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Monday, April 28, 2014

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 narrarator 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 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 as for looking down, well 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.

27 comments:

vanilla said...

So I am reading along, enjoying the story, when, for some reason I am impelled to look up at the ceiling fan a ridiculous eighteen feet above this floor. Omg, as the young are wont to utter, the schmutz! And I am not climbing a ladder that tall. What to do?

Esther Montgomery said...

Ever since I was briefly a cleaning lady, I've seen houses differently - marks on walls and all sorts of insignificant things as well as ceiling fans! It hasn't changed the way I look after my own house though. That's still slapdash.

Delores said...

You are a strong woman Pearl, to clean up other folks "schmutz". Would you believe I used to have a sticky note attached to the monitor frame at work that said "keep your mouth shut".....good advice for so many situations.

joeh said...

Sometimes I like to point out the parts of a post that hit me as the funniest. I don't know where to start on this post.

Still laughing.

Silliyak said...

May I recommend one of those cheap paper filter masks. (Hmm, could you make one out of a coffee filter and string?) Anyway, all this from one who fell off a ladder 9 days ago and has the black eyes to prove/remind me of it. (the purple badge of stupidity)

Ms Scarlet said...

I'm pleased that ceiling fans aren't popular in the UK... I am irritated enough by my dusty light shades.
Sx

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
...try 11 ft ceilings versus 4'11" of YAMster... light bulb changing is beyond me. Ditto @Ms Scarlet.

YAM xx

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I also notice the dust on bullnose corners and also the fan blades, and the pendant lights, and etc., etc., etc. However, I let them be until I know that company is coming. Drop-ins don't matter, as they have to take their chances.

jenny_o said...

We have no fan here, but we do have a four-bulb light over the kitchen table. I don't worry about schmutz, I worry about the spiders who set up housekeeping there. Am thinking of changing my surname to Muffet, actually.

And I so agree with joeh! Happens a lot, really!

Catalyst/Taylor said...

I avoid looking up. Or about. SWMBO is quick to notice and tell me about schmutz and what to go about it.

You are a gifted humorist, Pearl.

Joanne Noragon said...

I once quit a doctor because the cleaning people did not vacuum or mop under the toe space at the sink or in any right angle space of the room. There was a grey cone shape where the vacuum just didn't get into the corner.

NotesFromAbroad said...

My husband used to tell my little ones to close their mouth, they would swallow a fly.
Another reason to keep your mouth shut.

love you

Elephant's Child said...

As a less than stellar housewife I cringed in shame reading this post. While chuckling. And then I thought about the ceiling fan in the kitchen. And cringed some more. Cringing counts as exercise doesn't it?

Should Fish More said...

Looking under furniture or in upper corners is unproductive, I don't recommend it.
As a side note, do you know if you leave a tupperware container of chicken marsala in the fridge long enough it will start moving around?

goatman said...


If you can get the fan going fast enough (higher voltage) they will clean themselves!

Sioux said...

So THAT'S what it's called--schmutz.

Now I can run to the store and buy schmutz cleaner.

(Do you have a particular brand you'd recommend?)

Sioux said...

So THAT'S what it's called--schmutz.

Now I can run to the store and buy schmutz cleaner.

(Do you have a particular brand you'd recommend?)

Geo. said...

It is best to leave dirty bull-noses alone unless the bull is anesthetized.

Ray Denzel said...

5' 4"?
You look so much taller on my phone screen 😁

Chicken said...

I'm glad to know this about you. I'll be sure to have Mary in before I invite you to be a drunken reveler at my next party. The fact that you actually remove the blades to clean them instead of swiping at them with one of those faux lambswool dusters is intimidating.

Lin said...

I dust my ceiling fan every week. Every time I turn it on, I imagine all that dust shooting around the room....hence the weekly cleaning. It drives me crazy when I go someplace and they have dirty ceiling fans.

HermanTurnip said...

My inner voice sounds more like a hung over William Burroughs; slow, methodical, and repeating the same, archaic musings over and over with ever more urgency. It's actually quite maddening at times...

...perhaps I should try on a Morgan Freeman or a James Earl Jones.

Rose L said...

I always thought of it as dusty grease or grusty!! Thankfully no ceiling fans in my present home!
I am one who does not look very closely at the floor baseboards. So...what do you charge for entertainment and cleaning???

Daisy said...

I was noticing just this afternoon, the dark schmutz lining my baseboards. I need you Pearlie girl!

Steve said...

Those ceiling fans are collectors of stuff.

Drake Sigar said...

My inner voice is a racist stereotype, and the worst part about it is I don't know which one.

Daisy said...

Keep mouth shut--yes, that is very good advice. I can think of several times in the past when I wish I would have followed that. :)