Señor Clean

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The other day I cleaned the dickens out of my bathroom. The very dickens, I tell you! It wasn’t especially untidy, as I do generally run a tight ship. But it was legitimately in need of a good scouring, top to bottom, and I was suddenly struck with a passion for doing it. However, this passion occurred at 3 a.m., just as I was preparing to go to bed.

So I was about to clean the bathroom then and there, but I thought, If I am to stave off the onset of obsessive-compulsiveness, I need to NOT clean the bathroom at 3 a.m., for that way lies madness. If the bathroom truly needs cleaning, and if I truly want to clean it, it still will and I still will after I wake up in the morning.

Next morning, sure enough, the bathroom was still dirty and I still had a hankerin’ to clean it. But after about 10 minutes of scrubbing and scouring, my back hurt like the aforementioned dickens and I had to lie down and read a magazine for a while. I concluded that obsessive-compulsiveness is not really a danger for me, as I am not in good enough shape to maintain it.

I try not to be abnormally fastidious. I generally like things tidy, but mostly I like them CLEAN. “Clutter” is not an issue with me as long as the items comprising the clutter are individually clean. But DIRTY things — dishes, food wrappers, corpses — lying around the house, THAT I cannot tolerate, even if they are neatly stacked.

All of which is necessary to explain to you why Raoul must die.

Raoul (names have been changed), of course, is the Argentine fellow renting a room here at Condo de Eric. Now, I have never been to Argentina — I am only vaguely aware that it is an actual country, not a fictional place like Narnia or Chechnya — and what little I know of it was gleaned from “Evita.” So I don’t know if there are local customs that would explain Raoul’s behavior, or whether he would be considered a freak in his homeland, too.

For example, let us discuss the issue of raw meat. If you or I intended to thaw a piece of frozen meat — well, let’s say you, because I never buy food that needs to be prepared — you MIGHT leave it sitting on the counter, though you know it’s a bit safer to put it in the refrigerator. But either way, once it was thawed, you would wrap it in something, or cover it with something, and put it in the refrigerator until it came time to use it, that day or maybe the next.

Not Raoul. Raoul recently thawed a three-pound chunk of raw beef, put it on a plate, and deposited it in the fridge, uncovered and unseparated from the other, non-beef products. Hence, my milk began to smell and taste like raw beef, an unpleasant reminder of its bovine source. Additionally, every time the refrigerator was opened, the smell would burst from its arctic cage and distribute itself through the house like an exceptionally offensive poltergeist.

Issues of taste and odor aside, it is not healthy to eat meat that has been left unprotected in a refrigerator, especially not when it has been in that condition for four days, which is how long it was before Raoul got around to cooking it. Meat that has been treated with such disrespect is liable to turn on you, the way a roommate might turn on you after you tainted his milk.

And so I wondered: Has news of the existence of bacteria not reached Argentina? Or has it simply not reached Raoul? The most alarming thing is that Raoul loves to cook and hopes to become a chef one day. Obviously, I will not be dining at Raoul’s House of Botulism, or whatever he calls his restaurant. It will probably only be able to open at all because the health officials who inspect it will have died before they could file their reports.

Anyway, because Raoul is scary and ill-tempered, I prefer not to engage him in conversations that are potentially incendiary or that I fear he will not understand. (Like Frankenstein’s monster, he gets angry when he does not comprehend things.) So I avoided a conflict, bought some Saran Wrap, and took care of the problem myself, in true passive-aggressive fashion. Better to be an unpunched passive-aggressive than a punched obsessive-compulsive, that’s what I say.

And then there was the Dishtowel Incident.

One good thing about Raoul is that while he loves to cook and make messes, he also generally cleans up after himself. It might take a day or so, but he does it. Unfortunately, one Saturday afternoon I made the mistake of WATCHING him clean. Where you or I would use a dishtowel for drying a) dishes or b) our hands, Raoul uses the dishtowel to clean the countertops. He sprays the Formula 409 or whatever, and then instead of using oh, say, a sponge to do the wiping, he uses the dishtowel. What then becomes of the dishtowel? Why, he hangs it right back up, of course, so that an unsuspecting person might use it to dry dishes, and in the process transfer deadly chemicals to said dishes.

(So what does he dry dishes with? He doesn’t. When he washes a dish by hand, he simply puts it back in the cupboard wet. I am not making this up.)

More appalling abuse of the dishtowel came to my attention when I saw Raoul making a meatloaf of some kind. This involved fondling and manipulating ground beef with his bare hands, after which he “washed” his hands by wiping them on the dishtowel. No soap or water was involved; just wiping. On the dishtowel. Which he then hung up again, so that someone could use it to dry their hands, because who doesn’t enjoy drying their hands with a meaty towel?

I am fearful of even entering Raoul’s bathroom. Given the way he treats objects that he has to eat, I can only imagine what goes on at the other end of things, as it were. I suspect that if I entered his lavatory, I would feel compelled to clean it, and I’m pretty sure my back is not up to the task.

The weirdness of Raoul cannot even begin to be explained in one column. He was a source of constant amusement to me. Am I afraid he will read this? No. While we were roommates, he didn't have a computer, and he couldn't use mine anymore ever since I put a password on it, which I did because he'd been using it without asking, and opening files and programs randomly, such as a 3-year-old might do. And now that we're not roommates, I don't care if he reads this.

Portions of this column -- the first few paragraphs, primarily -- originally appeared as a blog entry. I warned people who kept pestering me to start a blog that if I did, parts of it would probably turn up in columns later on, and that they'd have to pay to read those columns, and here I am, making good on that threat.

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