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NUTS & BOLTS

Hard-Core Hedonists Don't Use Soft Tubs

January 19, 1991|PATRICK MOTT

When I first learned the meaning of the word "hedonism" I knew at last that I had discovered my true path in life.

No longer would I identify myself merely as an American or a registered voter or a coffee achiever. I would be a hedonist. I would dedicate myself to the dogged, relentless pursuit of Fun.

I would never walk when I could ride, never ride when I could be chauffeured. I would order something that was not on the menu, fill the tank with super unleaded, have a closet full of silk smoking jackets from Sulka. I would buddy it up with Chuck and Di and spend winters sipping Earl Gray in the lodge at Klosters and summers nibbling scones at the Palm Beach polo matches.

All my breakfasts would be in bed and I would smash alarm clocks for sport. My yacht would be crewed by the Laker Girls and the only decision that would ever tax me would be whether to summon the Swedish masseuse or take another nap.

The license plate on my Countach would read LAID BAK.

But a padded bathtub? No.

One can indulge oneself only so much. Chocolate strawberries with beignets at pool side in Cap Ferrat? Yes. A tailgate party out of the back of the Rolls at Ascot? Sure. A private car on the Orient Express, just you and Diane Sawyer and a couple of cases of Dom Perignon? You bet.

But not a soft bathtub. Not for me, anyway.

I have not a bit of doubt that lots of people will rejoice at the idea of a bathtub that is actually pliable and slip-resistant, and International Cushioned Products Inc. of Vancouver, B.C., will be happy to supply them with one. But I'll pass.

My reasons have nothing to do with a resistance to innovation, and the company's product, the "soft cushioned bathtub," seems to be one. Rather than having a hard surface, the soft tub has a flexible plastic skin mounted on a spongy urethane core that is surrounded by a Fiberglas shell to give the entire structure rigidity. The urethane core acts as insulation, retaining the heat of the water. The company says the temperature of water in the tub will drop only one degree every 15 minutes.

International Cushioned Products also claims that the flexible plastic surface of the tub is not only slip-resistant, but also tough. It will, they say, stand up to hammers and screwdrivers dropped onto it. They also say they have thrown in some Sheetrock nails and stepped on them, and walked on the surface of the tub while wearing golf spikes, and no punctures have occurred.

So far, so good. I am all for bathtubs that you don't slip in. Slipping is not hedonistic. And I like the hot water to stay hot, which is hedonistic, since you don't have to exert yourself and turn on more hot water with your feet.

The tubs come in white, black, bone and gray, but you can custom-order quite a few other colors. They also offer a pretty intriguing optional feature: an "underwater illumination system." It's "for those times when you want to relax in a soft glow without the bathroom lights glaring." The bulb that provides the illumination is elsewhere in the room, and the light is conveyed into the tub through optical fibers, which can be tinted different colors and will, theoretically, make your soap bubbles glow green or blue or red.

This also sounds pretty hedonistic, if a little odd. I believe I'd feel a bit like I hadn't gotten all the grit of the day off myself if the water was still green when I was done. The blue light with frangipani bubble bath and a little Don Ho on the stereo might be nice, though.

It's also possible to whip the whole atmosphere into a froth by ordering a tub equipped with a factory whirlpool device. While it's true that whirlpools are in the hedonism hall of fame, I dare you to take a bubble bath with the red light on and the whirlpool going and not think about volcanoes.

Add to this the little caveat included in the company's product literature: "Caution is recommended in selection of water temperature." They go on to say that if you fill the tub with uncomfortably hot water, thinking that by the time you return from putting the Hawaiian music on the CD it will have cooled to a tolerable level, you'd better think again. The insulating properties of the foam apparently will keep you turning lobster red for at least an hour.

I'm not averse to the size ranges the company offers, however. There is the standard size "personal bathtub," which costs about $1,650, somewhat more than a comparable cast-iron model; the larger "soaking bathtub," priced at about $2,000; and the suggestive "double-wide bathtub," which costs almost $3,900.

No, it all looks fairly practical, safe and utilitarian. Which, collectively, makes it anti-hedonist in my book.

A real hedonist's tub, I believe, is not made for comfort, but for show. First, it should be so huge that whether it's soft or not shouldn't matter because the bather likely would not be able to touch bottom anyway. Instead of the water being beaten by whirlpool jets, it would be stirred up by several fountains and waterfalls, the water cascading out of the mouths of huge, smiling fish or from conch shells being held by statues of Venus and Diana. Light would come not from within, but from without: from dozens of tiki torches illuminating a vast luau, featuring not the music of Don Ho, but Don Ho.

And the words "standard" and "double-wide" would hardly apply. There would instead be one of those "capacity" signs at the water's edge, running into triple figures.

But there would be absolutely no walking on the bottom in golf spikes. Like I said, even hedonists have to draw the line somewhere.

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