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Take It Outside

As far as I can tell, civilized society has evolved largely because of our agreement to separate that which is CLEAN from that which is NOT CLEAN.

I mean, doesn’t everything begin here? The tiniest living one-celled amoeba and global monoliths alike, almost all organisms organize themselves around these two basic, yet opposite processes: In and Out. Intake and Output. Import and Export.

Witness The Outhouse. Once we upgraded to living inside, we figured it best to output outside of the living area. Ultimately, it was determined that our collective output in open sewers and tainted water were holding us back, and societies stepped forward with handwashing and the magic of indoor plumbing, to separate and remove that which is not clean and flush it away from our living areas.

And to prevent us from slipping back, “Don’t $h!t Where You Eat,” was coined as a reminder of this fundamental building block of civilization, for those passing moments of indiscretion.

If you haven’t appreciated indoor plumbing lately, stop right now and consider how fortunate we are to live in a society where it is hardly an... afterthought. Travel to different countries and notice the variance in how different cultures handle these matters.

Personally, I am most comfortable adhering very closely to the principle of separating clean from not. In fact, likely due to my tenacity, I have been dubbed the CEO of Safety and Cleanliness in our household, hosting regular seminars, update emails and impromptu check-ins.

Several home appliances even offer help in maintaining this discipline:

  • The dishwasher calls out, with several melodious digital chimes, when its contents are “clean.”

  • With a pert ding, the clothes washer alerts me when the dirty clothes and linens are restored to clean.

While ideally, we’d hope to surround ourselves with those of like minds on this topic, children, teenagers, and spouses can exhibit varying degrees of compliance, and require education, coaching and reminders. The same goes for pets.

I speak from experience. With two much-loved dogs in the house, keeping what is clean separate from what is not clean can be a challenge, usually involving me running behind the 15-year-old dog who has recently begun leaking (she is forgetful about keeping up with her Kegels), with paper towels and a spray bottle of Nature’s Miracle.

The simple fact that most dogs are house-trained, means that even animals can contribute to the pursuit of indoor cleanliness. Most of the time, their business is handled outside of the house. In our house they also sit to have their paws wiped on re-entry.

Their unclean “business” is handled outside – carefully contained in attractive bags and moved to the trash bin.

And so with this tacit understanding of the importance of differentiating between “Clean” and “Not Clean” it came to be that one evening, suspiciously soon after my husband, mostly a helper in these pursuits, had deposited the most recent dog offerings into the trash bin, I noticed him putting away the clean dishes in the kitchen, the cleanliness of which our dishwasher had recently sung out.

“Didn’t you just put the dog business in the garbage?” I ask.


“But did you wash your hands after that?”

“No,” he said.

Evidently, like many important-yet-arbitrary boundaries we attempt to draw, this one also required reinforcement.

With red flag and blood-pressure-elevating alarms going off in my head, some excited conversation ensued, wherein I attempted to explain that which should not need explaining: About how even the smallest particle of dog offering may have inadvertently hitched a ride on his thumb and onto one of our dinner plates, and clarifying the implicit Zero Tolerance policy. A vision of hanging a Zero Tolerance poster in our kitchen, as seen in corporate cafeterias, crossed my mind, but I dismissed it.

On another occasion, he accidentally stepped in some of the fresh Dog Offerings outside. I heard his disdain, but never could have predicted the next frame in the cartoon.

He brought his shoe, thickly spread with dog offering, into the house to clean it.

At this point, I accepted the challenge, recognizing the need to educate him on how the one thing all of society overtly agrees upon is the necessity of a ONE WAY ONLY direction for moving all manner of excrement out of inhabited homes and not the other way around.

The urge compelled me to review the history of mankind, drawing the thread of the separation of Clean from Unclean through the ages, past open sewers and right up to the present moment to illustrate how his actions were reversing that of the millions of those who’d previously suffered under this ignorance before becoming enlightened.

For some reason, he thought I had overreacted. And I came to understand how the position of C-level in an organization can be a solitary one.

Ultimately, I decided to wash my hands of it.


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