Monday, May 15, 2006

COLUMN: Inspection

"Did you get your Nastygram?"

This is a sentence you really don't ever want to hear -- especially when it's coming from your landlady.

I had just returned from the much-discussed Florida trip and, rather than be responsible and unpack, I strategically decided to just throw everything from the trip into a large "I'll-deal-with-it-later" pile in the hallway of my apartment. In fact, I had become somewhat of an expert lately in the research and development aspects of dealing with things "later." But all things considered, the apartment wasn't THAT bad, was it?

Well, okay, so the bathroom was approaching biohazard status. And, sure, there were piles of junk everywhere. And maybe I'd forgotten to take out the trash before I left, so the kitchen was smelling kinda rank. And, yeah, the refrigerator was so full that you couldn't open it without food products lunging at you. Some might say this was due to be over-stuffing the fridge. Personally, my theory is that the food was trying desperately to escape from whatever life form the gallon jug of milk from 2004 had turned into.

(We interrupt this column for SCIENCE CORNER. Know what happens to milk left in the fridge for two years? It turns CLEAR. No joke. I'm betting that it also now either (a) causes or (b) cures cancer. We now return you to your regularly scheduled column.)

But I can get away with this, right? I'm a single guy. I can't help being a slob; it's in my DNA. Do you know any single guys who keep a clean apartment? If you do, that means the guy is desperately looking for a mate. Those of us like myself who have accepted our fates as comically hopeless asexual hermits revert back to our natural instinctive lifestyle of sloppiness.

I could live this way forever. At least, I thought I could. See, what I failed to notice as I threw my vacation gear on the hallway floor was the notice by the door of our apartment complex. That notice was to inform all tenants that our smoke detectors were all being replaced, as a result, a city inspector would be dropping by to make sure we were up to code.

And you know what? It turns out that the city inspector was SO impressed with my housekeeping abilities that he wrote me a letter to tell me all about it. In fact, he was SO taken by my apartment that he wanted to come back and re-inspect it in two weeks. Then there was something I skimmed over about "clutter" and "city codes" and "fines" and other fancy stuff.

This was, needless to say, one of my lowpoints. I mean, I know I'm messy, but there's a line between "messy" and "filthy," and I at least know where to draw it. At least I thought I did. Apparantly I'm so pathetic that I can't even be trusted to maintain a sanitary home. I was banging my head against the wall in shame when I actually RE-read the letter.

It turns out that the city inspector had no problem with the mess in my apartment. Instead, the problem stemmed from the 18 crates of record albums I was storing in the hallway. As a weekend DJ, it's good to have quick access to my vinyl collection, and I had been circumnavigating those crates for years without problem.

Bad news, though; it turns out that when you put a measuring tape to it, the crates narrow the space in the hallway to unacceptable levels. Per city code, your hallways have to be wide enough to allow for EMT's to bring a gurney in for that fateful day when I finally eat one Butterburger too many. The inspector cared less about the refrigerator; I was being written up for my music fetish! I wanted to explain to him that vinyl is only a gateway habit to CD's, and that if I've got a true problem in my life, it's THAT.

But I decided not to press the issue. I moved the records into the closet. Presto. But I didn't stop there. This was a wake-up call. I started doing something I didn't think possible -- I cleaned. And cleaned and cleaned. (My friend Linn cleaned my fridge, though - I promised her I'd credit her publically.) And then? I hired a housekeeper to keep it that way. After all, I may have turned over a new leaf, but life's awfully windy; one strong gust and that leaf can turn right back.

In the meantime my apartment sparkles. It's almost creepy and unfamiliar. It's so clean you could eat spaghetti off the floor. Not that you could. Because I finally picked it up and threw it away.


Wendy said...

I WANT PICTURES! I've not seen your place all nice and clean. ;) Last time I saw your place, there were fruit flies moving in, an overflowing trash can and an inch or better of dust on your TV screen. I can't imagine your place having clean counters and floors...

Anonymous said...

Yep-it'll all go to hell in a hand basket the first time you do 9 1/2 weeks on the kitchen floor and then sleep too late the next morning and the cherry pie filling is too dry to chip off. ;) We know all about you wild single dudes. That maid will so quit.

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