Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life isn't antiseptic

My housemate recently had the kids for an extended time, and while The Boy thought this was awesome, The Teen Girl appeared to have mixed feelings. Mainly, she thinks our bathroom is unutterably grossly dirty.

Fine, I'll grant you, I only clean the toilet and mop the floor every other week, and the war vs. the soap scum in the shower is a "every other shower, tackle another section", not "spend all day scrubbing once a week" sort of deal. There gets to be a light layer of dust every now and then, and when there does, I clean the sink and counters. A little dust never killed anyone, and if I'm too damned tired after a week of working over fifty hours, I'm going to spend time reading blogs and with my husband, not kneeling on rebuilt knees and scrubbing tiles. If a little mold comes up on the shower curtain, it gets bleached and left until I get to scrubbing that section of the shower.

Now, I was born and raised before the fad of hand-sterilizer gels and anti-biotic everything really found its legs and started to run. My chickenpox vaccination was playing with a friend with chicken pox, and a week of misery and chicken soup. I've run barefoot most of the summer, out in the woods, and swum in ponds and lakes where you couldn't see six inches down. My mother is an ex-pat of a place where you whitewash the house once a year to cover the latest layer of mold, and saw nothing at all abnormal about messy, muddy, and slightly bloody children turn up starving twice a day all glorious summer. (Once I discovered the adult side of the library, I often turned up a lot cleaner and slightly less ravenous from sitting cramped at the base of the library shelves, reading everything that I was "too young" to check out.)

Calmer Half is from Africa, and has been all over that continent.

The Teen Girl, though, is of a generation that thinks "anti-bacterial facial tissues" are normal, and everyone should carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with them at all times, like some pagan charm against all illness.

The week before, when she knew she'd be subjected to this duress, she took a swab of the bathroom and used it for an example for biology class. When she brought the petri dish home from school and whipped it out with great ceremonial unwrapping from the plastic, she gave many warnings of the container wasn't to be opened, for it would smell a stink so foul as to make the heavens cry. I smiled. "Of course. Biology is messy."

She presented the evidence of my misdeeds to me, in petri form. I raised an eyebrow, then grinned. "Hey, cool! It's a monoculture mold!" I was completely unsurprised at the mold - after all, I fight it on the shower curtain pretty regularly. I was surprised that it was such a consistent monoculture, no hint of anything else there.

"But..but... it colonized the control side of the dish!"

"Yeah, that's pretty interesting - you can see how it grew on radial lines."

"But... It's disgusting! I showed it to the whole class and they were disgusted by the bathroom being so gross! The boys even went eeew!"

"Heh. Why don't you go show it to Calmer Half?"

"I don't think he'd take it as well as you did."

"Oh, I find it pretty amusing. Go on, go show him." I chivvied her down the stairs, and leaned back with a grin. She returned, pouting, crestfallen, and completely floundering at the lack of adult reaction (amusement does NOT count) to the repellant drama of the mold culture. Then she stormed off to go "properly clean the bathroom" with all proper drama and bleach. I know the biology teacher was amused; she sent the girl home with lab goggles, an apron, and rubber gloves. I didn't argue because hey, clean bathroom.

Calmer Half came up the stairs, to get another cuppa. The man who knows all too well what gangrene looks like, and what cholera smells like, cocked an ear to the teenage sturm und drang coming from the bathroom, and smiled at me. I shrugged and grinned, and he grinned back. Then he made a fresh mug of tea for me, as well as one for himself. Life is good, but not antiseptic.


  1. Is life. Is messy. Seems pretty simple to me.

  2. LOL, I'd 'love' to see her reactions to the wilds of South Africa... :-) OBTW, nicely played Lady!!!

  3. Send her to my place! I'm certain I can keep her busy with all sorts of culture ;)
    And I'd love to have such a 'properly' cleaned bathroom. LOL

  4. Reminds me of that George Carlin bit about having an immune system.

    I LOL'd.

  5. Or a military straddle latrine, after about a week, in the tropics.

    Or Porta-potties in summer.

  6. I tend to clean the bathroom the same way as you do, bit by bit. Since the roommates don't clean at all, they can't complain if I'm taking too long in there.