Sunday, December 05, 2004

COLUMN: Cleaning

I'm living a lie.

For weeks now, I've presented myself as a fairly normal 30-something bachelor in full control of most if not all of my faculties. It's time to come clean. I've got a shameful secret, and what other time than the holidays to face my demons and share my dark truth. The shocking revelation, dear readers:

I was born without the tidyness gene.

There. It's out in the open. Shun me if you must. I deserve it. I cannot keep a clean apartment, try as hard as I might. If I tried at all. Which I don't.

Let me ask you, friends, how is it capable for one man (and one cat) to generate so much trash in the course of a mere couple of weeks? I will never understand it. I throw out the trash, and -- BAM -- within a day or so, it fills itself again.

My theory is that the cat must be having parties while I'm at work. How else could one possibly explain the pizza boxes that stack up night after night? The dirty dishes that just seem to stay in the sink without ever washing themselves? The pile of clothes on the floor that inexplicably seems to grow larger with every passing day? The piece of decaying fried chicken that's currently in the middle of my living room floor?

Ewww. Really? Decaying fried chicken? Yuck, that one really IS the cat's fault. Hang on a second, let me take care of that...

There, all better. Chicken is back in the trash. See? I really AM capable of cleaning after all... and now I'm beat. That's enough cleaning for one evening.

My rule of thumb is simple: obey logic. And logic tells us that there's no point in tidying up. I mean, it's only going to get messy again, right? Therefore, by simply NOT tidying, I'm saving myself time and energy best spent doing other important stuff. Like watching TV (though I prefer the term 'conducting cultural research.')

So pity me, friends, as I'm destined to live alone and hermit-like in my unkempt apartment for the rest of time. Or at least for the next two weeks, because that's when my parents are coming up for a visit.

Don't get me wrong, I adore my folks... I just tend to adore them more when they're not in my apartment. To the outsider, my mom might seem like your average, mild-mannered homemaker. Don't let her fool ya. Behind closed doors, she becomes Supermom -- faster than a speeding lintball and able to clean tall buildings in a single whisk. My mom is a clean freak, dust is her Kryptonite, and my apartment is her nemesis.

I brought it all on myself. I asked for a DVD rack for Christmas. Rather than venturing out to DVD-Racks-R-Us, my awesome dad -- who I'm convinced could show Bob Vila a thing or two about construction -- is building me one, complete with hinges and doors and quite possibly an icemaker and functioning toilet by the time he's done with it.

But this means they're going to want to come here and install it. I already had to take my apartment's terror alert to Def Con 1 earlier this month when my dad wanted to take some wall measurements. My plan worked flawlessly -- the parents came up, my apartment looked alright, we had a nice visit, my mom said, "See? Your apartment isn't that bad. You worry too much."

In fact, what REALLY happened went something like this. My mom calls (Def Con 4.) "Your father and I are coming up in two days to take measurements." (Def Con 3). "Okay, mom, but my apartment is a real mess (ho ho)." (Def Con 2). I then hang up the phone, go directly to my boss, fall to my knees, and beg for the next day off. Safely on vacation, I then call all of my friends and bribe them with pizza and beer to come help me clean. After a day's hard work, my apartment has moved from "legally condemnable" to "a real mess," and I once again deftly avoid being disowned by my family.

The hard part? They're coming BACK. Which means I have to somehow maintain this state of cleanliness for weeks on end. How have I done so far? Well, I wasn't kidding about the fried chicken on the floor if that gives you a clue.

So... if you're fans of my column, wish me luck. If you're my parents, stop reading this now and laugh at your loving son's colorful and creative way to tell a tall tale. And if you're one of my friends, the pizza should be here at 7, don't be late, and you'd best bring gloves and protective eyewear.

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