Character: Build It Here
Do Toilets. Do Windows.
You know that expression, “I don’t do toilets. I don’t do windows.” Some people use it as a joke. Others actually mean it.
I got word that Janice was confined to bed rest following surgery and needed help around the house. I didn’t know her that well. She lived up the street. Our daughters were in school together.
I called Janice's daughter and arranged a time for me to stop by her mother's house. Her daughter said the back door would be unlocked when I arrived and to go upstairs to Janice’s bedroom. I gently knocked at the bedroom doorway and Janice sat up in bed. We talked for a few minutes, then I asked what she needed in the way of housekeeping. She said her first priority was the bathroom down the hall. I asked if the cleaning supplies were in the cabinet under the sink. She said, “Yes. There’s a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a bag of cotton balls.”
At the time, as a mother of five, including two rambunctious sons, I had been cleaning toilets for a good twenty years. I had never heard of anyone cleaning a toilet with cotton balls and alcohol. However, never one to be surprised at the habits of others, I walked down the hall, got the alcohol and cotton balls from the cabinet under the sink, and proceeded to clean the bathrooms as so indicated.
I am one of those people who likes the slogan, “Make it Work” so as I went about cleaning my friend’s bathroom that day, I smiled, thinking of my grandmother-in-law, Pearl, who some twenty years before had taken me aside one day when we were having coffee in her kitchen to give me the best lesson I ever had in the fine art of toilet cleaning.
“Look here, I want to show you how to clean a toilet,” she announced as I was setting my coffee cup in the kitchen sink. I turned around to see her getting up from the table and beckoning me down the hall.
I entered the bathroom to find Pearl crouched under the bathroom cabinet dragging out a bottle of bleach, rubber gloves, a rag, and some soap. She made a suds in a small bucket.
“Come over here,” she said as she headed for the toilet, “I’ll show you how to start at the top and work your way down.”
I watched as Pearl lovingly wiped the top of the tank, the handle, all sides of the seat and around the rear screws. She removed the toilet bowl brush from a sparkling clean canister along the wall, and dumped about a cup of bleach into the bowl. She swished that around for a few seconds, telling me how important it is to scrub up under the rim. Then she got to the lower external levels of the toilet.
“This is where you have to get in all the cracks and curves,” she instructed, “because some men have not been trained how to use a toilet properly and drip down the sides and splash against the wall. You’ve got to scrub it all down.”
She got on her knees and carefully scoured all sides of the toilet and the surrounding walls. Then she got up, without so much as a wince, and announced, “There. Now you have a clean toilet. You never know when company may come by and you don’t want them to have to use a dirty toilet or one that has a nasty smell.”
And with that, Pearl rinsed off her toilet tools, removed her rubber gloves, and washed her hands. We headed back to the kitchen for buttermilk pie. I left her house that day a better person for knowing how to properly clean a toilet - and filled with gratitude for her loving lesson.