Robert’s Review: Bathroom woes: The Never-Ending Story of The Good, The Bad
and The Ugly, that takes True Grit to clean but still ends up looking like Apocalypse Now.
I sigh as I enter my bathroom to brush my teeth after breakfast. I put my contacts in after I showered, so I can see the state of the place more clearly now. I have been having the same reaction for a couple of days, only the sighing is getting deeper and the woe more keenly felt. I could describe this necessary room as a small accommodation, but the word stingy feels better suited. It is old, built at a time when spacious baths were considered a luxury only for the very rich. My mountain casita was constructed in 1945 and the bath must have been an afterthought, so they stuck it in a closet.
I don’t know the exact year of its last update, but maybe it went down sometime around the Reagan administration. Let me start with the walls. They are textured to within an inch of their lives. If, in your departure from the tub, you suddenly fell, naked against the wall, you might receive a nasty scratch. When we moved in, we painted every wall and the ceiling a pleasant shade of white. The ceiling is possessed by some unknown demon who refuses to keep that paint intact. It’s been coated with new paint twice in the past three years and is, even now, sending drifts of snowy flakes down into the tub. I’ve seen outhouses in better shape.
With such a tiny space for housing the three fixtures required in order to be dubbed a full bath, the last remodelers must have been on a budget of equal proportions. The toilet looks as if it had been stolen from the construction site for an industrial warehouse. It’s gigantic, and to add insult, it was installed a good six inches from the wall. When I sit on it, I have to turn sideways as I get up to avoid hitting my head on the shower door. I know this because it took me a few usages to figure out why my head was hurting. I suspect some foul ghoulie will someday surface through its water to bite me in the ass while I’m enthroned on this hideous monstrosity.
The sink might have been purchased at a salvage shop specializing in ex-bathrooms of the rich and famous circa 1929. It is a pedestal sink which looks a Roman column with a flamingo’s bird bath perched on top. The height is quite nice, but it takes up half the lavatory, has no usable surface on which to stow standard washroom gear and zero storage for hiding the cleanser and toilet brush. There are imitation art deco-ish light sconces and a mirror above the wash basin, which add to the ambiance of over-stuffed, low-budget, what-must-the-previous-fixtures-have-looked-like-to-be-replaced-with-this-crap vibe. Staring into that mirror makes me want to rip my face off in a moment of bathroom induced insanity.
The tub is a nightmare all unto itself. Bad things happen in bathtubs. I’m not saying I could be repeatedly stabbed by a man in a dress or attacked by my husband’s psychotic ex-girlfriend, but surely, something dark and sinister is lurking nearby waiting to take me out when I splash about too loudly.
The door frame is constructed of a cheap gold-looking metal, but the tub and its enclosure are plastic. It is glued to the wall in two pieces so that there is a sad grout line about 1/4 of the way up the side of the wall that will never look clean no matter how many industrial-strength cleansing products have been tested upon it. The old-style sliding door frame collects mildew along its track and there are permanent black marks on the plastic doors. So, the sigh I emit upon entering my bathroom with my vision correcting lenses is not just for the room itself, but for the bewildering amount of cleaning I have to perform in order to bring it to a standard even slightly above bus station privy.
Compared to the scrubbing and cursing involved with cleaning my current potty spot, my previous history of keeping up with cleaning the can seems nostalgically simple, even when I had to attend to two of them. It’s a chore we all hate to do. I grew up in a house with boys and, until I was 19, the entire family shared one bathroom. My mother cleaned it. I did not have to take on that chore until I moved away from my parents’ home and had my own apartment. A one-woman bathroom can go awhile before becoming the kind of disgusting situation that requires a bottle of Clorox and some goggles, so I simply gave the powder room surfaces a quick wipe down daily to keep the gag reflex at bay and had time for a more thorough scouring.
That routine lasted until I got married and spawned a boy-child and had a job and went to college, etc. Let’s just say cleaning the john inevitably sank lower on my priority list. I could have entrusted this chore to the male beings with whom I cohabitated but one of them worked long hours and the other was still learning to recognize when the need for a toilet was imminent. But the real reason I held onto this chore for so long was the deep-seated knowledge that there existed a disparity in filth tolerance within our household and I was not up for patiently waiting for someone to notice the unacceptable level of ick or issuing orders for its removal.
So, I was the sole watch woman on latrine duty by choice. I trained my menfolk to perform three simple tasks: better aim, lid down and squeegee. The male of our species has a further target to hit than us gals. Our little guy didn’t always hit that mark with accuracy. He got better with age because, early on, we floated some Cheerios in the big bowl and rewarded him for target practice. This bit of fun resulted in a cleaner floor and less work for me in the kiddy can. There was no fun way of enforcing the lid down rule. Repetition and stickers and reminders of what creatures might crawl out of there seemed to do the trick, resulting in only minor nightmares.
The grown-ups’ ensuite comfort station had a tiled shower—no tub! In order to keep the slime to a manageable level, I trained my husband to clear as much water off the walls as possible so they would dry quickly and leave no mildew. There was a bit of grumbling at first as is expected when asked to do a bit of work that takes a couple minutes to perform. I didn’t think pissing on cereal would be an incentive here, so I bought a fun squeegee and suggested he pretend to work at a naked car wash. Such dry walls! These habits made my cleaning life much easier.
These days, with just the two of us, you’d think freshening up the loo would be a piece of cake. The vent fan does not keep up with its intended function. The moisture peels the paint off the ceiling and the slime builds up around the tub door. I’d rather have a shower curtain with my tub, even if it means I can’t see who or what is coming. I’d prefer petite fixtures that I don’t have to contort myself around in order to be able to reach into the tub enclosure to perform the purging of the black slime. I think I might actually resent this bog. More precisely, I resent the choices made by former residents of this dwelling which make it difficult to keep clean. I resent all the things (COVID, building boom, etc) that have held us up getting the whole bathroom ripped out and remodeled for better flow, a cleaner look and fewer horror story references.
We’ve been trying for more than a year to get a contractor to work on all of our remodeling projects. We have an architectural drawing for our addition, simple updates for the kitchen and a complete exorcism for our powder room. We are adding a half bathroom with only two fixtures I will have to keep clean. I’m certain this will be the year we rid ourselves of the poor choices made long before our residency. The state of the bathroom is abominable because my desire to decontaminate it is far less than my need to attack it with a sledgehammer, flamethrower or very large knife.
While we are waiting for rescue, I grudgingly muck out the black slime and dream of the most perfect little water closet my mind can imagine. In writing this story, I fling that image out into the universe and hope it comes back to me fulfilled. In the meantime, I have used every word for bathroom I could think of and a few gruesome, bathroom-related movie scenes on these pages to keep myself amused during this difficult time. Please let me know if I’ve missed any good ones!
Not quite defeated…yet,
Guest Editor Robert suggested I follow his review’s movie theme and I was delighted to do so. If you can name the movies these references come from, it’s a trivia royal flush!