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The Katia Hotel Incident

by Stan Scisloswki

Several years ago, I travelled to Italy to re-trace my path taken during WWII. One of our rest spots for the night was the Katia Hotel located right down on the beach two or three miles north of Ortona. The others in our party most likely had no special reason for remembering the Katia. But I did.

An unnerving incident happened to me at the Katia that even now, whenever I think of it, I break out into a nervous rash. It concerns a misadventure in which I came into confrontation with the erratic behaviour of the infamous Italian plumbing; in this case, the toilet. I think everyone on the pilgrimage had our doubts about the design and reliability of Italian plumbing after our first visit to one. And in subsequent visits to the john, confidence in their performance sank even lower. I also went with some considerable trepidation, afraid that a horrible and embarrassing malfunction would occur. And at the Katia Hotel that malfunction did occur.

It happened something like this: Four days had passed since we arrived in the country and in that time I hadn’t been able to take a bath or a shower for the simple reason that I can’t stand cold water. For those four days I had suffered through the inconvenience of washcloth bathing, which everyone will agree is not exactly the ideal way to take a bath. Oh, what I wouldn’t have done for a nice, deep, warm bath! But, not in a single hotel was I lucky enough to draw hot water. Either it had been all used up by the time I got around to preparing for one, or else the proprietor was intent on saving money on his heating bills. When we checked into the Katia I happened to be one of the first dozen to get my room key, and as soon it was dropped into my eager palm I went up the stairs two steps at a time, bags and all. I was damn certain that if there was any hot water on tap that I’d get my fair share.

As soon as I hit the room, my clothes fairly flew off. With great anticipation I stepped into the shower. The spray pattern was just right, but the water wasn’t. To my dismay, it was ice-cold! Even turning the knob all the way to the farthest notch of the hot produced no results. I waited with my hand out, testing and I waited and waited and waited until I finally gave up. “Damn it all!” I muttered to myself, “the damned thing can’t be hooked up to the hot water system yet!”

And with that I decided I might as well have a shave. “Be damned again!” No hot water in the basin either. Besides feeling more than a little frustrated and perturbed I also felt disturbing pangs which I could no longer ignore.

I therefore decided to spend a few minutes of blissful time on the throne instead. For some god awful reason Italian plumbing designers locate the flush button in a shoulder paralyzing spot smack dab center on the wall behind.

After painfully reaching around to press it, I was rewarded by being catapulted halfway to the shower under the impetus of the hottest damn water this side of Dante’s inferno. The water surged and hissed with the power of Niagara Falls, great clouds of steam issuing from the white porcelain bowl like it was Yellowstone’s famous geyser.

When I think of how close I came to suffering one of the most agonizing burns in the most embarrassing of places on the anatomy, it damn near brings tears to my eyes– even so long removed from the incident. The confounded plumbers, for some inexplicable reason, had gotten their pipes crossed. Their mistake, and it had to be in my room.

My dear wife Joyce always said, “If there’s any bizarre situation that’s going to happen I’ll most likely be involved in it.” I was beginning to believe her!
Put a stack of bibles in front of me and I’ll swear to it that this incident I described isn’t something I made up or exaggerated in hopes it might elicit a laugh or two. It actually did happen.

My good friend and roommate Cam Burrows will stand by my claim, even though he didn’t witness the near disaster. He simply tested the faulty contrivance and it repeated its outrageous performance.

That was good enough evidence for Cam to conclude that I hadn’t gone entirely ‘round the bend’.




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