Archive for May, 2010

Not for the Squeamish Reader


A few summers ago my parents were living with us as my dad recovered from having his knee replaced.  Mike, my husband, had been out front working in the yard around the bushes putting down mulch and making the yard look presentable.  This would cause us issues later since he actually was unloading tiny visitors to our yard.

The next morning I got up and noticed a dark line on the floor of the dining room and was repulsed to find out that that line was actually a line of ants seeming to traverse under the dining room carpet and coming up onto the wood floor of the kitchen eating area.  And let me tell you, this wasn’t five ants- this was 5,000,000 ants and it gave me heebee jeebees that only can be cured by a call to the exterminator!

So, I got on the phone and called the local pest control service, and soon there was a knock on my door and the Bug Guy was standing there.  Let me just describe him as looking like Fred Mertz (do you remember “I Love Lucy” – Lucy and Ricky, Fred Mertz and Ethel the neighbors?- if you can’t picture Fred, think about Danny DeVito only about 1.75 inches taller).  He was the biggest dweeb in the world, about 60 years old with a large juicy mole on the side of his neck.  Icky oh icky!!!!!  He started talking to me in the bug vernacular like, “Well, ma’am ya got yer carpenter ants and yer fire ants and yer sugar ants, but I think these here are just your basic brown ants.” or something equally intellectually stimulating.  Oh man, a short, geeky bug man talking about frass really does it for me.

Mom and Dad were sitting in the living room and Frank (bug guy) began his spraying.  “Ma’am, what I can offer you in service is quite a good deal.  Because my company cares for you and yer family we can offer you a special deal, only to our most valuable customers.”  Yeah, blah blah blah, I’ve heard that pick up line before.

About half way through his spraying routine Frank says to me and I quote, “Ma’am I know I shouldn’t be asking you this, but I have a bit of the runs and I wonder if I might use your bathroom.”  OH MY GOSH!!!  Are you kidding me?  Now some strange bug man is going to use my john!!!!!?  So, what are my options?  No, he stands there and soils himself or yes, and my bathroom is stinkified???  I picked the latter.

Frank went in and was in the bathroom on the main floor, where he didn’t turn on the fan and we could proceed to hear his every ‘movement’ for the next 15-20 minutes.  None of us needed to hear that.  He came out and Oh, my sweet Lord!!!   It was as if an opossum had crawled inside, exploded and putrefied all in that short time.  Trust me, I could barely pay him as he finished the job as I was gagging and heaving the entire time.  My poor dad, who was trapped with his leg in a special knee brace, was not able to run for his life and it was hell in the house.  It made the monkey cage in hot mid-July seem like it smelled good!   The entire main floor was now a toxic waste fall-out zone.  My mother said, “Well, that settles that, we have to get out of here and go out to eat tonight.”  I’m not sure what was worse, Frank and his problem, the 5,000,000 ants, or the smell of the bug killer that also was permeating the air.

Now, fast forward a year and try to forget about the incident and Frank the bug guy.  I know I did! We had been noticing that we were having a lot of spiders in our basement and main floor.  Our town is built on several natural springs and it is really damp around here and bugs seem to flourish.  We decided to call the bug company and have them come spray.  You can probably guess what came next- they sent Frank.  As I answered the door he said, “Oh!  I think I done you before, I’m Frank. Here to service you?”

I beg your pardon!!?!

Anyway, he came in and proceeded to tell me that his “little woman” worked at a hospital and, “We made a pact early on not to bring the job home and freak the other one out with what we sees in our professions,” and some story about how a rat came up a toilet one time in a business here in town and how he valiantly trapped it when stronger and more virile men ran like little girls.  Okay, whatever.  About half way through the job he stopped and looked at me with that deer-in-the-headlights kinda look and said, “I have a sore toe and they gave me ‘The Antibiotic’ and it gives me a bit of the runs.  Might I trouble you to use yer restroom?”

Holy moly, all hell broke loose again and what can you do about it??????  My first thought was that I think it is wrong for workmen to use the bathroom on the job!!!  My next thought was that I was gonna die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I truly can’t even describe it to you, a black fog started to roll out under the bathroom door before he even finished.  He stepped out into the haze and said, “Uhhh, ya might want to run the fan in there.”  YA THINK???????????

Guess who is coming to my house again today?  It’s that time of year, but then again, “He’s done me before.”

Chim Chiminey


My parents are children of the Depression.  They were born during a time when if you wore a hole in your shoe and there wasn’t enough money to buy you a new pair, you added a piece of cardboard to your sole and made it last until someone had enough money to buy you a new pair.  Truly for them the old adage rang true, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

It was because of this adage that they were, and still are, practicing their own version of frugality as I was growing up.  When I was around 15 years old my parents decided that it was time to clean the chimney in our house.

Why they did not call a Chimney sweep I have no idea (I think it had something to do with a penny saved is a penny earned), but they felt like they could come up with a plan to clean the creosote and soot out of the fireplace by themselves.  Here was their plan:

First, they removed any burned mess from the actual base of the fireplace, also called the “firebox”.  Then they decided that in order to clean the flue (shaft) of the fireplace they would take a burlap bag filled with scrunched up newspapers and tie a rope to each end of the bag.  One person would stand on the roof and the other person would stand in the family room, where the fireplace was located; they would essentially pull back and forth on the rope; in a sense it would be like dental floss removing the debris from the flue of the fireplace.  It was a kind of a tug of war type of activity to liven up home care clean-up on a Saturday afternoon.

Dad went to the roof and dropped the bag down the fireplace shaft; he held tight to his end of the rope.  Mom remained in the family room to catch, hopefully, the end of the rope that was tied to the bottom edge of the bag.  Then they hoped to pull back and forth to make a scrubbing action in the flue.

However, what they did not count on in this brilliantly conceived home project was that there was a damper in between them.   The stuffed burlap bag became wedged on the damper in the middle of the flue.  It was stuck, sort of like a cork in a wine bottle.  Now, how would you get that out?  What my parents decided to do was to send their daughter (ME!!!) up the flue to see if she could dislodge the bag.  But wait!  That might be nasty, ashy and toxic up there…how do we combat that?

So this skinny 15 year-old put on a swim cap and goggles and climbed into the firebox of the fireplace.  Then, with both arms stretched out over my head I reached up and tried to dislodge the burlap bag.  I was too short.  Something was moved in for me to step on to boost me higher up the chimney.  I was skinny enough to go up the flue, but not tall enough to reach as far up the flue as it took to retrieve the bag.  Moreover, now I was the Kork stuck in the neck of the wine bottle.

Mercifully, I was able to suck in my breath and shinny down and out the fireplace covered in soot and grime.  To this day I have no idea how they retrieved that burlap bag since I was the only one skinny enough to go up that enclosed space to get it to begin with.  The only thing I do know is that they had a professional chimney sweep come care for the fireplace after that.

Can you imagine the call to 9-1-1 had I gotten stuck up the fireplace???

9-1-1 Operator:  “Hello.  This is 9-1-1, what is your emergency?”

Parents: “Uh, well, ummmm.  Our 15 year old daughter is stuck UP the chimney.”

9-1-1 Operator: “Excuse me?  Did you say that she is stuck UP the chimney?”

Parents: “Yes, well you see, we thought it might be a good idea to clean the chimney and she was just gullible enough to climb up there and now she is stuck.”

9-1-1 Operator:  “Can’t someone just grab her by her ankles and jerk her down?”

This all makes me wonder why they even bothered with the burlap bag?  Heck, they could have put a rope around my ankles and lowered me into the shaft.  I could have also had a rope tied around my wrists.  Then they could have flossed the chimney with ME.    While I was lodged in there I could have inspected the flue for wear and tear, damage and possible corrosion.  This seems like a reasonable idea when you think of it and all the other possible frugal options of how to clean your own chimney.

I hate to think that I was the commodity that they were ‘wearing out, using up and making do’ with.  In a nasty retaliatory measure I eventually put on a few pounds and my body developed enough that I was no longer stick shaped.  In short, no one mistakes me these days for a chimney brush.  My psychological treatment for chimneyophobia has progressed to a stage where this Blog post is a proverbial “coming clean” for me.  No soot or creosote involved.