Are you one of those addicted to reading articles that tell you that your computer mouse/keyboard has more germs than your toilet bowl — or something to that effect? Some of us cannot seem to get our eyes away and skip to the next column, and thus, we lock onto those “How to” pages and get wide-eyed with wonder (or horror) at how much grime and dirt can build up in a household!
Earlier, thanks to a transferable job, we rarely lived in a house for more than a year. So by the time we became aware of stains and slime, it was time to move on to the next place. But now, we have been in the same home for long enough for us to be aware that we need to do a bit more with all those nooks and crannies and the surfaces that have gradually lost their sheen.
Providentially, it seemed, an article appeared in our newspapers about how often we should clean this and scrub that, so I cut it out and stuck it on the refrigerator to remind me — and the other inmate of this home — that we need to get into germ-buster mode!
Of course, I had merely glanced at the header of the article initially and planned to read it through only when I was good and ready to go along with the directions within it. Why get carried away too soon? For all I knew, I might learn that my flecked white floors and matte finish chairs and tables deserved good maintenance awards of some sort. They certainly looked spotless to me without my spectacles to give me a spot-by-spot, smudge-by-smudge, warts-and-all close-up view!
Thus, it was some good, long, lazy weeks later that I armed myself with brushes and mops, feather dusters, sponges and scourers and pulled the guidelines off the fridge, put on my specs and started to read them — and yikes, a paragraph or two into the instructions and everything went flying out of my hands and I ran out of the front door to shiver in the safety of the stained and muddy common staircase! Because, you see, the article said that for starters, my scrubbers, dusters and dish cloths themselves were apparently germ laden, infested with all kinds of dirt particles, capable of laying low a battalion of the healthiest, sturdiest specimens of humanity — and what seemed to me to be the grimy staircase was actually clean in comparison!
“What’s going on here?” I squealed — loud enough for the neighbours to open their doors and peer curiously at me tearing my hair out in a classic reaction to the imagery of invisible germs crawling all over, but not loud enough for the other inmate of the house to leave the comfort of his keyboard to participate in whatever madness was so obviously occurring ... as usual.
Given the lack of interest from within the four walls of our little apartment, I had no choice but to start memorising aloud how often the sink, the toilet seat, the stove, the kitchen platform, the pillows, cushions and mattresses need to be cleaned or replaced — and all the tools and implements used to clean them should be disinfected as well!
It was exhausting! Confusing. And if I followed all those instructions, we would either break the bank with all the replacements that were long overdue or I would break my back with all the scouring and scrubbing that was needed (since no other backs were keen on participating).
That was it. I set my jaw, rolled up my sleeves and buckled down. And shredded the guidelines and went back to my corner of the sofa to reacquaint myself with those germs that have called my laptop home for so long.
Cheryl Rao is a freelance journalist based in India.