Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Letter from a Damen Ave. Bathroom

While confined here in my bathroom, I came across your years' worth of dirt and grime. Seldom do I pause while cleaning the bathroom to respond to previous tenants' filth.

I think I should indicate why I am here scrubbing the Bathroom, since you seemed content with its disgusting state. I am here because filth is here. I am aware that the cleanliness of this one room is interrelated to all other rooms in the Apartment. I can not sit idly by in the Kitchen and not be concerned about what happens in the Bathroom. Dirt anywhere is a threat to sanitation everywhere.

You deplore the efforts taking place in the Bathroom. But your actions fail to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about these efforts. It is unfortunate that cleaning is taking place in the Bathroom, but it is even more unfortunate that I was left with no alternative.

In any massive cleaning effort there are four basic steps: assessing the problem; gathering materials; donning of gloves; and direct action. We have gone through all the steps in the Bathroom. There can be no gainsaying the fact that immense filth engulfs this room. The Bathroom is probably the most thoroughly disgusting room in the Apartment. Its ugly record of unsanitary conditions is widely known. These are the hard, brutal facts. On the basis of these conditions, you, the former tenants should have cleaned. But you consistently refused to engage in even rudimentary cleaning.

Then, last April, came the opportunity of the landlord to right your wrongs. In the course of a lease signing, certain promises were made by the landlord -- for example, to clean the apartment before we moved in. As the weeks went by, we realized we were the victims of a broken promise. A quick sponge wiped over allowed the underlying dirt to return. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present ourselves armed with cleaning supplies. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of Bathroom purification. We began on the wall behind the door, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to clean years of cobwebs and hair from under the sink?" "Are you able to endure what must be urine splatters on the wall next to the toilet?" "If the stains do not come off the floor, can you live with that?"'

You speak of our activity in the Bathroom as extreme. At first I was disappointed that fellow Apartment dwellers could see my efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Bathroom community. One is the force of complacency, made up in part by tenants who, as a result of long years of living in squalor, are so drained of self respect and a sense of hygiene that they have adjusted to filth. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred toward tenants who do not keep their apartments tidy. It is expressed by Landlords who have lost faith in tenants.

I wish you had taken it upon yourself to clean the Bathroom. Yet, one day this Apartment will recognize its real heroes. They will be the scrub brush with the noble sense of purpose that enables it to wash away years of soap scum. They will be wringed and battered sponges who rose up with a sense of dignity and decided not to fear the underside of the claw foot tub. One day the Apartment will know that when these forgotten implements of washing found their way to the Bathroom they were standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our fight against germs, thereby bringing our Apartment back to those great wells of sanitation which were dug deep by Clorox and Lysol.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This type of informed, socio-political, conscientious commentary is exactly what the blogging world has been lacking of late. Dr. King, were he alive today, would turn over in his grave at the paucity of socially responsible remarks passing as educated opinions on the internet today. Your precise, erudite prose has once again elevated the medium to a position of moral superiority, emblematic of the unwavering resilience and unflinching defiance in the face of overwhelming injustice that both you, in your efforts to combat bathroom filth and putrescence, and Dr. King, to a lesser degree with that whole civil rights thing, have worked so tirelessly to achieve.


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