Cleanliness is Godliness

Copyright 1997 by Robert L. Gidley. All rights reserved.

A piece inspired by inhaling too many cleaning fumes. On the other hand, our condo sold seven days after it went on the market. Comments?

Every couple of months, a study comes out that shows that guys do about 2% of the housework (the part that involves removing the beer from the refrigerator). The conclusion of most of these studies is, "Guys are lazy slobs!" The truth is that women don't want guys to do more housework. They are perfectly happy with the amount of housework that guys do now. Women do not, of course, admit this, because these studies let them make guys feel guilty and take them out to dinner more often.

Why don't women want guys to do more housework? Simple: guys have two settings when it comes to housework: if it's not moving, leave it alone; and total, absolute obsessiveness. Women have a much more sensible setting of "pretty clean." When my wife cleans the kitchen floor, for example, it's not clean enough to eat off, but you can tell what color the tile is. When I clean the kitchen floor, you can either almost tell that it has tile, or you can perform open heart surgery on it.

I discovered this phenomenon when we recently decided to sell our condominium. In my ignorance, I always figured selling a dwelling involved putting up a sign that said "Buy me," and waiting around for people with their pockets stuffed full of cash to drop by.

Ha! It turns out that before you can even put your condo "on the market," you must first make it look like nobody lives there, and the only people who visit are cleaning ladies. You have to move out everything that gives the place any kind of character (including, amazingly enough, the five foot tall Lego robot that holds one of the stereo speakers off the floor), so that the place looks more "spacious."

Then, once you have packed up and moved out 90% of everything you own, you start cleaning. My wife has a regular job, while I'm a writer--which means I'll do anything to avoid having to actually write something. So I volunteered to do the packing and cleaning.

At first I despised the cleaning part. Why did God make so much dust? And if he made so much of it, why do we insist on getting rid of it? Shouldn't we learn to live in peace and harmony with our small dust brethren?

Then, one day I woke up and discovered that I had broken the "Clean Barrier." Instead of being happy that I could tell what color the toilet seat was, I could now see individual germs lurking in the bathroom. Rather than closing the curtains to hide the dirty windows, I was getting ready to power buff out the small scratch at the top left corner of the window.

I first noticed this behavior with my Dad. For many years, he had gone to work while my Mom stayed home and cleaned. My Mom had the typical female approach to cleanliness, one of moderation. Vacuuming, for example, happened on a fairly regular basis, but was done infrequently enough that we were still using a vacuum cleaner powered by a push pedal.

Then my Dad went back to school, my Mom went to work, and my Dad took over the cleaning chores. I had never thought of vacuuming as a science, but I soon discovered how wrong I was. Not only was the vacuum cleaner immediately upgraded to a model that used aviation fuel ("Don't stand in front of the intake, kids!"), the entire process of vacuuming became an elaborate, organized activity. My Dad had calculated the best path for vacuuming the entire carpet, in the minimum number of strokes, and without ever crossing the same area twice.

Just vacuuming was no longer sufficient, of course. The carpet had to be "prepared" for vacuuming by the application of various chemicals, and then once it was vacuumed, it needed to be "conditioned" (more chemicals) to maintain maximum cleanliness.

For many years I found this highly amusing. Until the day I woke up trying to remember what grade of aviation fuel he used in the vacuum cleaner. I was also seriously thinking about installing an electrical grid under the carpet so that it would repel any dirt that tried to settle on it.

At first, my wife appreciated my efforts to clean up the place. But lately, she's been, well, less pleased with my activities. Yesterday, she walked in the door and started to head into the living room when I gently called to her, "And just where do you think you're going with those dirty shoes on, young lady! You take them off right this instant! I will not have you tracking mud all over my nice clean carpet!!!"

I've been trying to convince her that the bathrooms at the nearby mall are really quite nice, and that if we used them more often, then we could keep our bathrooms much nicer and cleaner.

I find myself looking through catalogs at industrial strength air-cleaners, and reading articles about "clean rooms" used to assemble computer chips. I think the idea of putting on plastic suits that cover our entire bodies before we enter the house is a pretty good one.

My wife longingly reads another study that shows how most guys figure they're helping with the housework if they lift their feet while their wives vacuum the floor. She smiles and says, "You know, that sounds really nice."

I reply, "Have you washed your feet lately? Do you have any idea how dirty feet can get and what that can do to a carpet?"

Somehow, I think that after we move, I won't have any problems getting out of doing the cleaning.

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Copyright 1997 by Robert L. Gidley. All rights reserved.