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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Competition: Dirt



By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



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I am not a "domestic goddess" by any stretch of the imagination. I live in the same state as "The Pioneer Woman," and shared a flight to Oklahoma with her once. But while I enjoy cooking and baking, no one would mistake me for Ree. One of my sisters put it well when talking about herself, "I wasn't born with the Betty Crocker gene."

There is one thing I do love to do that would be considered by some to be "domestic engineering," however, and that's clean house.

My room was a total disaster when I was a teenager living at home, but once I was in a dorm room I became obsessed with having a clean, tidy environment. I enjoy putting my house in order and I certainly have had plenty of messes to clean up between raising two kids and having a continual cast of cats and dogs in the house. One of the current dogs, "Wolfgang" is a world-class shedder, a veritable snowstorm of dog hair despite daily brushing. When I go a week without vacuuming, I get what I call "snowdrifts" of Wolf's hair to go with the big balls of cat hair that form in corners and under furniture. (I call these cat hair wads "spare cats.")

Not long ago, my upright carpet vacuum wore out. That's a badge of honor for me. So my husband, who does all our appliance buying because I have no patience, bought a new vacuum.

It was startlingly different, with a clear plastic canister to collect the dirt, and no bag at all. Now, it's nice to not have to worry about running out of vacuum cleaner bags, but even better is the grim satisfaction I get from being able to view what I've sucked off our floors.

I empty a truly stunning amount of dirt and hair out of that canister every time I use it. I think if more cleaning tasks had this kind of positive reinforcement attached to them, everyone would enjoy cleaning more.

When I have an especially epic collection of filth to view in my plastic canister, I am tempted to take a picture and text it to people. Perhaps the Pioneer Woman would be interested in interviewing me about housecleaning.

At this point I don't think I could ever go back to a vacuum with a bag in it. If I did, I'd probably have to cut it open and review the contents before I threw it away. So actually, this could be turned into some sort of competition, dirt by weight collected while vacuuming. Before you laugh, consider this.

It is our human nature that causes us to turn almost anything into a competition. For example, deer hunting. When hunters get together to talk about how their hunting season went, it would be surprising, if the deer was a buck, for the number of "points" to not be mentioned. While most people feel fortunate to kill any legal deer, the "competition" comes in with the perceived quality of the antlers, with a distant second the weight of the deer. Now, no one eats antlers " the whole point of discussing them is to be competitive.

Another example, that makes even less sense to me is turkey hunting. Here, it might make sense to talk about weight, since theoretically, you would eat the turkey, right? But no. The discussion points include "beard length," and "spur length." Again, no one eats those parts, but apparently they are carefully measured, and in some cases, mounted and displayed. "Beards" are actually just really long black chest hairs that appear on both male and female turkeys. So the hunter says, "I got a big Tom with a 15 inch beard," instead of "I got a big Tom with 15 inch chest hairs." Sounds dumb, right? Now, does my idea about competitive vacuuming sound so ridiculous?

In doing a little research it seems spur length, and beard length (according to one source I looked at, a record is 18 inches,) is an indicator of the AGE of the bird. When I go buy a turkey for Thanksgiving, I don't think, "I'm gonna find me a nice, old bird." Of course not " because if eating is the goal, you want a young bird. So as far as I can tell, the whole thing about beards and spurs is just to have a measure to allow competition, because we humans are hard-wired that way.

Unfortunately I don't have time to organize a vacuum competition right now, which is a shame, because I would kick some serious backside. And if you are a hunter with a competitive drive, you better not laugh at my idea, because I'm at least doing something meaningful - removing dirt from a residence. All you are doing is measuring chest hairs.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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