Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Don't Dust

When my son was in high school, technical theatre was his passion. He loved using power tools, getting covered in sawdust, designing sets, being the orchestrator in the lighting booth, just being part of the backstage crew. But there was one stagecraft task he didn't like, and that was painting sets, which is kind of a necessity in theatre. When Sean started in theatre, he was a freshman, and he had this black jacket he wore to school almost every day. This was the San Francisco Bay Area and it doesn't get too cold in the wintertime. Since the auditorium was usually chilly, he wore this thin jacket just about all the time backstage. As a lowly freshman, Sean didn't have much choice about whether or not to paint. His black jacket eventually sported swatches of many different colors, depending on the color of the set they were painting.

By the time Sean was a junior, or maybe even towards the end of his sophomore year, Sean had acquired a new jacket, and a new attitude. His new jacket was a shiny army green airforce jacket with a bright orange lining that he had purchased at the army surplus store. And his new attitude was simply: "I don't paint".

One day I asked him, "Sean, what are you going to do when you get a job in a grocery store (which he eventually did) and they hand you a broom? Are you going to tell them you don't sweep?" I got no comment back on that one, just a shrug of the shoulders. Teenagers think they are going to start at the top when they get out of college.

In any case, fast forward to my own situation in the present. I am staying at my dad's large, rambling four bedroom house in Connecticut. My dad is 84 years old, and my stay-at-home step-mom died eight years ago. My dad pays a guy to cut his lawn and rake his leaves, and another guy to plow his driveway when it snows. My dad buys his own groceries, cooks his own meals, washes his own dishes, and does his own laundry. Overall, he is pretty well set, except for cleaning the house. Apparantly, my dad "doesn't clean". What usually happens on the household cleaning front is this: when a major holiday rolls around, one of his daughters cleans the kitchen and the bathrooms. So, at least once a year, critical spaces do get cleaned. However, vacuuming and dusting are low items on the totem pole. This year, just before Thanksgiving, I solicited the help (or rather strong-armed) a few of the teenage grandchildren to dust grandpa's house, and I actually handed the vacuum to my dad to run over the living room carpet. I solicited help because I am allergic to "dust". Dust is not just tiny harmless inert particles that float around in sunbeams; housebound dust is made up of some pretty disgusting things (I'll let my readers check this out for themselves on Google), to which I am allergic.

When I was living with housemates in California, I always had a cleaning service, the cost of which I took out of the rent money. My main rationale for hiring someone to clean the house was simple; it eliminated a major source of household friction. I also had an ulterior motive; I am just not good at cleaning. I will admit that I learned from my step-mom how to do a spotless job of cleaning a house; I can clean very well, that is not the problem. The problem is that during the cleaning process, I inevitably get some irritating and sometimes dangerous cleaning product fluid in my eyes. I don't know how this happens, but it has happened so often that when I do use cleaning products, I wear glasses, a pair of big glasses from the 1980s, or sometimes the big plastic kind you can buy in Home Depot that guys use when working on some dangerous task where small objects are likely to become aimless projectiles. I can paint pretty well too; but at the end of the day, there is as much paint on me as on the walls. I am convinced that Sean must have gotten his propensity to attract paint on his jacket from his mother.

So now I am staying at my dad's house, which has been marginally vacuumed and dusted over a month ago. My throat and lungs are not happy campers, and I dare not vacuum or dust myself, because that only kicks up more dust into the household atmosphere. After several nights of two hour coughing fits, my dad hit upon a brilliant idea. If you have an allergy, how about taking some Benadryl? Brilliant idea. Why didn't my doctors ever think of this? (They only doused me with codeine laden cough syrup.) And, the Benadryl worked! I finally got a good night's sleep, and am a happy camper.

The remaining question is: what to do, or not to do, about the dust in the house? (I am sure some of my readers will suggest the obvious solution -- hiring a cleaning service to clean the house if my dad won't do it himself. My sisters have tried this before, several times, and I'm not really sure why it didn't work out, but it didn't. My sense is that my dad is OK with hired help working outside of the house, but not too keen on having hired help inside the house.)

I finally couldn't stand the dust on the hardwood floor behind the door in the bedroom where my laptop resides, so earlier today I grabbed a dustcloth, a can of Endust, and put a mask over my nose and mouth, and went to work on this one small patch of flooring. The bedroom where I sleep is a different story, as it is carpeted from wall to wall. Perhaps I should ask my dad to vacuum the hallway and bedroom carpeting when I am out of the house; he is fully capable of doing this. You know what? This is a good idea. I'll have to let you know if it works out.

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