The Impossible Clean

by Kitt Bradley
My powder room is the cleanest it has been in years. I wish I could credit this to a sudden burst of desire for cleanliness, but no. It’s from a more mundane reason: I ate too much fat in one day.
For most people that’s just bad for your waistline, but since I no longer have a gallbladder, this led to “gastric dumping.” Gastric dumping means that the contents of your GI tract does a double-time march out the back door, so to speak. As it happens, I had not previously had an output on this fine spring day. So gastric dumping led to a full bowl of the ghosts of meals past. Further, because of the emergency evacuation, some of it was, er, under-processed. Fibrous material that is normally softened by the last few hours of passage had taken the express train to Buttville. This meant that when I flushed…It didn’t go down the drain. In fact, it clogged the hole.
Now, I am an adult. I know what the rubber plunger is for. And because American toilets work on a water-in, waste-products-out basis, said plunger is always conveniently next to the commode. Just in case. So I grabbed it and plunged away. Usually, that leads to a gurgling noise and a rush of departing sewage. But this time, no dice. Just a swirl of defiant logs glimpsed through clouded water.

Of course by this time the fluid level is perilously high. So I hunted around for a bucket I didn’t value much, and a plastic cup I could throw out afterward. Both were fairly nearby, since my powder room is on the same floor as the garage (pail) and the kitchen (novelty plastic cup from some sports event). I carefully bailed out some of the noxious fluid –a gallon’s worth at least — to make room for waves from renewed plunger action. I plunged three or four more times, and flushed. I had never encountered an output that resisted the second round of plunging until that fateful moment.

Due to my lack of prior experience with multi-plunge-resistant poop (MPRP), I had not stopped to think about what I’d learned in basic chemistry: “When a water-soluble substance is placed in an enclosed space with water and agitated briskly, the substance disperses more evenly into solution.”
My beautiful picture
The labor of Hercules….
My unsuccessful plunges had thus converted the contents of the toilet bowl into something I now think of as Cream of Nightmare. The MPRP has been redistributed throughout the now opaque and considerably more viscous fluid still in the bowl. It has also had much more contact with the room air, resulting in a stench that reminded me forcefully of when we had diaper service for my youngest kid, and pickup day was delayed by bad weather.I rapidly assessed the situation: I have a bucket full of recently-bailed foulness; a bowl full of sheer horror; and a steadily increasing trickle down the pedestal onto the floor. My bathroom’s HARDWOOD floor.
I start throwing everything out of the bathroom door, frantically trying to beat the rising tide. Boredomassuaging magazine rack gone! Cleaning supplies out! Cute little threeniche stand with baskets foTP and such my powder room came with a pedestal sink, no vanity — it transpires I can pick that up. In an emergency, I can even run while carrying it!
I scream for my daughter to bring me some paper towels, and grab the bag out of the newly relocated trash can to put the used ones into. I used literally an entire roll of paper towels on the immediate emergency blotting. At last, there is no more continued seepage, and I cautiously bail a few more cups of nastiness into the pail to be sure. I carry the bucket of soupy disgust upstairs carefully, and slowly, attentively, pour it down the kids’ bathroom toilet. In two batches, with a successful flush each time. Okay, I can clean that in a few minutes,after dealing with the crisis downstairs.
At this auspicious time, my husband got home from work. I yell to be heard over the noise of the fan: “I’ve clogged the toilet and it won’t plunge, do we have a snake?” I hope we have one of these rarely used but sometimes essential plumbing tools out in the garage somewhere. But my husband is a man. And Real Men don’t need a snake: Real Men can clear toilets with a plunger. So he comes in and gives a few vigorous manly pumps. The MPRP remains unimpressed. This did not discourage him, though. He just tried again and really put his back into it. There was a sound like a pregnant hippo falling into a vat of fresh-mixed adobe, a surge of displaced fluid, and then: Victory! Water is flowing out again! The Cream of Nightmare makes its turgid, noisome way down through the trap and into the city sewers, which presumably have dealt with worse
There was also a generous spattering of backsplash from plunging on the toilet; on the sink; on the walls; and on yet more of my hardwood floor. (Have I mentioned that this is a white bathroom? Or it was,anyway.) I cautiously did a clean-water flush to verify that the clog was in fact cleared, then ran upstairs. I stripped off my soiled clothing — which I threw into the laundry room for priority processing– and changed into some old jeans and a t-shirt that I hate. I had kept it with the intent of sacrificing it to some messy chore, and whatever would decontaminate that bathroom was bound to involve some clothing-hostile chemicals.
I put in a few minutes on the Internet. Did you know that there is NOTHING you can do to a hardwood floor to sterile clean it that doesn’t harm the finish? Nothing! Not unless you had the foresight to get the special, we-can-be-used-in-hospital flooring that the builder had somehow not included. I considered my options briefly, then thought, Screw it, if I am going to ruin the floor anyway, might as well be sure it’s clean. So I rinsed out the sacrificial bucket from the initial bailing and filled it with bleach water. I got out a brand new sponge (with a scrubber side and a soft side), put on my rubber gloves, and moved into the scene of disaster.
Of course, I’ve had the fan running since I was in production mode some while earlier, but the scent of splattered Cream of Nightmare is indescribable. My daughter had tried spraying some Ozium, which is a very effective scent-neutralizer—it used to be sold in head shops for concealing the smell of various kinds of smoke from concerned parents and/or law enforcement. It was reportedly quite effective at this. Faced with the olfactory remnants of MPRP, however, Ozium tore off its badge and went looking for new work. It would have been kinder to the rest of the family to close the bathroom door, but that probably would have been fatal to me. At least with the fan running and a good flow of fresh air, I could process oxygen.
Fortuitously, by the time I was halfway down from as high as I can reach to the floor on the first wall, could no longer smell anything. Whichever aroma sensors the stench hadn’t killed off, the bleach fumes nailed. I have never been happier to have a primary sense fail me,washed all the walls to at least six feet, working (of course) from top to bottom. I washed the pedestal sink, the towel bar, the inside of the bathroom door, the toilet paper holder, and the toilet tank. I literally scrubbed every square inch of that floor with bleach water, carefully wiping the water up immediately with the sponge and drying it with paper towel (from yet another roll). Last but hardly least, I scrubbed the toilet bowl and flushed the bleach water down. I’m pretty sure you could perform surgery in that room now.
I also discovered a bonus added task. You see, our cat box is in the hallway to the powder room, and the door between them is usually left open. So when I converted the walls from impromptu leopard print back to the original white, I also removed, oh, 13 ounces of cat litter dust from the walls. This means that the hallway will also need a round of wall-sponging. But I think I’m going to wait until my nose is working again to do it.
**  A special thank you to Kitt, for sharing this experience many of us with chronic illnesses can relate to, gall bladder loss means having to be careful what you eat!  For others of us it can be the metformin medicine GI clean out.  Others have equally miserable side effects from either medications or surgical changes in their lives.  Thank you for the laughter!

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