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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Simeon Ford (1855–1933)

At a Turkish Bath

From “A Few Remarks”

GENTLE reader, have you ever bathed? Turkish bathed? I wot not. I have, wo is me, and I am now a sadder and a cleaner man. If this article, which is meant to be deliciously light and playful, appears to you to be fraught with an underlying varicose vein of gloom, do not hastily pass it by, but remember that it’s in the interest of science. I have dallied with this luxury of the Orient (so called). Also remember that I have contracted a deep sonorous cold, which will, in all probability, fondly nestle in my bosom till my ulster blooms again.

The preliminaries of the Turkish bath are simple. You pay one dollar at the door, and pass into the “cooling-room,” where the mercury registers ninety-eight degrees. The appropriateness of this title does not burst upon you until you have visited the inner shrine, where the temperature is up near the boiling-point. In the “cooling-room” you are privileged to deposit your valuables in a safe. I did not avail myself of this boon, however, for reasons of a purely private nature, but passed at once into the “disrobing-room.” This room was not so large as to appear dreary, nor yet so small as some I have lodged in on the Bowery, but was about seven by four. The furniture was simple yet chaste, consisting of a chair, and a brush and comb long past their prime. The comb was chained to the wall, but the brush was permitted to roam at will. Hastily divesting myself of sealskins, Jaegers, and other panoplies of rank, I arranged them in a neat pile in the center of the room and placed the chair upon them. This simple precaution I had learned while occupying a room separated from its fellows by low partitions. Your neighbor may be a disciple of Izaak Walton, and during your sleep, or absence, may take a cast over the partition with hook and line. What could be more embarrassing than to have one’s trousers thus surreptitiously removed! I am a lover of the “gentle art” myself, but I am ever loath to be played for a sucker.

I was now ushered into the “hot room,” where a number of gentlemen were lolling about and perspiring affably and fluently. Being of a timid, shrinking nature, I was somewhat embarrassed on entering a room thus filled with strangers, and the more so as I realized that my costume was too bizarre and striking for one of my willowy proportions. So I flung myself with an affectation of easy grace upon a marble divan, but immediately arose therefrom with a vivid blush and a large blister. I then sat upon a seething chair until I came to a boil, when I rose up and endeavored to alleviate my sufferings by restlessly pacing the room. A few towels were scattered about, and as the nimble chamois leaps from crag to crag, so leaped I from towel to towel in my efforts to keep my feet off the red-hot floor.

Having basked in this room until I was quite aglow, I summoned the attendant and told him he could take me out at once, or wait yet a little longer and remove me through a hose. I then passed into the “manipulating-room,” where I was laid out on an unelastic marble slab like a “found drowned” at the Morgue, and was taken in hand by a muscular attendant, who proceeded to manipulate me with great violence. He began upon my chest, upon which he pressed until he lifted his feet off the floor and my shoulder-blades made dents in the marble. I mildly asked if it was absolutely necessary that my respiratory organs should thus be flattened, to which he replied with a rich Turkish accent, “Come off, young feller! I know my biz,” and swooped down upon my digestive organs. Manipulation consists of disjointing, dismembering, bruising, and rending limb from limb, and may be healthful, but it is not popular with me. This man said he was a pianist also, and that he could manipulate and at the same time strengthen his fingers and improve his technique; and to illustrate, he struck a few resounding chords in the small of my back, and then proceeded to interpret Wagner up and down my vertebra, running scales, twiddling up in the treble and thundering down in the bass, just as if I were the keyboard of a Steinway grand—an illusion doubtless heightened by the ivory whiteness of my skin. He wound up by playing that grand show-off piece, the “Battle of Prague,” while I joined in with the “Cries of the Wounded.” It was a fine rendering, no doubt, but next time I am to be played upon I shall ask for a soft andante movement—a Chopin nocturne, say.