When I was young, three friends and I backpacked through Europe one summer. I don’t know who started the dare but someone wondered aloud, “How long could we go without taking a shower?”

We were on trains and in youth hostels and being grungy — it was part of the abandon of being young and free, I guess. I broke down on day four after hiking in the Austrian Alps. I couldn’t stand my own stench. I bathed. We all did.

This memory floated back to me as I entered day three without a shower on the Wednesday after Memorial Day weekend. But this time I wasn’t participating in a youthful “Survivor”-style escapade.

I had no hot water.

It all started Sunday night when the smoke/carbon monoxide detector on our bedroom ceiling sounded. It rang twice then stopped. My husband searched the house. There was no fire. Either we had a carbon monoxide leak or the detector was worn out and faulty.

We opened the windows and waited. Nothing happened for 20 minutes; then another high-pitched alarm. It stopped again. We called the fire department rather than wait until morning because I wasn’t sure how long it would take for carbon monoxide to put us under.

Standing at the open front door, we explained to the fire chief — while swatting at bat-sized mosquitoes entering the house — what had happened.

The firemen checked out the upstairs and the main floor. No problems there. They then wanted to go to the basement.

My husband and I braced ourselves. Six years ago, in a similar incident, the gas line for our hot water heater was turned off because of a carbon monoxide leak. The gas company had told us the vent was not pitched vertically enough to send gas up the chimney. We called in plumbers to fix the venting — admittedly a tough job in our basement with low ceilings.

By now the firefighters, accompanied by a gas company official who’d been called in, were tsk-tsking at the venting job. Their detectors said we had a high carbon monoxide reading.

The gas was turned off immediately.

It was Memorial Day. Temps rose to the mid-90s. Nothing much to do but plant our vegetable garden, as planned. We were sweaty and smelly by day’s end.

Discussions over what to do next became heated. My husband thought we should have a plumber try to fix the venting. I insisted on switching to an electric water heater.

My husband said it would be more expensive. I said we wouldn’t have to worry about carbon monoxide.

He said it would be more expensive. I said I didn’t trust plumbers anymore.

He said we would spend an extra $500 a year taking hot showers. I said we could cancel our New York Times subscription.

I can’t say whether it was my rising hysteria or the rancid smell emanating from my person, but he gave in.

For three days, though, we were trapped in a labyrinthine maze of what-ifs, unreturned phone calls and canceled appointments. In the throes of a post-Memorial Day weekend heat spell, it was impossible to get an electrician to run a line. Ten calls went nowhere. They asked if we’d like to make an appointment in mid-June. One said he’d come the next day, then called at 7 that morning and canceled.

“It’s too hot to work today,” he told us.

Finally, we dialed Franco — a referral from a friend. Our friend warned he was expensive. At this point, I was willing to pay extra to smell like a daisy again. Franco showed up moments later. He told us to order our hot water heater and he’d come back later that day.

Lowe’s promised to install and deliver the unit by 9 p.m. Thursday, and did. Franco also showed up and hooked up an electric line.

That night, after the sweat-drenched workmen left, I scurried upstairs to the bathroom. Hot water rained down. My middle-aged bones and muscles were soothed and grateful — though I felt nostalgic for that younger me who went without bathing for days just for the fun of it.

Read more about Tina Traster’s move from the city to a rural suburb in “Burb Appeal: The Collection,” available on Amazon.com. E-mail: [email protected]

NEW YORK POST is a registered trademark of NYP Holdings, Inc.

nypost.com , nypostonline.com , and newyorkpost.com are trademarks of NYP Holdings, Inc.

Copyright 2011 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved. Privacy | Terms of Use

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/realestate/residential/waiting_for_hot_water_can_push_you_neIZaNuwjPwLAASwqm4q9I#ixzz1Q6E5LDGY

(Havelock, NC)

I lay on the floor and watch her disrobe, her naked body, hovering over me. She starts the shower. She soaps her hair and I watch the lather run down her curvy body, a bit irritated by the moisture since it’s taking years off of my life.

I go to bed with her. I rest on her chest as she sleeps and slowly make my way towards her belly as she lightly snores. Life with her is good.

(Venice, CA)

I giggle, knowing that you’re back home, struggling to pay your bills, knowing you can’t see all the nudity. I don’t need to go to therapy, drink, even in moderation and I stay 214 pages all of my life while you count calories and exercise so you can keep your 32 inch waist.

You don’t see the tears that well up in her eyes when Gabe is heartbroken. Or how she giggles when Gabe describes the world around him, pulling her in, making her care.

She threw me across the room because some lover betrayed her. I smacked that fucker in the head. Damn straight. Don’t mess with my woman, even though she makes me mad because she dog-ears my pages. She makes up for it by smiling when she reads a moment of victory. Oh her sweet dimples.

(Nanterre, France)

Not all is well for me. Sometimes you really wouldn’t want to be in the bathroom with these people. I won’t even discuss the toilet, but a fat English bloke peed in the shower. And the sex, there are some things that if you witnessed them they would turn you off of sex forever.

I sat on his lap for a full five minutes and he just looked at your name on the cover, trying to figure out if he’ll look more French if he brings me to a cafe. Yes, DuShane, it’s French, now open me up.

(Houston, TX)

I remember when she took me off of the shelf, stroked by tender hands. I was like an orphan looking for a parent. A dog with his paw to the cage. Me, me, me, I yelled. When she took me to the cash register I felt like I sent a farewell note to you. This is it. This is what you wanted. Good-bye.

Then I snicker because you will be judged. They do those little star-thingies on those book websites. What you put me through, what you put all of us through for three years? Back when we were naked, when we had no spine. Those days you just sat there and looked at us, half formed, deformed, a few of us characters bloated like we were force fed popcorn and chili. That wasn’t fun, but you wrote your way through that time and now I don’t feel like farting as much.

(Cleveland, OH)

I just sat there, not a care in the world and then this two-year-old kid showered me with a bowl full of milk and Cheerios. Nobody read a word of me and down the trash shoot I fell. Four stories.

By the way, there is an after life, and it doesn’t involve a heaven or hell or ghosts bothering humans or anything like that. Wait a second.

What? Oh, I can’t tell him. That’s funny.

(Brooklyn, NY)

I’m at another writer’s house. He’s good. I mean, wow, the wealth of material. I’m up against his manuscript. I know I can’t call you, but maybe there’s some weird shit in the universe that will make it to your brain and into one of my younger brothers or sisters.

(Halifax, Nova Scotia)

I heard you might adapt me into a film. I wish someone would throw me at your head, what are you thinking? They’re going to change things around. And, have you seen some of these films? I’m with a woman who insisted we watch Eat, Pray, Love. Twice in a row! She brought me into the theatre bathroom after seeing it once.

Yeah, I got to go into the women’s bathroom and I know you’re thinking there are a bunch of bare breasted women applying makeup, comparing their front bottoms and splashing water on each other, but don’t get your hopes up too high on that idiotic fantasy. She just sat there, looking at her ugly mug in the mirror, actually thinking she was Julia Roberts, or that she could be Julia Roberts. We bought two boxes of Junior Mints and she ate all of them before the previews, of course, and I had to watch that crap film again.

I swear on my holy…..if you…if they….if Julia Rober-…..I will hurt you. Somebody place me on a computer I will one-star-thingie the shit out of you. Amazon. Barnes & Noble. Powell’s. Goodreads.com. Why would I care, we’re done, I’m home and you’re back in San Francisco doing whatever you San Franciscans do when you’re not writing or waxing your hipster mustaches.

And, you didn’t have that mustache when we started. Yeah, I’m calling you out on it to the world. You were fat. You were a fat bearded fuck. 234 pounds. I know, you go on and on about how you lost 50 pounds and the first 20 pounds were easy because they were heartbreak pounds. What was that pithy little sentence you wrote?

“Divorce is the number one cure for weight loss without a prescription.”

Actually, that’s not bad. And it was good to see you get healthy. Well on your exterior since we both know your insides are just rotting guts and you’re still a tormented artist, blah, blah, blah. I wish I could write your next book for you and call it, I’m Tormented, Help Me.

Forget what I said about Julia Roberts, you and I spent so much “quality” time together, you know what I’m talking about you delusional sod, that I now want Julia Roberts to play the role of Mom. Yep. If I could call your agent and sound halfway intelligent with the limited sentences you gave me, I’d find out. But I can only say sentences the way you wrote them. Let’s see:

“Did you touch her?” Page 8. Not going to work.

“Shitfaced.” That’s a sentence on page 142. You’re not too shabby on the internal dialogue stuff when Gabe says what he’s thinking.

Okay, flipping through myself. Hrmm. That feels kind of good. Flipping through my pages. Flipping through. Flipping through. Flipping through. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, I’ll be right back.

I’m back. All of a sudden I feel a little tired. I thought I broke something there for a second.

“It was a very Norwegian way to communicate something that hurt too much.” Page 62.

Look, you’ve given me nothing to work with here so you’re on your own. I’ll never speak to you again if the world knows my story through some starving, numbskull actors who rubbed the right people the right way to get into the-.

Rubbed. They flipped through my pages. Flipping through my pages. Flipping. Flip, flip, flip. I feel a bit light headed. I’ll be right back.