Whiteboard white-out

A wonderful winter blizzard brought mounds of white snow to play in and shovel and snowshoe through. Spinning gusts of snow whipped by the wind raced over a field of white, and reminded me of the whiteboard at the showers.

Our modest village of Otter Creek has only a few businesses, but Hot Showers is one of them. It has no other name. It is simply, as the oversized sign in classic 1950’s signboard lettering proclaims, Hot Showers – coin-operated, 24-hours.

A year ago the old tired building was taken apart and the groundwork laid for a new, more efficient one. While there wasn’t anything wrong with the old, it was increasingly difficult to maintain. Constant monitoring and repairs made it a struggle to keep it profitable. The groundwork began in November, we held the grand opening in May.

There were kinks to work out, though remarkably few. But we wanted feedback, a way to be sure there was nothing important overlooked, a way to find out if there were any more kinks we needed to straighten. And so the whiteboard was installed. “Comments? Suggestions?” we rashly asked. And an outpouring began that continued until the showers closed for the season in October. We had expected practical comments, such as “stall seven needs the knob adjusted” “the women’s toilet door sticks” or other useful information. And we were prepared for some disgruntled remarks, in spite of the brand new, clean and green facilities, there always seems to someone who is to be dissatisfied. Instead a communication was started between our customers, and us and from one shower user to another.

We would erase as the board filled, but not without sharing. “Did you see what the couple from Nebraska said?” “A woman from New Hampshire said she took three showers in one day!” While delighted by this we were also perplexed, it seems like a lot. But a morning shower, and then after a swim in the sea, and then perhaps in the evening after a pounding bike ride. We were not really satisfied with this however, and will never know why she took three. “That’s not a shower, that’s a miracle!” wrote Marc from Brisbane, Auckland. “When was the last time 2$ made me so happy?” another asked. We became fascinated, and only realized after several weeks that there had not been one, “Please check the knob” comment.

But now the board is silent for the winter. It is wiped clean and sits waiting, a perfect white field ready for the voices of our customers in 2011. Happy New Year to all, see you in the Spring, but right now we are going to don snowshoes and explore paths through the woods and cross white fields of snow.

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