A few months ago we got a hot tub. It was an impulsive purchase and I had to argue hard to justify it. I’m easily influenced. Sometimes I make the wrong decision like buying the mauve leisure suit that I only wore once or the outdoor fire pit that collects rainwater. But I felt really strongly about the hot tub. I knew it would be great for us. I had sold my business a few months before the pandemic hit and I felt flush. I proposed to purchase the whole thing with some of the profits and I promised my partner that I’d do all of the leg work to get it and maintain it.
We ordered the tub in June in anticipation of a long COVID winter and it came in November, right before it got really cold. My intention was to create something outdoors that would be fun and festive and allow us to socialize in the cold months. We opted for a round cedar hot tub, not too big. It snuggles right in the corner of our back patio; it seems like it was meant to sit there, filling the empty corner.
The hot tub came in boxes and had to be constructed. I hired a guy to put together the tongue and groove pieces and then I hired an electrician to run power to the motor that would heat the hot tub.
Once that stuff was done, it was all on me. I was the one who really wanted the hot tub so it would be my responsibility to figure out how to program the heat cycles, keep it clean, monitor it for problems, figure out what to do with the motor when the temperature dropped below freezing for extended periods, and check the chemicals every day.
The hot tub is my baby. I take care of her because I love her. I use the hot tub the most. I go in for 5–10 minutes every morning after my cold plunge in the lake. Sometimes my daughter uses it in the middle of her school day. Since there’s no school during COVID, she’s home all the time and can take a break out there. Some evenings my partner Nancy and I go out in the pitch black and unwind from the day. A few mornings a week I bring my cell phone out and FaceTime with my mom before I start my workday.
The hum of the hot tub motor goes off intermittently throughout the day, reminding us that she’s warming up, getting ready to give us a big hot water hug whenever we need it.
I love the hot tub and I appreciate all that she gives us. I want her to be part of our family for a long time so I’m invested in her daily care. Recently I hired my friend Sasha to build an insulated box to protect the motor. Every week I change her filter. I take the old one out, slip in a clean cloned version, and close up the filter hold again. Then I scrub the dirty filter and store it away to be switched out the next week.
By the end of the month, the hot tub water resembles earl gray tea. I’m told that for the first year the oils from the cedar will leach into the hot tub, turning the water a brownish color after a few weeks. So, once a month I drain the entire tub of the copper water and scour the cedar innards. I scrub the benches and the floor. I spray the whole tub with clean water, letting it drain again, and then I use a wet vac to pull any last particles of water and debris from the tub. When the tub is empty and sparkling clean I take a moment to feel proud and excited about the hot tub.
It feels almost as exciting as the first day the hot tub was built and ready to be filled. Each monthly cleaning is a new beginning. To fill the freshly cleaned tub, I pull the hose over and let the cool, clear water fill the beautiful cedar tub. Once full, I tuck her in again, laying down her blue bubble wrap blanket on the surface of the water before covering her with the heavy, insulated lid so that she can start the process of warming up again.
The monthly process of draining, cleaning, and refilling the hot tub takes about two hours. I do the deep clean after a long morning soak in the tub. I’m warm enough from my time soaking that to do the cleaning tasks I just wear my bathing in the chill of the 40-degree weather outside. Somehow I don’t get cold.
When I’m done with the whole cleaning and refilling process I towel off and go inside to get dressed. I feel complete. The monthly ritual is again behind me and I look forward to the days ahead with the hot tub. I imagine how clean and pure the water will be the next time I go into the tub. I think about all the warm moments I’ve had in the tub and I look forward to all the times in the future when I’ll enjoy the warmth again. Sometimes an impulsive purchase really is the right decision.