the wiring were shooting out in all directions, and the flames were burning strong, as I stood there dripping naked just watching the show. For there was nothing else for me to do. There is no way that I was going to stick my arm into this potentially electrified water to turn the heater off. No way. But, luckily for my inactive stance, the flames soon severed the live wires and burned themselves out in a matter of moments, leaving me wet, naked, unshowered – but alive – in a cloud of smoke.

I then had a vision of the hotel staff noticing the smoke rising out of bathroom windows and rushing in with an enterage of manangers, cleaning ladies, and hotel guests with fire extinguishers just to find me standing there bewildered in a cloud of smoke and wearing nothing but a stupid look on my face. So I quickly beclothed myself, and thought of how I was going to explain to the hotel manangers how I blew up their shower. So, as I have done in plenty of other uncomfortable social situations in the past, I went and got Mira.

Mira told a cleaning lady that the shower caught on fire, and, without loosing a beat, she told me to just use the one in the girl’s bathroom. She was not surprised.

I have the impression that these electric shower heads catch on fire pretty regularly. I suppose a nice, hot shower is worth the risk of having a bolt of flames sometimes jolt out above your head and the occasional loss of a family member or two in this part of the world.

I am from the USA. There, we do not enjoy the thrill of the exploding shower. I think that for now on, I would rather be as cold as a drowned rat in an overflowing sewer, than fried to a crisp by an ordinary, seemingly benign, shower.

Or maybe I will just stay dirty and forget about the dangers of showering all together.

At this point, it is my impression that the electric shower is one of the traveler’s greatest risks. I side stepped it today, tomorrow I would rather not give it a chance at striking me down.

A travel tip to the wise:

When traveling in countries that employ the electric shower (most in the third world) do not, for any reason, touch the shower head or any of the electrical components. In fact, if you have the option, do not even turn it on. I do not know who the bozo was who thought that it could be a good idea to heat water – a very good electrical conductor – with such a haphazard electrical contraption placed so close to the source of use, but these electric shower heads have been invented and are liberally utilized all over the world. DO NOT TOUCH THEM!

It took me eight years of traveling to have a close call with one of these examples of sub-genious electric engineering, but, finally, I was called up to bat, and I may have been saved only by a fleeting remeberance of my mother’s wise words:

“Do not pee in the shower!”

Travel Tip #12- never touch anything connected to an electric shower.

As always, take this travel tip and use it, or let it run down the drain with your nice, electrically warmed shower water.

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Filed under: Danger, Guatemala

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap

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