June 09, 2009

This happened today. It didn't bother me at all.

I guess no good deed goes uncriticized.

This morning Jillian and I were cleaning a rug and the old woman next door just had to get involved. It's this enormous rug that's adorned the hardwood floors in the house since we moved in 18 months ago. Thick, with a floral pattern that's bled red over the white background (or maybe the previous tenants just spilt a lot of wine), the rug is a magnet for cat hair, Jillian hair, crumbs, and dirt. The moment we rolled it up out of the way, we looked at each other and exclaimed, "Why didn't we do this a year ago?"

Before storing it away we figured it would be good form to wash it. Typically the women of the neighborhood wash their rugs--often, this exact same one--in the parking lot beside our house. But across that lot is a six-story apartment building and the thought of being watched over, literally, by a couple dozen (inevitably) disapproving "experts" was not what we had in mind. I've seen these women wash rugs. It takes them several hours to clean ten square feet. We wanted a (relatively) clean rug, not a lesson on how Macedonian women since time infinitium have preserved their carpets.

So we went to work out in our front yard with a few buckets, some laundry detergent, and a brush cannibalized from an old vacuum cleaner:

We were in the home stretch when our neighbor emerged from her front door. Our yards are basically one yard divided by a metal fence. That and their yard is beautifully manicured and has an umbrella-protected patio set; ours, on the other hand, contains a dilapidated wooden staircase (some drunk guys pushed it over a few months ago, but that's another story) and a collection of weeds which is occasionally trimmed by a guy wielding a scythe. Really, no matter what else happens, I'll always have the memory of the guy mowing our lawn with a scythe.

So our neighbor came out, arms folded, and gave us what I believe to be the same look that I give the local butcher when he scoops up a handful of raw chicken, drops it on the scale, and then uses those same unwashed hands to grab a lump of ground pork. Her expression suggested that we Americans should stick to things we know, like baseball, and leave the rug cleaning to others.

I had a hard time conveying this to her, so I'll write it here for posterity's sake: I DON'T CARE ABOUT CLEANING RUGS. IT'S NOT A SKILL I WISH TO ACQUIRE.

Then she pulled the ultimate: our neighbor tattled on us to our landlords. No sooner had we finished "cleaning" the rug, then the owner of the house appeared with a taxi and a few men in trail. They came to take the rug! To clean it right, I suppose. Watching them struggle with that rolled-up mass of wet fabric, I felt like the repo man had just paid a visit to reclaim something I couldn't afford.

Fine, Macedonia, rug-cleaning is all yours. Now we're going to a cafe bar to drink a beer and think of something that we, Dan and Jillian, could teach you. Wait, I already thought of one: how to pour a beer without producing a half-glass of foam! Ha-ha! And that's just the beginning.


M said...

Well said. I completely relate on many levels.

Sarah said...

This is one of those things, I think, where you doing the "learning" hustle, and say, "Why yes nosy Macedonian woman, why don't you instruct me in the art of rug washing?" And let her demonstrate away for you... all the way to a clean rug.

I agree, there are things I never need to learn how to do in this life, and there are others who do them so much better than I. I like to call it outsourcing.