Saturday, July 07, 2007

Every Nook and Cranny

Until Dr C had a mid-life crisis, I hadn't cleaned a toilet since 1985. It was Berkeley and I was a sophomore. Thanks to rent control, I found a three-bedroom apartment near the campus with a total monthly rent less than my latte budget and two resident room mates: a lesbian fashion model and a Turkish gigolo. As they both considered themselves far too beautiful to actually do dishes, I instituted a cleaning tariff. If they wanted me to take over the domestic chores, by dogs they would be pay me to do so. In turn, I would hire people for that.

This is actually a surprisingly satisfactory solution to room mates. When Dr C, my once and future husband, moved in, I saw no reason not to continue the practice. Jaime's arrival cemented my conviction that life was not worth living without Merry Maids. And so it goes.

As part of our cost-cutting measures when I quit my job in 2005, we cut out all the expenses that made a two-income, upwardly yuppifying household possible: day care, private school, lawn service, housekeeper, manicurist. Come to think of it, we cut out hair dresser, vet, and doctor as well substituting them respectively with a large pair of sheers, a dead cat (old age and it was truly tragic), and the Canadian prescription drug industry.

This left me with a large, old bungalow, three children, and a male. They are disgusting. This entire conversation should be predicated with the phrase, “I love them but...” because they are just filthy creatures. I swear those girls can merely walk through a room to convert if from a neat, Lemon Pledge picture of Betty Crocker magnificence into a scene out of Martha Stewart's worst nightmares. And my husband? Let's just start with aim -- and the inability of men to do so -- and move on from there without further detail.

So for nearly a year, I've been looking forward to moving aboard the boat for the most simple and practical of reasons: less to clean. Our entire boat could fit into the family room of our old house. It has to be quicker, easier to clean. The application of basic mathematics compels this conclusion.

Unfortunately, that's not the way it happened. Essentially, the problems fall into three categories: things that grow, places you can't reach, and things that grow in places you can't reach.

Things that Grow – I now realize that every living creature is secretly a dreamer sailor, and they all want to live on my boat. Children, friends, family, seagulls, harbor seals, bacteria, algae, snails, rats, gecko lizards. If they can figure out a way to get aboard, they'll settle in for the duration and make a home out of it. My boat has yet to meet a cold climate mold spore it doesn't seek to bond with... more or less permanently. The problem with all this vigorous life is that it gets crowded, and most of these guests don't smell too yummy. Thus far, I've been reasonably successful in my attempts to kill them all with a combination of Simple Green, elbow grease, and country music.

Places You Can't Reach – The family room had four corners. I could largely clean the entire room with a fluffy duster, a bottle of orange oil, and a vacuum cleaner. When I was feeling particularly Spring Cleany, I would take a Q-tip and wipe that little tiny space in the corner that was otherwise unreachable. I think this happened once in recorded history. Mostly I put furniture in front of the corners.

Don Quixote, on the other hand, wouldn't know a straight angle if she met one strolling through Deception Pass on a fine Saturday morning with a sign on his forehead. This may be a by-product of her fundamental Frenchness. The French are apparently, as a cultural rule, averse to right angles. The result, however, is a boat with more corners than a game of Blockus. Which gets to my final burden...

Things That Grow in Places You Can't Reach -- Every living thing on our boat that is smaller than a toy poodle prefers to live in a place I can't reach. In fact, for such a capacious vessel, I am routinely astonished by how many places are completely and utterly unreachable. My husband complains about the space under the starboard head and shower which is inexplicably blocked by a solid, plastic formed floor. My personal bitch is with the keels. They may only be three feet down but they are too narrow to get your hand into for a good, algae and stinky gunk removing scrub. I also hate all those corners – those thousands of corners – each of which is filled with the oddest combination of dead skin cells, sand, bits of hair, and trail mix, bonded into a matrix by human hair and distilled spit. Worse, I can't hide them. A dozen of them push themselves to your attention as you move around the companionway alone. Cleaning requires a jumbo box of Q-tips, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and the patience of Job.

So forgive me, my friends whose boats I visited and silently sneered at, lifting my supercilious nose at your grime and grit. Please forgive me. And close your eyes as you make your way up the stairs.

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