07 August 2015

This Is One Of Those Days That The Pages Of History Teach Us Are Best Spent Lying In Bed

Let’s talk hygiene and sanitation . . . again. What is it about physicians and Q-Tips®? Earlier this year I had an earache. The earache was very mild, but it was definitely more noticeable when a Q-Tip® was momentarily in my ear. I called my doctor and mentioned the Q-Tip®. What did he say? You know what he said. How have I managed to live all these years without puncturing an eardrum?

I pride myself on clean ears. In Samara the other day I saw an ear containing some debris. It wasn’t necessarily dirty, but I really wanted to hand over a Q-Tip® and say, why don’t you work a little harder on that? I mean, really . . . I didn’t need to see that.

My own ears are never cleaner than when my fingernails are short . . . or perhaps it’s simply that I can more acutely feel ‘em. The nails of my right hand haven’t been this short in five years. It’s because I’m frequently rooting around or downright digging in gravel and dirt, without gloves. Anyway, my ears are exceptionally clean, and I specifically noted this condition while in the shower this morning. 

As I was in the shower I admired Janet’s fabuloso work keeping our glass bricks clean with no hint of hard-water spots (those pesky, get-the-CLR® white circles . . . you know what I’m talking about). Then I realized . . . how difficult is it to keep my shower clean when it’s not used daily? Maybe I shouldn’t judge so harshly the owner of the less-than-pristine ear.

The botfly. She’s a particularly fascinating fly. You can Google her. I’ll not frighten Sally nor dwell here with her effects on humans. Let’s just say that I was mistaken about killing her eggs with heat here in Costa Rica. The African botfly’s eggs indeed can be killed with heat, but evidently not this Costa Rican’s evil spawn. Anyway, I erroneously stood my ground on this issue with three dear friends. As soon as I realized my mistake, I called and/or eMailed. While I hate when I am mistaken, I will readily concede my mistakes . . . usually . . . sometimes.

So I’ve just concluded an eMail to my friend, Dede, a chef. Years ago Dede told me not to mix bleach with liquid dish-washing soap. Now we all know to never mix bleach with any ammonia product, right? Our moms taught us this about the time that we could be taught how to clean a bathroom. But I am confident that dish-washing soap contains no ammonia (I’d have smelled it) . . . nay, nor does it contain anything that would react with bleach, right? Right?! Dede, as a chef accountable to the Board of Health, you are simply over-cautious.

I make soap. Beautiful, hand-crafted, hard-milled soap . . . filled with completely organic things like shea butter from Burkina Faso. Now don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: all soap contains lye (it’s known by many names) . . . even glycerin soaps contain lye. When making soap, you add lye to water . . . never water to lye. As a result of the chemical process that creates true soap, heat is a by-product. I’m talking serous heat . . . heat requiring an ice-bath for your bowls. Got it?

 Costa Rica is so eco-friendly that household cleansers of all varieties come in little plastic bags. Name brands. Yes, U.S. recognized name brands come in little bags. Of course you can purchase plastic bottles, initially; but the plastic bags are intended to repeatedly refill your original plastic bottles . . . be it Clorox® or Mr. Muscle (faux-Windex®), or whatever. I was puzzled when I saw the empty plastic bottle of Fabuloso® left for me by Janet in our laundry room. Obviously, Janet intended for me to refill it. Raise your hand if you see where this is going.

Rusty and I visited the Pali the other day, for beer, cat food, and cleaning products. Cleanliness may or may not be next to Godliness, but it certainly reduces the number of indoor insects . . . or the potential for insects. Even enjoying Tuesdays with Janet, I clean our home often. Really.

Keeping a home relatively bug free means that there are slim-pickings for the geckos; and theoretically the geckos will move out looking for a better buffet. Theoretically.

The other night I was refilling plastic bottles from those little plastic bags. I discovered that the small plastic bottle of lavender Fabuloso® will not hold a full refill bag of Fabuloso®. Stunning. Those little plastic bags appear so small. That’s why I purchased two or three bags of everything. Okay . . . well, with the remaining amount of lavender Fabuloso®, we’ll start a load of laundry. On to the green Fabuloso® . . . rain forest scent, I believe. I had larger bottles for the green variety. Finally, let’s refill the gallon bottle of Clorox®, even though it’s barely half empty (or half full for you optimists). If there’s one thing we need in this Costa Rican world, it is bleach; though we don’t clean toilets with bleach due to the septic system. Now when I say we, I mean the royal we . . . in this case , Janet. I clean no toilets . . . but I could . . . I know how.

So using one of the half-dozen funnels that we brought, I began to refill the Clorox®. Whoops! Despite the appearance of its label, I don’t think that the faux-Clorox® plastic bag contained bleach. One big science demonstration commenced in a nano-second, right over our own kitchen sink. In fact, it was nigh an explosion . . . with a violent eruption of warm, rapidly-expanding foam . . . very rapidly! In less than five seconds, it overflowed onto the floor, onto the granite counters, even onto Nut-Meg’s tail. And for about 30 minutes this chemical reaction continued to erupt from that half-full bleach bottle. Thirty minutes! Did I mention that the foam was expanding? After 20 minutes it was controlled enough to pour some of the hot foam into the shower drains . . . though Rusty did mention the possibility of an explosion inside the drains (was Rusty kidding?).

Later, via Internet, Rusty examined every ingredient listed in Spanish on the empty evidently-not-bleach bag. Turns out we (okay, Kathy) probably made hydrogen and oxygen gases. Wasn’t there an incident involving a zeppelin and hydrogen gas?

So somewhere between ammonia and the so-gentle-it-will-clean-a-penguin Dawn® dishwashing soap, we learned about science with the product(s) in our whoops-it-wasn’t-bleach plastic bag. Dede, here’s my public apology: I apologize for questioning you about anything involving bleach. Feel free to say I told you so.

Lesson learned? Don’t mix anything with bleach. Lesson still to be learned? Get that Q-Tip ® out of your ear! I still insist that the damned plastic package looked like a Clorox® label . . . or did it? My shower certainly drained without delay today . . . though it always does . . . on those occasions when I’m in it.

Evidently I need to learn a few more words about cleaning products, in Spanish. And you want to talk about a science demonstration? Try holding a cat’s tail under running water long enough to rinse an unknown (hydrogen? oxygen?) chemical reaction. There’s never a zeppelin or a bag of balloons around when you need one. Lo que hay.