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Deep End

Power Showers

Chaffetz’s frugal ways at the Capitol are raising a stink.

By D.P. Sorensen
Photo by John Kilbourn 
Posted // February 16,2011 - “House office buildings are not dorms or frat houses. It is distasteful for members who sleep in their offices to wander the halls in sweat clothes or robes in search of a shower.” —Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW)

There he was, Congressman Chaffetz, shuffling down the hallway, unshaven, unkempt and unshod. His unlaundered bathrobe was untied and his BYU sweatpants were unwashed.

“Congressman!” I called, hoping to get his reaction to CREW’s call for a formal investigation into the 33 House members who bed down in their Capitol Hill offices and wander the halls in sweat clothes in search of a shower. It was 11 o’clock in the morning and the halls of the Capitol were filled with our representatives, except for Congressman Chaffetz and a few of his colleagues, all dressed for work in their regulation blue suits and red ties.

“Don’t bug me,” said the drowsy Congressman. “I’m looking for a shower.” He continued down the hallway, his hairy feet slapping the marble floor. I couldn’t help noticing that his feet were dirty; he also obviously needed a good pedicure.

Wanting to show respect for a duly elected public servant, I kept a discreet distance as Congressman Chaffetz searched for a shower, and a hot one at that. He would stop before an unmarked door and rattle the knob and pound impatiently on the frosted glass.

“I’m in the shower,” could be heard faintly behind the pattering fall of water. Congressman Chaffetz would mumble something under his breath and resume his search for a shower.

Occasionally, he would kick the door in frustration. I wondered why he didn’t injure a toe in the process, but then I remembered that Congressman Chaffetz was once a famous placekicker for the BYU Cougars. By my count he tried 17 doors before he found an unoccupied shower.

As he turned to shut the door, the Congressman caught a glimpse of me lurking in the distance.

“What the heck do you want?” His ratty plaid bathrobe was already in a heap on the tile floor.

“Are you one of them TSA guys who want to see me naked?”

“The people of Utah would like to know what you think of this possible investigation into Congressmen like you—and as you know, it’s only men, not women who sleep in their offices and wander in their pajamas through the halls of Congress in search of a shower—as I say, Congressmen like you who have turned the Capitol building into a giant frat house.”

“First of all, I don’t wear pajamas. That doesn’t mean I sleep naked, because no one has ever seen me naked, and no one ever will. I always wear my BYU sweatpants. In the summer, I wear a BYU T-shirt, and in the winter I wear a BYU sweatshirt.”

“OK, but aren’t you breaking the law by not declaring the fair-market value of your office lodgings as taxable income? The Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington say sleeping on your cot and wandering the halls of Congress in search of a shower is the equivalent of $2,000 a month you are getting free.”

For a second or two, Congressman Chaffetz looked at me like I’m sure he looked at those TSA agents who wanted to see him naked.

“I’m saving the taxpayers a ton of money,” the Congressman and former famous placekicker said, his jaws clenched. “I haven’t washed my sweatpants or my T-shirt or my sweatshirt since coming to Congress. My staff may have gotten used to my smelly sweat wear, but not me, because I have to live with it every day. Not only that, sometimes it takes me so long to search for a shower that I miss key votes on the floor. And half the time, some other Congressman has used up all the hot water, and the water is so freaking cold that I don’t have time to even soap up properly.”

It was hard to argue with Congressman Chaffetz.

“When the people of Utah County hear about your sacrifice, I’m sure they will express their appreciation.”

“Now if you will excuse me, I’ve got to get in the shower. I’ve already missed a couple of committee meetings.”

The congressman practically slammed the door in my face. I heard the shower turn on, almost immediately followed by a muted curse about the lack of hot water. 

 
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