2006.03.22 Sprung cleaning

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

I used to think that the apartment above the Observer was too dark. I used to think there weren’t enough windows, that there were just too many shadows.

About a week ago, I stepped in one of these shadows and left a footprint. I realized then that the problem with the apartment upstairs was not one of lighting, but of me being a filthy slob. What I had taken to be a shadow was actually 10 months worth of dark and disgusting grimy buildup.

If you remember, last Wednesday was a nice, sunny day. A springy day. And I thought, “what better thing to do on my lunch break than to go after some of that mess?” Obvious answers now spring to mind: exercise, give to charity, swallow drain cleaner, but at the time I was feeling energetic and proactive, so I rolled up my sleeves, pulled out all the noxious solvents that I don’t reserve for chugging, and went to work. It turns out that what I had thought were permanent scuff marks on the kitchen floor were actually dirt; what I thought was dirt was actually some primordial form of life; what I thought was the dull, gray tint of the bathtub was actually a rock-hard plying of soap scum.

Soap scum.

I’d always wondered how scum got such a bad reputation. Now I know.

If we were to compare filth to criminals (a far stretch), and homes to jail, your garden variety dirt would be the equivalent of the wrongfully accused. Dirt has its place—outside. The only way dirt makes its way inside is by way of some thoughtless human leaving a door open or forgetting to take his shoes off. Dirt knows it shouldn’t be inside, dirt doesn’t want to be inside, and that’s why dirt is so easy to clean up. A stroke of the broom, a wave of the washrag, and dirt is out of the way, in the trash, headed to that great big dump in the sky...er...ground. It ain’t coming back.

Dust is what I would call a public nuisance. Dust is a repeat offender. No matter the steps you take to limit recidivism, dust always finds some way to make it back in the slammer. Dust also keeps the executive branch occupied; it clings to brooms, it clogs vacuum motors, it corks drains. That is, it limits the effectiveness of those things created to eliminate it. Nevertheless, dust will come, take its slap on the wrist, and show up next week—stinking, drunk, and ready for booking.

Scum is a death row inmate. Scum is akin to the murderer, the rapist. You don’t want to know how it got there, but you do know there ain’t no way to get rid of it unless you burn it off the face of the Earth.

And that’s exactly what I did to the soap scum I encountered last week. After scrubbing at it with paper towel for about 20 minutes, to little avail, I looked under the bathroom sink, hoping one of the previous residents had left behind some weapon to deal with it. Luckily they did. It was a spray bottle, dated to the Reagan administration, I believe, filled with a substance called “ScumBatterer” or “ElimiScum” or something like that.

I read the directions. “Apply liberally to areas with high scum buildup. No scrubbing required.”

“‘Liberally?’ What does that even mean? Apply like Michael Moore would?” I thought.

After due diligence, I coated the entire tub with whatever was left in the bottle.

Soon after, I realized I was hallucinating from the fumes, so I opened the back windows and turned both of my fans on.

The apartment’s cleanness may have come at the expense of my own. I’ve known cleaning solvents to sizzle and pop, but never like ScumBatter. I think I could actually hear the scum screaming for mercy a few seconds after the concoction hit. The screams were followed by whimpering, and one last agonized groan, which I could only assume to be its death nell. I’m not quite sure I want to put my feet in that kind of environment.

On a side note—Congratulations to my brother John and my new sister-in-law Stefanie, who were married Saturday. The wedding went better than I anticipated—only two fights, one case of food poisoning, and five incidents of accidental swearing during my best man toast.

A couple black eyes, barfing, loud obscenity—that’s pretty much to be expected from a Pickell family gathering.

I did, however, fail to actually raise my champagne glass during the toast. I forgot to bring it with me when I went to the microphone.

– March 22, 2006 
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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