Ken Ferguson has been taking baths in strangers’ houses and he’s loving it.
The Toronto actor, DJ, ex-trampolinist, and performer was invited to different peoples’ homes in Toronto during the month of January 2017, to take a bath. It seems like an odd idea, but Ferguson, 32, was having the time of his life. Even though it was a bizarre thought, the idea intrigued him.
“I kind of sat on the idea for a while because I thought it was weird, but then I was like, ‘No’”, Ferguson said Monday at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre in East York. The idea came to him, he said, after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November 2016. “I got so frustrated. All of the negativity in social media and just in the world with the racism, homophobia, I got so frustrated and I feel like I didn’t have a voice. I wanted to make people laugh.”
Ranging from different baths like Christmas decorations, paint, Barbie dolls, rubber ducks, and the Drag Queen bath, Ferguson’s bath project became a sensation. He didn’t suspect that his idea would’ve caused an uproar.
“It [the bath project] ended up blowing up,” Ferguson said. “I didn’t really have any intentions of this blowing up. Not that I’m that popular.”
Ali, Scott and I laughed a lot during our London bath, but Ali's message was the most important. I learned that she is a pharmacist technician at Sick Kids Hospital and that this place holds a very special place in her heart. Ali was once a patient there, waiting for an organ transplant. After two failed kidney transplants, she had one last chance. She explained the simultaneous guilt and relief when new kidneys came, relief that she could live, but grief for the person who lost their life. As an organ recipient, you can’t learn who the donor is. They remain anonymous for a year and are then given the choice to contact the recipient. Ali told me that she felt survivor’s guilt and couldn’t bear to contact the family or answer the letter that arrived, so her mother thanked them for Ali and her family. It was painful for her to try to connect this experience with the person who lost their life. One night, Ali accidentally discovered that her donor was an 18 year old man, the same age as her at the time, who had died in a car accident. Despite this being a question that could be considered intrusive, she showed me her scars from her surgery. I view scars as beautiful and memories of stories of our lives and triumphs against tragedy. She is a passionate advocate for organ donation and about the power of being positive when sick and keeping an open mind and heart to the world and its people. She told me “Earlier, you asked me why I trusted you, a complete stranger, to come into my home. Well, I am alive because of a stranger. A complete stranger gave me the ultimate gift of life and probably gave other strangers the ability to live as well. That complete stranger not only helped all of those people live, but also helped those people’s loved ones.” Now, Ali plays an important role in helping others heal and continue to live their lives, as she disperses life sustaining medications to kids that are just like she was. Ali wished me to say to all of you reading this to update your organ donation cards because you too could one day save another's life. Go to beadonor.ca. #bathtubsofbunz @sickkidstoronto @a_zazz #beadonor #campooch #organdonation
The project started with Bunz, a Toronto-based trading community where people exchange goods for other goods. Last year, Ferguson was trading with a woman, who invited him into her home for an exchange. After seeing her bathtub, Ferguson realized how much he missed bathing. He hasn’t had a bathtub in years when he moved to Toronto.
“She was leading me through her place and I was like, ‘S***, you got a bathtub? That’s awesome. I haven’t had a bath in so long.’ because the apartment I was living in only had a stand-up shower.” Ferguson explained. “So I was like, ‘Can I trade you for a bath some time?’ and she was like, ‘Sure.’”
Throughout his project, Ferguson believed that he was only going to go in the bath alone, but people surprised him. Strangers also started to join in on the bath with him and they connected emotionally.
“It’s funny, I didn’t really have any real idea that it was going to happen,” Ferguson replied. “But then the stories started coming out. The whole idea of a bathroom is often thought as a private place, but my friend Hannah said to me that I gave them a place where they can talk about their stories.”