In 2002, The Ex and I bought a hot tub, er. . . I mean spa. We had always wanted one, but after we installed the fence to corral puppies, the perfect alcove was created. It would have been a crime not to put a
hot tub spa in that spot.
One of The Ex’s most annoying and most redeeming qualities was that he shopped things to death. Except for one notorious car deal, I don’t think we ever paid one cent more than rock bottom on any major purchase. He was legendary in his wrangling which was not limited to just the major purchases. The guys at Firestone still talk about him and his fist full of coupons and competitors’ advertisements. He felt a failure if he paid more than $10 for an oil change.
We schlepped all over three states and the entire internet looking at
hot tubs spas. In the course of comparison shopping, we were informed that the cool kids refer to them not as hot tubs but spas. Hot tubs are large vats of hot water. Spas are mini-vacation experiences that involve jets. The number of jets determines how much you get to swagger at the convention of Cool Kids with Spas.
I was pretty sure that standing around in showrooms peering at molded acrylic wasn’t the best way to determine the suitability of any one
hot tub spa. I got in them and sat down. Sometimes they had water in them, sometimes not. Through trial error we determined the features we were willing to pay for and the ones we wouldn’t tolerate at any price. We then narrowed brands. Then price. Then swagger.
Finally, we ordered the damn thing. Finally, it arrived.
During the shopping phase, I was quick to say that it was primarily for The Ex. He had always wanted one. When we went on vacation, he gravitated to the nearest
hot tub spa and soaked for hours at a time. Hot tubs Spas contented him in a way I never did.
I liked them well enough, but after twenty minutes or so I’d had enough.
Well. We got one. Here. At the house. Bathing suits optional. Privacy guaranteed. Open at any time of the day.
The spa boasts 57 (I think) jets. I fell in love with each and every one of them, but particularly the configuration of five that massage my back in just the right spots. My back that had ached for 20 years, ached much less. My stress levels plummeted. It was all good if pruney-skinned.
Even in winter, particularly in winter, I loved to sink inch, by inch, into the hot, steamy, bubbling water. As long as it was warmer than -10F, it wasn’t too cold to dash naked from the family room to the spa.
The biggest pain was lifting the cover. It was a good sized and, particularly with an inch or two of snow sitting on the cover, getting the cover off could be challenging.
We invested in a lifter – a metal contraption that works on the principle of torque. With one hand, I could rock the cover open or closed. It was better than all good.
I started most days and finished nearly every day with a good soak. I particularly loved morning coffee. That little alcove just the perfect size gets morning sun. After dark, I would turn the underwater light on and sip wine while pretending to be one of the idle rich I was genetically predestined to be but which, through a cruel twist of fate, was not.
During the cool days of spring and fall, Willy and I discovered that sitting on the cover was the perfect solution to wanting to be outside but it being too cold to be outside. The cover absorbed and retained heat from the water beneath and the sun above – the top was 10F warmer than any other place outside. He and I clocked a lot of hours sprawled on the cover.
When the heat of summer hit, I would turn the temp down to lukewarm. Mid-day soaks were still out of the question, but mornings and nights were wondrous.
The cover, and the spa, are now nearly 8 years old. Last year, the cover began disintegrating. The vapor barrier split and peeled. Covers, I learned, are nothing more than steel reinforced Styrofoam. The foam waterlogged. Slowly, as the wet summer of 2009 dragged on, it became more and more difficult and finally impossible to lift the cover.
I kept hoping that if it would quit raining long enough, the cover would dry out and I could Mickey Mouse a temporary vapor barrier that would last me until I could get the money together for a new cover. Styrofoam is more costly than I would have thought possible. Nothing doing. Once the thing waterlogged there was no drying it out.
This weekend, my brain fried by the heat, I decided to wrassle that cover off and at least use the spa as a miniature swimming pool. I figured I’d have to use a boat load of chemicals to keep the algae at bay and still have to drain it regularly, but it seemed like a good idea. There would be no jets and no nifty underwater light as there’s no way to operate the thing without the heater running. I’m not about to pay Appalachian Power to heat the already too hot great outdoors. Stupid design.
Wrassling the cover doesn’t begin to describe it. Two 8x4x3” panels of high-density, waterlogged foam hinged together and wrapped in a tasteful brown vinyl nestled in a perfect little alcove are a bitch.
The hacksaw was useless and I figured I didn’t need to be poised over 3 feet of bacterial infested water with power tools. It came down to me, a bread knife, and a pair of pinking shears.
It was ugly. After nearly concussing myself, coming close to stabbing my thigh and almost lopping off a finger, I managed to get one of the panels off the spa and into the yard WHERE IT WOULD NOT BUDGE.
I pushed. I pulled. I prayed.
All this in 95F with 90% humidity.
I had a tantrum and kicked the damn thing. Evidently, I kicked it in just the right spot and the foam cracked like the shell of a hardboiled egg.
The second panel was a lot easier.
After all that, it took the rest of the day to get the spa to cycle completely through the start-up phase of pump priming and whatnot. I was fixin’ to have another tantrum when the pump finally started to pump, the jets began to bubble and the digital readout informed me the 9 month-old water was 76F.
I drained that puppy and cleaned it between attacks of heat stroke. Had I not been able to get it to start up, I was going to take a sledgehammer to the thing, haul it out in pieces and install a $10 kiddie pool from the K-Mart. But it did start and Plan A is being executed.
Today, I am finally filling it. In an hour or so, I expect to slip inch by inch into icy water as the sun slips over the hillside and the solar lights begin to flicker on. While it’s possible I’ll opt for a glass of wine, it’s probably a surer bet I’ll be nursing a mug of hot coffee. One of the more gruesome aspects of this heat wave is that my caffeine levels are well below normal.
The cold tub
spa will soon be open and I am thankful for small mercies.