Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Year of Cleaning Dangerously

I sometimes can’t help but think that people are not, in general, very clean. By which I mean, of course, they are dirty. Now, I know there are degrees of cleanliness and in the spectrum of clean, I suppose I’m on the far end of neurotic. But every day, I find more and more evidence of disturbing behaviour by people who really should know better.

Just the other day, I was having lunch at Pantry with Nicole, an old friend from school. I’d not seen her for years and there was a lot of catching up to do. Too much, as it turned out.

Nicole is married to Mark, a banker. They live in a swanky three-bedroom apartment on Paterson Road. Apparently, with just the right angle of their binoculars, they can see directly into David Gan’s living room. But that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, Nicole was moaning about how Mark is always travelling and how she never gets to see him anymore.

“We have no sex life!” she told me, with more than a little desperation in her voice. From the corner of my eye, I could tell that the tai-tais at the next table had stopped talking and chewing.

I reached across my salad, took Nicole’s hand in mine and told her firmly that as much as I enjoyed our nostalgic trip down memory lane and gossiping about old school friends, we were now venturing off that lane into TMI County.

“Oh, it’s horrible! I’ve started, you know, uhm, fantasizing about Mr Baker!” Nicole went on, her lack of sex clearly having also affected her hearing and better judgment.

I blinked. “Our high school phys-ed teacher? He’s at least 105 years old!”

“Not back then, he wasn’t. He was hot back then!”

“Uhm, don’t you have any, uh, more contemporary role models?”

Nicole sighed. “I tried. My daughter is in love with Tay Ping Hui, so I tried thinking about him, but that just didn’t work. He always looks so sulky. Then I tried George Clooney but his face kept getting blurred with Brad Pitt and then I started thinking about Angelina Jolie!”

By this time, the tai-tais at the next table had actually put down their cutlery to just stare down at their food.

“So, in the end, I just get up out of bed and bake.”

“You could try cleaning. Amanda does that when she’s, uh, you know, stressed, that way.”

“Clean? I don’t clean. Mark fired our maid a year ago. He said we could save money and do it ourselves. I sometimes wonder if he knows who he married. So I don’t clean and he’s always travelling…”

I leaned in with a mix of dread and curiosity as I asked the obvious question. “So, who cleans?”

“Nobody! The apartment hasn’t been cleaned for a year!”

I drew back, suddenly seized with this desperate need to be somewhere else. But there was more.

“I don’t even do the laundry! I get all my clothes dry-cleaned. Even my underwear!”

“What about your bed-sheets?” I whispered.

“They’re actually OK,” Nicole said. “I have a shower before I go to bed so the sheets stay quite clean.”

“A year? You’ve not washed your sheets for a year?” My voice rose several octaves. I also felt itchy all over.

“Well, Mark is never around. So for the first six months, I slept on the right side of the bed. And then these past six months, I’ve been sleeping on the left side. The cleaner side,” she added as if I’d missed the point.

I couldn’t wait to get away from that lunch to rush home where I had a half hour hot shower, scrubbing furiously.

“She hasn’t washed her bed-sheets for a year?” Saffy asked later that night. “Who is this woman? And, more importantly, why are you friends with her?”

“But what’s she going to do now that she’s slept on both sides of the bed?” Amanda asked demonstrating once again her ability to spot a loop-hole in any argument.

“Apparently, it’s a king sized bed,” I reported, scratching myself, “so she’s been sleeping on the far edges, which means that the bit in the middle of the bed is still clean!”

“Oh. My. God. Are you telling us that she’s going to go for a year and a half of not washing her bed sheets?”

“You’re making this up, aren’t you?” Saffy demanded.

“I swear I am not!”

“Because that is not how people live!”

“Especially the people who live on Paterson Road!” said Amanda, Princess District 9.

Saffy’s nose wrinkled. “Maybe that’s why her husband Mark is always away for work!”

I’ve not stopped scratching since.

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