Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vintage Steam Tales

Lying in bed with the humidifier running on high, in hopes of keeping myself from drying out tonight, while I ramp away from my cold. Whether I'm ramping up into health or down into total crap remains to be seen. Tonight is the cold's pivot point, and that's why the humidifier is so important.

And I don't think I trust it at all. See, it's a cold water humidifier, with a fan that supposedly blows all that good moisture up into the air. But I'm a long-standing believer in the healing powers of the steam vaporizer. In recent years, we've run through a few of those, but they tend to be fragile things, and no matter how often you clean them or how doggedly you maintain them, they eventually get caked up in so much diamond-hard mineral crust that the simple act of removing it breaks the unit for good.

I don't think it was always that way, though. Maybe the water in Rockland - fairly hard stuff - has gotten even harder since I was a kid, when I had a steam vaporizer that lasted for something like a decade. And, man, did I love that thing. Actually, maybe the secret to its longevity was the fact that for years, I only had the top part. The fitted bottom part - the bit the water went in - was nowhere to be found, so I thought it was gone for good. Then, one day, when I was nine or so, I was urinating in the downstairs bathroom, and looked around.

There it was. I'm not sure how it happened, but the bottom half of the vaporizer had been repurposed as the garbage can. It makes a certain amount of sense - it was small (maybe three gallons), had little feet, was made from a sturdy white plastic that matched the decor. And it had been there for a couple of years, at least, which proves that the industrial design of the 1970's was nothing if not multi-purpose.

I cleaned it out as best I could and reclaimed it for its original purpose, and got me some nice, healing, steam-filled nights sleeps. As to what happened to it after that, who knows? Probably demolished and lost in the great renting debacle of 1980. Or it's been taken to use as a planter, somewhere. But I know that I'll never get a vaporizer as good again. But the sound and the effect is so preferable to the cold water model. Just that quiet steam over the single light - usually orange, for some reason - twinkling in the darkness, just off to one side of the bed. Soothing both physically and mentally.



Anonymous said...

Always hated vaporizers as a kid.. they were completely useless for asthma attacks...

we used to have this special vaporizer that you put this medicine in and you wore a mask with it.. like an oxygen mask.. anyway the medicine made you feel all jittery.. it was horrible..

Dave Kopperman said...

For me, it's great - their job is to just make sure the air is moist enough to breathe and not wake up with dry, disgusting mouth-breathing mouth.