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June, 2003

Living Requires Cleaning
By Harry Holdorf

    As you live and breathe, at least a little cleaning has to be done on a regular basis. Goobie Dog's constant licking and cleaning gets noisy when he crunches down, trimming his toenails.
   People clean either a lot or a little, and it shows. The Japanese were amazed, and had to do some interior redesigning of their exported vehicles, when they saw how much crud some Americans allowed to get built up on the insides of their cars. There are two types of Americans: the sloppy, trashy type, and the others who go to varying degrees of effort to clean up after themselves. It's not always the neat rich people, and the trashy poor: what's great to see is the dignity of dirt poor people keeping their houses and vehicles spotless.
   Myself, I'm sort of a sloppy person. I'm sitting at a table that has on it piles of useless stuff. I've got a small, persistent boil on my right thigh which comes from  not showering daily. On construction sites, it took a little show and tell from higher ups to get me to spend the time and energy necessary to pick up the job site at the end of each day. My car looks like it had a dog in it, chewing on things.
   When Rebecca was running her housecleaning business, she'd get me to go with her to push the vacuum cleaner. She had a lot to teach me about how to clean a whole house in an hour and a half. My sphere of influence was mechanical webbing, sweeping, vacuuming, and going after what I called "human dirt" -- the black left on kitchen chairs, doors, and hand railings. I'd remove it with "yellow stuff"; then apply Pledge or Liquid Gold.
   I remember when she insisted I not quit scrubbing a kitchen floor till I'd gotten ALL the spots off. It was months before she let me attack an entire kitchen, and I never got good at removing ALL the smudges from dishwasher fronts, etc. Hand dusting remained beyond me: we came home one evening to a phone message from a dis-satisfied client who called my bedroom dusting "pitiful": I'd dusted around a pile of change on a dresser, instead of moving it.
   Most of Rebecca's clients were people who enjoyed their clean homes, and were willing to pay for someone to come in every couple  weeks to do a thorough job, but there were a few unfortunate clients who were hopelessly sloppy. Cleaning their homes was nightmarish; we kept returning more as a community service than anything else.
   One of the worst was this big-time musical composer and his wife who had a large modern house in the Sonoma hills. He was obviously brilliant, and his wife very nice, but she was always couched out, doped up on some very heavy stuff, and he probably did a little drinking on a regular basis. They had two large indoor dogs, and thousands of feet of brown, smelly shag carpeting, which was so sticky I'd have a hard time pushing the vacuum through it. The dog messes were bad, but the worst was the vomit pile in front of the wife's couch. I experienced a frustrated urge to push the Panasonic through the juicy pile, but resisted.
   I'm fascinated with smells and odors: what occurs when messes dissolve, and turn into vapors.  

 

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