Housework requires a jump-start at times, for instance in the dead of winter when productivity can seem impossible. My friend Betty K. had a four-season excuse for household tasks she didn’t want to do: “Who sees it?”
People do see dirty carpeting; just watch HGTV. No House Hunter lets a square foot escape a snide remark. So, when my brother offered to shampoo my carpets while I was on a trip, he didn’t have to ask twice. In my absence Joe was able to work at his own pace undisturbed, and the carpets had time to dry--undisturbed.
Joe repeated his offer a few months ago, with the difference that this time the job would be easier, just a touch-up. Most of my carpeting had remained pristine through the holidays and even during the harshness of January.
“Even with all the company you had?” Joe joked. I rarely host anything.
After I’d fortified him with a cup of coffee, he readied his cleaning equipment. “Let’s make this as easy as possible, I said. “You don’t need to do everything. Let me show you my path.”
“You don’t need to. It’s a shining beacon.”
I walk most often on the carpeted areas between the kitchen and my office, bedroom, and bathroom. If anybody wanted to trace my daily movements, it wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes.
Joe started in the hall between the bedroom and master bath. Off that hall was my walk-in closet. I didn’t want him to overdo it, so I said, “You don’t have to do the entire closet. Just go down the middle, where I tend to stand. It smells like feet.”
“Have you considered slippers?”
I tried to stay out of the way, but it wasn’t long before I had to peek. “This is what killed me the last time,” Joe said as I rounded the corner and stifled a scream. The section he had cleaned looked like “attack of the black spiders.” The wet carpet was dotted with dark shapes the size of quarters that seemed to be advancing.
“That’s what the shampooer pulled out of your carpet. It’s dirt,” he said. I was glad to know that instead of an army of evil arachnids, I was looking at wet dust bunnies. “When I did your floors the first time,” Joe said, “it took me an hour just to pick them up.”
“Skip the stairs this time,” I said a few minutes later in spite of the trail of coffee stains leading up the steps to my office. “Maybe you could just shampoo the landing.”
“I can’t stop now,” Joe said. “Now that I’ve seen it, I have to clean it. Do you use a pogo stick when you carry your coffee upstairs?”
When he was done, he called me into the bathroom to see the murky water he was about to discard. It reminded me of the chemical spill that polluted the Elk River in West Virginia in January 2014.
“When I was still working as a school custodian,” he said, “I always showed the teacher the dirty water afterward. ‘What does it look like?’ I would ask, and they knew I wanted them to compare it to coffee: was it black or “with cream”?
He didn’t ask me, but “black with spiders” is what came to mind for the water. The carpet was pure cream.