b Papa Dog's Blog: Steaming Mad at Dirt

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Steaming Mad at Dirt

Today I steam cleaned the living room rug and the rug in the basement suite with a steam cleaner rented from the neighbourhood franchise of a national grocery chain. It surprised me (but shouldn’t have) that the activity really took me back to bygone days. When I was just shy of 21, I spent a summer cleaning carpets in rural Alberta to earn a bankroll to stake me when I moved to California. I wasn’t even a carpet cleaner – I was an assistant carpet cleaner. The top man on our double-bill was my brother-in-law Larry, who had been in the dirt sucking game for about a year and considered himself an expert. Compared to me he was, and I wasn’t quite sharp enough to make such fine distinctions on the job. The apparatus we used was bulkier and more primitive than the little box Mama Dog and I rented today. It was a shampoo system rather than a steam system. I’d do the pre-vac – that’s a little bit of jargon meaning I’d vacuum – and then Larry would go over the carpet with the shampooer. When he was done he’d go off to smoke and drink coffee and schmooze with the customer while I did the hard grunt work 0f extraction. I’d vacuum up all the wet suds and dirt. You really had to put muscle to bear on the extractor; it was tough work. My first week as a carpet cleaning assistant, I lost ten pounds. The second week I lost another ten. After that, I started doubling my food intake to keep from wasting away. The whole thing is a blur of waffles and ice cream.

As I was cleaning the rugs today, I remembered two of Larry’s sleazier tricks of the trade. One was the answer he always gave when a customer asked how long it took the rugs to dry. “Within 12 hours,” he’d always say. Laughingly, he told me this was “the big lie.” The drying time depended on the kind of carpet, and really you never could tell. Sometimes it would take a couple of days to dry, but by then we’d be long gone. The other was a thing he never failed to do after we had finished a job. He would draw the customer’s attention to the brown sludgy water in the barrel of my extractor before I went out to dump it. “Look at that,” he’d say. “Look at all the dirt we got out.” He’d shake his head and marvel anew at the efficacy of our carpet cleaning equipment. He did that rap on my first day on the job. Later, in the car, he explained to me that if you take a brand new carpet straight from the factory, shampoo it, and suck the water out, the water will look brown and probably a little sludgy from the dyes and fibres. Not to say that we weren’t cleaning the carpets; but pointing to the dirty water as evidence was pretty much specious.

I remembered that. Today, when I was done with the two rugs, I brought the tank of water up to flush in the back bathroom. Before I did, I called Mama Dog over to have a look. “Check it out,” I said. “Look how much dirt I got out of the rugs.” Just wanting to make sure I got credit for a job well done.


Blogger Brownstein said...

I'm pleased to know that life has promoted you from sucking dirt to typing about it.

2:21 PM  

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