SFPNN Special Edition – 12/02/05  Bacteria Buster

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— Thanks to author, Joseph Walker, for today's Special Edition

By Joseph Walker

            Anita is not what you would call a neatnik.  She’s clean.  She’s tidy.  She’s organized.  But she’s not obsessive or compulsive about it.

            At least, she wasn’t – until last week.

            Perhaps it had something to do with all of the guests who had been invited to come to our house for Thanksgiving.  I think it had more to do with the new steam cleaner she bought.  You put that kind of technology in the hands of a homemaker whose mother is coming over for Thanksgiving dinner, you’re just asking for trouble.

            “Look at this!” she squealed at the first application of compressed steam on a dirty hallway wall.  Gunk (that is the precise technical term for stuff that accumulates here and there in your house) was streaming down the wall.  She wiped it up, and suddenly the wall looked pristine and new.  “This is amazing!”

            Evidently, the mix of “easy” and “clean” triggers powerful emotional reactions in certain females.  Near as I can tell, it’s akin to what men feel when they first rev up a new power tool.  It’s primal.  And uncontrollable.  Anita’s experiment with her new toy quickly turned into two hours of late-night wall-washing.  By midnight we had the cleanest walls in town, and I was checking the Yellow Pages for the nearest chapter of Steam Cleaners Anonymous.

            Soon our family was sucked into the vortex of steam cleaning.  Bathroom sinks and tubs were robbed of their gritty character.  Every blind in the house was taken down and taken outside for a thorough cleansing.  When she started working her way through kitchen appliances, I knew there was no stopping her.  Nothing was safe from her relentless pursuit of steamed cleanliness.  I just hoped she would get control of herself before something tragic happened.

            I should have known trouble was afoot that morning when I found her standing at my office door, looking longingly in the general direction of my desk and computer equipment.

            “What are you looking at?” I asked as I rushed to position myself between my filing cabinets and Cruella DeSteam.  “There’s nothing here for you!”

            She smiled sweetly.  “Of course not,” she said.  “I was just . . . you know . . . looking.”

In retrospect, that should have been my first clue.  But she fooled me with those big, beautiful eyes and the pleasant, innocent smile.  Without the steam cleaner strapped over her shoulder and the cleaning wand in her hand, she looked much like the wonderful, gentle woman I married and less like the manically obsessed grime-fighter she had become: Bacteria Buster.

            By the time I came home from work that night it was too late.

            “Dad, the computer is weirding out again,” Elizabeth complained.  “It won’t write anything.  It turns on just fine, and you can point and click to do things, but if you try to write something it just makes funny noises.”

            Terrified, I looked at Anita, who grimaced guiltily.

            “Well, the keyboard was so dirty,” she said.  “I didn’t think a little steam would hurt.”

            If it’s true that “cleanliness is next to godliness,” then my ergonomically designed computer keyboard is probably at this very moment resting on a desk next to the Almighty Himself (no, not Bill Gates; the OTHER Almighty).

            But this much is certain: it IS resting on that desk.  It isn’t working.         May it rest in peace.

            Thankfully I had an old keyboard in the basement, and in no time the computer was up and running – without the funny noises.  Anita seemed genuinely relieved and anxious to help.  She smiled sweetly and asked: “Would you like me to give it a good cleaning?”

            I’m pretty sure she was kidding.  But I’m keeping the keyboard covered – just in case.

    © Joseph Walker           

View more of Joseph’s stories in his weekly column, ValueSpeak at http://www.sfpnn.com/joseph_walker1.htm.

E-mail Joseph at: valuespeak@msn.com 

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