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Thursday, February 21, 2013

It All Depends on the Vantage Point


There was a time I could not enter a room without looks at its floor, looking hard at its corners, inspecting its baseboards, the bull-nose leading from one room to another. This is what happens to you when you clean a lot of houses.

It’s a learned behavior. If you’re quick on your feet, you will catch yourself in the act of inspecting and throw in a quick voice-over.

My narrator is usually David Attenborough.

“Years of manual labor serve her well as her keen sense of sight hones in on the sloppy attention given the cleaning of the quarter-round. Smug in her personal belief that too few people notice these details, she vows two things: One, that she will hire Mary to come and clean her floors to sparkly perfection; and Two, that she will have a party and find an unobtrusive way of calling drunken revelers’ attention to her immaculate, Mary-cleaned quarter-round, perhaps during a game of Twister…

And so the cycle of life continues.”


There’s a lot of time for thinking, if done properly.

But looking down, that’s no way to live your life, now, is it?

So I’m looking at ceilings.

I spent quite a bit of time Sunday climbing up and down a ladder. The ceilings in the rental unit downstairs – now empty and awaiting the next tenants – are, after all, 10 feet high, a ridiculous height when you’re 5’4 (and three-quarters).

It was the ceiling fan I was after. The ceiling fan in the kitchen, to be specific.

You see, when the schmutz is two inches thick, when the dust/skin/mystery fibers stream from its whirring blades like macabre party favors, it’s time to clean them.

My mind spins with filthy ceiling fan implications.

“I can’t believe how hot it is in this kitchen! Honey, why don’t you turn on that ceiling fan? Now who wants more soup?”

As an aside, prior to becoming a landlord/lady/tron I would have bet against my using the words “dust/skin/mystery fibers stream from its whirring blades” in a sentence.

Once close enough to the blades to attack them with a screwdriver and remove them for a thorough cleaning, I learned something else.

When you’re perched atop a ladder and staring up at a filthy ceiling fan, you’re going to want to keep your mouth shut.

Nothing horrible happened, but the thought hit me, strong and sure of itself: There are many times that keeping your mouth shut would be a good idea. This is one of those times. 

I pride myself on this kind of thinking. “Keep your mouth shut” is near the top of the list of ideas that will serve one well throughout a lifetime.

Of course there’s also “The man that ‘just needs a couple of bucks to get home’ isn’t really looking for bus fare” and “Be wary of the discount hamburger”. But you probably already knew this.

An hour later and the ceiling fan blades are clean, the ceiling itself prepared for a fresh coat of paint.

The next tenant may never know the insidious ways of the filthy ceiling fan.

And everything is looking up.

35 comments:

Shelly said...

Years back before I knew the insidious ways of the filthy ceiling fan, I climbed a chair in our kitchen to clean one, arms above my head and wiping happily. Suddenly, the fan dislodged from the ceiling and was only being supported by little old me.

Neophyte that I choose to remain in electrical matters, I had no idea how the fan was suspended and could only see the colored electrical wires coming down from the ceiling hole.

No one else was at home and I was too scared to let go of it, so I stood, holding it over my head while balanced on the chair, for about 30 minutes until my husband finally got home.

I felt more than a little stupid when he showed me the hook the fan was to hang from.

Those ceiling fans really are insidious. And they have an evil streak.

vanilla said...

The living room ceiling fan blades
Ceiling fan blades in the living room are seventeen feet above the floor (how stupid is that?). Come clean them for us. Please.

I had the "discount hamburger" just yesterday. In the defense of d.h., It was piled with sufficient onion and slathered with much mustard, such that one could not determine by taste whether or not it contained meat at all!

Sioux said...

And I thought that was the secondary purpose of the ceiling fan--to catch the "stuff" that becomes airborne.

And once all the "goodies" have mingled on the fan blades, now they're probably sticky, and can do a more effective job of trapping the other "crap."

Who knew? I guess I'll check out the track lights in my kitchen. Maybe they're a cousin of those ceiling fans...

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
oh the fan, the fan. Did you know the more you use them the worse they get? Here in hazy Mumbai the fan is almost never still. When it is, my asthmatic lungs go into spasms just looking at the blades. After all they have to cut through air that is three inches thick with that good ol' Bharatia dust. If you've seen today's post over my way, you'll understand.

Further to the cleaning, you won't catch this rickety body climbing ANYTHING to clean those wings of worry. Nope - I use two extender mops - one to hold still, the other to dust. May be not Pearl standard, but good enough to relieve the lungs of their angst... when I remember to keep my mouth closed. Let's not get started on the eyes.

Could this be the post that finally brings comments longer than the article itself? 8-0

joeh said...

Now I can never eat soup in a room with a ceiling fan again...thank you for THAT image!!

Pearl said...

:-) You've all made me very happy.

Oh, Poor Shelly! I would've been weeping by the time help arrived! We have a number of ceiling fans and I am not aware of any hooks. We once got a call from a friend about three blocks away whose husband was standing on the dining room table, tremblingly holding up an ancient and very heavy ceiling fan. Emergency help was dispatched immediately!

Vanilla, I've heard that discount hamburger can be effectively neutralized with onions and mustard. :-)

Sioux, oooh, track (or is it tract?) lighting is another one. The heat makes them incredibly dirty!

Yamini, the wings of worry. :-) I wish I had said that. And I can only imagine how the heavy air of India can affect the asthmatic! I'm wheezing just thinking about it!

joeh, :-) I'm tellin' ya: the closer you get to the floors and the ceilings, the more worrisome things become!

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Being only 5' 1" (and a half) (at least I was before I started aging I haven't measured myself lately) I make it a practice to NEVER look up. I might see something that needs cleaning and I do not get on anything higher than the first rung of a ladder. At the first available opportunity I had the ceiling fan in the kitchen removed and replaced with a fixture I can reach comfortably. It was evil.

Pearl said...

Delores, I know of whence you speak. :-)

Pat Tillett said...

I've always loved ceiling fans. Until now that is...

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

You REMOVE THE BLADES to clean them? Wow. Once again, I bow in your presence.

But then, our ceiling fan is approximately 20 feet of the ground. I do try- now and again- to get a whack at them with the dustmop.

I'm sure they'd send you into a closed-mouth, soup-covering tizzy!

Geo. said...

We never turn on our ceiling fan. When we want to get cool we just stand under it and spin.

Craver Vii said...

Our floorboards and ceiling fans were always immaculate, thanks to each of my four children always doing their share to help me and my wife, in our methodical ways of maintaining a clean and safe environment... then I woke up.

Eva Gallant said...

I'd so love to have you and Mary clean my house! I'm a horrible housekeeper.

Buttons said...

Wow 5'4 you are tall wish I was that tall.
So being in that same profession for a number of years I can relate to the dialogue running through your head.
I think I have never cleaned a ceiling fan maybe they felt sorry for the little person:) B

jenny_o said...

Geo. - LOL!!!

You'd have lots to narrate about at our house. Three cats and a very short housekeeper (under 5', people, we can't be expected to do things that reg'lar people do!)...

Oops, should have kept my mouth shut :)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Samuel L. Jackson narrates my life. We have great taste.

Joanne Noragon said...

You simply never lack for entertainment! Have you considered installing traffic control devices in you imagination.

Leenie said...

I LOVE this party! You have the best commenters on the internet. With Dawn I bow to your deep cleaning of ceiling fans. Laughing out loud at Geo. spinning under his stationary fan and with Buttons looking up to you as you tower over both of us.

On a personal note: before I went into the surgery which I knew would send me to bed for two weeks I made sure the ceiling fan hanging over my bed was guck free. One less thing to fill my morphine dreams full of horror.

Douglas said...

A ceiling fan in the kitchen??? I am stunned! I put up the ceiling fans in this house (because it did not have the 16 ft ceilings of my last one) and would never have considered putting one in the kitchen... even if there was a place to put one... which there isn't.

Here's a ceiling fan cleaning tip:
Put a cleaning solution (I recommend 1 ounce of bleach in 10 gallons of water plus a bit of Dawn [for the grease]) in a huge laundry tub (remember those?) and lift it carefully up until the fan blades are immersed in the solution then have someone turn on the fan.

No need to thank me.

Jackie said...

Your writing makes me smile...from deep inside. Love your style, my friend! So glad I found your blog.
And...you are 2 3/4 inches taller than me, so I feel dwarfed.
Looking up is always a good thing...and so is a wonderful sense of humor. Thank you for sharing yours with me.
Love,
Jackie

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I always have my living room ceiling fan on but never my bedroom one.

Ziva said...

Oh wow, I have never been happier to live in a place without ceiling fans. I can practically see the dust/skin/mystery fibers slowly falling through the air into a waiting mouth. Keep your mouth shut, indeed.. ;)

Linda O'Connell said...

Remove the blades? You ARE a professional.

Gigi said...

Along with all the others I am stunned about you actually removing the blades.

I am also stunned to find out you are a giant. Somehow I've always pictured you to be as vertically challenged as I am.

Daisy said...

I hate to clean. It seems so pointless. You do know that it will all just get dirty again, don't you? ;)

With that said, if you and Mary are ever in Northwest Ohio, and you're in the mood to clean, please come to my house.

"Keep your mouth shut" and the bit about the soup made me laugh out loud. Have a great day, Pearl!

Red said...

I was predicting that more than the ceiling fan would need a cleaning. Once you get to the 10 ft ceiling there seems to be much more grunge stored away. Keeping one's moth shut is excellent advice. I wish I could follow it.

HermanTurnip said...

I've learned to keep my mouth shut while cleaning underneath the couch, lest a dust bunny leaps into your gaping maw.

“Be wary of the discount hamburger”

Heh...I'll place this one right next to "Be wary of discount sushi".

lime said...

i worked on a paint crew and later in a nursing home laundry. i inspect paint edges and how well laundry is folded. i can well understand your fascination with quarter-round.

Suldog said...

I try to avoid looking at ceilings. I especially try to avoid looking at the ceiling of my bedroom. This is because I am as likely as not to see a spider. Seeing the spider leaves me with two courses of action. I don't kill bugs unless it's an absolute necessity, so I can catch the spider and put him outside. OR I can go to sleep and wonder if I'll inhale him at some point. So, I avoid looking at ceilings, especially my bedroom ceiling.

Rose L said...

Ceiling fans always are the big dust catchers. You need to clean them about once a month to keep on top of things. In California they were so nice to have during hot spells.

Tempo said...

Wouldnt it have been easier to burn the flat down and wait for insurance?

River said...

I have two pedestal fans, they get just as dirty, but are much easier to clean. For starters, I don't have to climb any ladders to reach them.

jeanie said...

Every year our ceiling fans whirr non-stop for 11.5 months.

Those 2 weeks they have off, we get to see just how much dust they have sliced through.

Its always a task that ends with a sigh of "job well done".

Roses said...

Ahh....

We don't have ceiling fans on this side of the Pond. That would imply it gets warm enough to warrant moving the air about.

But yes, I can see the problems cleaning them might have...

jabblog said...

If you ever venture this side of the pond and find yourself in my house I shall issue you with a blindfold or those things that horses wear but so you can't look up or down - four-way blinkers, I suppose. I couldn't bear professional eyes on my ceilings/floors/walls . . .