I Smell a Rat

i-smell-a-ratTaking care of my house sans distraction is annoying. Taking care of my house with two and four year-old boys is like carrying sand in a sieve. A day does not go by without touching some unexpected goo and saying, “Did I get my finger in that?” knowing full-well that I did.

I keep cleaning up after them expecting a different result. My wife works to support our family, so I shoulder the majority of the load when it comes to cleaning. It’s a thankless job, but between their naptimes and employing feather dusters like chairs on a tamed lion, I get the job done.

I gave up on my set list of chores two years ago when I realized that it sucked. Now I go by, “Well, that’s sticky…I should clean that soon.” I would even go as far as to say that I keep a fairly alright home, so it was a bit shocking when I finished cleaning and the next day there was a smell. I would say I was surprised, but I have children.

After confirming the odor was not coming from either of my dependents, I cornered it somewhere between the living room, bedroom, bathroom, and/or closet. This smell apparently just exists. An odor that rabbit punches your gag reflex every time you walk in its vicinity. This stench was aloof, but it had fallen victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”, but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never mock a half crazed at-home dad when he has both children at Mother’s Day out!” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…

Credit where credit is due, this stink had a foothold where only small hands could have put it. I had the house to myself for the next two hours. I closed all of the doors to let the odor build, but it mocked me by increasing its intensity in whatever room I had just left. This fragrance ninja stealthily avoided my best efforts to unveil it, so I channeled the thought process of my children to track it down.

I began by yelling needlessly for a bit. The child mindset was sinking in, so I stuck a lollipop to the couch and threw a bunch of toys I had just cleaned up all over the floor. I was ready. I paced between rooms to determine which one had the most expensive items that were easiest to break. The bathroom sang like a stinky siren and filled my nose with a sense memory from not too long ago. I had smelled this smell before. Hello darkness my old friend.

The shower drain, why does it always have to be the shower drain? Instead of a couple hours to myself to drink coffee and read a book in silence, I am once again the butt of a cruel joke. All I ask between home maintenance, scheduling, and repairing souvenirs from vacations that we no longer take, is the tiniest amount of time to myself. The only way to achieve that moment of solace was to dig in the shower drain and find my bane.

I lifted the drain cover and attached to it was a hairy mass that was the olfactory version of sneezing with your eyes open. At first I thought it was a dead rat, so I poked it. I do not know why those two thoughts went together, but they did. My finger squished further down into the wet mass and found a surprisingly solid center with wheels. The hair ball had cocooned itself around a toy car that my youngest child had “played with” into the drain many months earlier. The good news is, my drain works even better. The bad news was I was getting angrier by the moment.

“Why should I have to clean this up?!” I yelled to my rat-car-hairball nemesis. Someone had to be to blame for this and it certainly was not me. The long hair curled around the car and my exhaustion sent my frustrations after the only person in our house who’s hair was long enough to make this. I have asked my wife repeatedly to clean out the shower drain, but why bother to listen. This way is much better, I get to clean up messes after my children AND my wife.  I cursed as I cleaned and did what any fully mature adult human being would do. I used my phone to take a picture of the hairy car ball and stewed until she got home.

My poor wife came home before it was time to pick up our boys and walked into a tirade over a hair ball. I waived my phone picture around and raised my voice because that makes unimportant trivialities hit home. She did what most people do when they’ve had a bad day and come home to accusations. She fought back.  Who am I to blame her? I never considered what her day had been like, I just went on the attack over something unintentional and flailed for purpose to continue my aggravation. There was nothing left, but to apologize and admit that I was tired and dumb.

We stared at each other in the wake of a fight full of misguided frustration. I thought of what we could have done instead. It was my fault. I apologized again and we drove to pick up our boys. The dull silence of regret sat in the air. We sat in the parking lot for a couple of extra minutes. I showed her the picture again, “I think I’ll call him Carl.” She laughed and her eyes told me she forgave me. We picked up our children, placed them in their car seats, and they proceed to wipe their muddy feet on the backs of our seats. Everything was back to normal.

I screw up more than I get things right, but this is a great lesson to keep in mind. Treat the ones you love like you care about their feelings. Oh yeah, and never get involved in a land war in Asia.

I'm not making this up.

I’m not making this up.