Toronto
5 min

Carpooling isn’t sexy

Lessons from the Hamilton women's bathhouse night

Credit: Suzy Malik

1. Carpooling is the cheapest and fastest way to get to Hamilton.



My plan was to catch a ride with three friends to the recent women’s night at The Warehouse Spa And Bath in Hamilton. I arrive at our meeting spot on time, but quickly realize that carpools are exactly like those horror movies where you Must Not Get Separated.



Me: Where the hell is everyone?



Driver: Relax. We’re right on time. Hey, there’s Lee now.



Lee: [locking up her bicycle] Hey, am I early? I haven’t had dinner yet.



Me: We’ll drive-through something on the highway.



Lee: I can’t support the capitalist, multinational, agri-business industry by eating fast food.I’ll just run and get a falafel down the street.



Me: Where down the street? I don’t see anything.



Lee: I’m pretty sure it’s close by.



Me: If we just all stick together….



Lee: [leaving] Hey, the others aren’t even here. This will only take a few minutes.



Me: Stop! Wait!



Sandy: [arriving just after Lee is out of sight] Hi, sorry my bus got in late. Where is everyone?



Me: We’re all here. If we just sit in the car we can leave soon. Get in. I’m going to lock the doors.



Driver: Actually, I could really use some coffee.



Sandy: That sounds great.



Driver: How about the Second Cup on University? It’ll just take a few minutes.



Me: No! We have to stay together!



Sandy: Hey, Lee’s not even here yet. We’ll be right back.



***

2. Just follow the signs to downtown Hamilton.



Two hours later our road trip is underway. At this stage of the journey, try to wait for the right road to actually reach your destination, rather than gamble on shortcuts that will defy the time-space continuum and move your destination to a more convenient location.



Sandy: I’m pretty sure if we take this road it’ll take us into downtown Hamilton.



Driver: That road that says, “Highway 6 North”?



Sandy: Yup.



Driver: With the sign underneath that says “To Guelph”?



Sandy: Yup, right here. We can stop by Guelph on the way and visit my girlfriend.



Driver: Aren’t we going south. To Hamilton?



Sandy: Um, yes. Well, you just turn the other way and it’ll take us to Hamilton, too.



Me: Isn’t this bathhouse on Main St in Hamilton?



Driver: Yup.



Me: Why don’t we take the exit that says, “Main Street – Downtown Hamilton” instead?



Sandy: Fine, fine. Be that way.



***

3. Taking over men’s spaces lets us learn how the other side lives.



For this one night, The Warehouse is hosting a women’s night. As we’re buzzed in, we enter a large common space with a single sofa in the middle of the room. The side rooms are painted matte black with plywood bench seating.



I take a tour of the rooms and baths. I don’t know why gay men have a reputation for interior design. Whoever decorates bathhouses has obviously never heard of the phrase “600 thread count cotton sateen.” In this particular bathhouse, they actually haven’t heard of linen at all. The beds are hose-friendly rubber mattresses no more than 20 inches wide and (of course) just short enough that you can pick between banging your head or your heels on the plywood frame.



The place is so bare that I imagine that they’ve hidden the real furniture and pulled out a few things they had stored in the garage. Or maybe the real men’s bathhouse is happening upstairs with faux-finished walls and tasteful seating arrangements while the lesbians are being hosted in the unfinished basement.



Suddenly, I’m overcome with nostalgia for the teenage days of rec room parties.



***

4. Make good use of all the amenities.



We get there early when the place is still mostly empty. There’s a large main room and a locker room to the side with a few free weights and a bench. Since my gym membership has lapsed, I think I might as well take advantage of the weight room and do some exercises. Sometimes I am too cheap for words.



As I lie down to do a few dumbbell flys, I notice I’m collecting an audience. “Don’t be shy,” I wave cheerfully, “there’s plenty of steel for everyone.”



No one joins me. I guess they all went to the gym earlier in the day.



***

5. While you’re in a bathhouse, you might as well get clean.



I stand in the shower for a good 20 minutes before rotating between the wet and dry sauna. The showers are near the bottom of the stairs and a good place to watch people come and go. I flirt with the women who come into shower with me.



Lee: We were going to go upstairs for a bit. Are you going to come with us?



Me: Maybe later. I need to take another shower.



Lee: Haven’t you had at least 10 showers already?



Me: I’m a dirty, dirty girl.



***

6. How to get instant sex appeal.



In Hamilton, I am transformed into the sexiest thing on earth – someone who’s leaving town by morning.



Girl: Do I know you?



Me: No. I don’t think we’ve ever met.



Girl: You’re really turning me on.



This must be why Torontonians think small towns are friendly – the locals are just so happy to meet up with someone who isn’t their exlover’s neighbour’s therapist’s dog-sitter. Since I’m from Toronto, I revel in the knowledge that I’m totally anonymous.



Me: [to a woman in the showers] So, how’s the night going?



Woman: I think my boss just showed up.



Me: Wow. Small town.



Woman: I’m from Toronto.



Me: Right. I was wondering why you looked familiar. Weren’t we at a conference together last week?



Woman: Oh, crap.



***

6. Hot tubs are sexier in theory than in practice.



I finally get up the courage to float over to the sexy couple I’ve been smiling at all night. Kissing them each in turn, I half-float, half-roll across their bodies. I run my hands down the back of one girl and turn to pull the other woman closer to me, when I realize I’ve used up both hands and I’m no longer holding onto the edge of the tub. The water jets push me back and my face dunks in the water. Only the threat of imminent drowning gives me enough willpower to let go of my happy handfuls and pull myself up for air.



Me: [draining the water out of my nose] Would you like to get a room, or perhaps some other form of solid ground?



***

7. Women need more than one night at the bathhouse.



We shut the door behind us and look at each other breathlessly. They’re hot and I’m overheated and now we can….



Me: Wait. How much time do we have?



Girl On My Left: [checking her watch] I think they’re closing soon. How much time do you need?



Me: Four days at least. And I can think of a few things I’d like to do twice.



Girl On My Right: Why don’t we just start and see how far we get?



Me: Wait a minute. Does anyone have gloves? Lube?



Left: I left my supplies in my locker.



Me: [sighing] I guess it’ll only take about 10 minutes to go get some from upstairs, fiddle with my locker, avoid teasing from my friends and return….



They ignore my dithering and melt onto the tiny bed together. Fortunately there’s an open bag of supplies that someone’s left in the room. I delicately touch the gloves to see if they’re, ahem, used. Nope. They’re fresh. I happily put one on and I’m finally ready to go. I dive in to the pile.



Knocking, then Voice From Outside: Sorry guys, we’re closing. This is your two-minute warning.



Me: I think it’s going to take us 20 minutes just to get untangled.



Voice: Now it’s one minute and 43 seconds.



I’m not giving up so easily. I’ve come all the way here and finally made it into a room with two beautiful women. They can drag me out if they want, but I might try licking someone in the process just to make the evening worthwhile.



We steal another 20 minutes together. Not enough to really satisfy anyone, but I can at least get chased out with a smile on my face now. When I get upstairs, there are only a few people left.



Bystander: I think your carpool left without you. They went outside a while ago.



Me: It’s okay. They’ll want to get a coffee on the way to the parking lot. They could be there until dawn.



* Regan McLure is a writer of humorous stories. She warns that people and events depicted have been funny-ized beyond recognition.