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Politically Incorrect

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The Magic Eraser

From the look of horror on my friend, Barb's, face, you'd think she'd just spotted a decaying carcass or something equally nauseating. "What in the world is that?" she asked. Unfortunately, she was peering at the floor mat on the passenger side of my truck at the time, so I knew what she had spotted.

Do you ever find yourself eating things that are totally not good for you—like those chocolate snowball things with the cream filling and coconut covered marshmallow topping? I do. In fact, I love those snowballs, and my brother Joe had given me one to take on a trip into Montana delivering the newspaper. It was winter, then, and I ate the first snowball right after I crossed the line into Montana, giving a big wave as I passed Nan and Sandy Compton's homes. It went well with my morning coffee and I put The Beatles Abbey Road into the CD player to make sure I was awake and ready to drive for several hours.

I saved the other snowball (they come in packs of two) but western Montana's curving highways meant the dashboard was not a good storage spot—the snowball kept sliding left and right, then toppling into the floor. Finally I grabbed it and put it down on that hump in the floor, right next to the shift for the four-wheel drive.

Right next to the heater, too. I didn't give that little snowball another thought until the return trip, right after filling up the newspaper racks at Harvest Foods in Thompson Falls. It was a little after lunchtime, and Cat Stevens was singing about his "frayed blue jeans" and the strength of the sun off the white snow was causing my head to droop out of time with the music. I figured it was time for a quick sugar rush.

Snowballs, like their namesake, don't hold up well to high temperatures. The marshmallow topping, complete with coconut sprinkles, had melted all over the floor mat.

Like most people, I possess a wealth of talents, most of which serve no useful purpose and none of which includes any type of housecleaning skill. Once home again, I chipped off as much of the now baked-on marshmallow topping as I could, and left the rest. Over time, it acquired a patina of dirt, small rocks and lint and, while it wasn't the most attractive accessory I've ever had in the truck, it certainly didn't look so bad as to deserve the look Barb was giving it.

Needless to say, I caved from the peer pressure my cleanliness-obsessed friend subjected me to with a mere look, and I cleaned the truck. Tossed those floor mats right out into the driveway and there they sit today.

I hate to clean. Partly I blame that on my grandmother, who could respond to even the most minor infraction with a cleaning assignment that lasted days. She taught me well that cleaning is a punishment. I also dislike cleaning because once you get it done, it's not done—you're going to have to turn around and do it again the next day. But my real gripe against cleaning is that it's something I just don't do very well. If I'm going to spend hours scrubbing something, I'd like it to look brand new when I'm done. That's never how it works with me. Long before I get to the "looks like new" stage I'm off, tired, bored, distracted by another project or, most likely, out of time if I plan to get any sleep between one day and the next. I remember when I was young thinking, as a grown-up, I'd have a live-in maid. I'm ready to grow up any time now.

Almost as good as a maid are those cleaning products that, in the advertisements, practically do the cleaning for you. I'm a sucker re-born every minute whenever the newest product comes out (at least, I was back in the days I had TV) but none of them ever quite lived up to their promise. Until last week, when my daughter, Misty, bought me a Magic Eraser™. Billed to "clean your house and everything in it," it said it "erases hard to remove dirt and grime." Misty swore it was true.

"Sucker," I thought to myself but, once home, I dutifully pulled the cleaning pad out of its box and looked around for something to clean. The handle on the refrigerator door caught my eye. I wash the stupid thing every time I do dishes, but it always looks dirty thanks to the "hard to remove dirt and grime" in all those little carved places designed to give the handle "grip." I wet the "eraser," and wiped it over the handle. And the dirt… disappeared. The door handle looked brand new! I couldn't believe it.

I headed straight to my front door. Its white-painted metal is impossible to clean, and I had decided the only way it would ever look good again was to buy a new door. But with my new little toy, the grime wiped right away!

My grin was a mile wide. Then I panicked, looking at my hand to see if I still had skin on there. "What in the world is in this thing?" I thought, and went straight to the computer to look up the Magic Eraser™ on the Internet. I found it contains an "innovative cleaning material" but no mention of what it was. As I scrolled through the pages (absentmindedly cleaning my computer keyboard as I did so), a paragraph caught my eye. "(You clean and clean but) set-in dirt and grime, tough scuff marks and crayon marks stay around on surfaces—simply ignored until you have the time to scrub for days or, even worse, you repaint!" It was reassuring to learn there's other people in the world who consider painting to be a perfectly adequate cleaning tool.

Before you ask, no, the Magic Eraser™ doesn't make a dent in 6-month-old, baked on marshmallow coating. It also won't fold the laundry, vacuum the carpet, cook dinner, empty the cat box, water the plants, mow the lawn, pick stuff up off the floor, return books to the library or put out the trash. My friends aren't going to show up at my house and find it so clean, they'll think they've gone to the wrong place. But my refrigerator door will be shining like new and, best of all, I already know what to get Barb for her birthday next year.

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Author info

Landon Otis

Tagged as:

Misty, Thompson Falls, cleaning, Magic Eraser, Cat Stevens, The Beatles, Abbey Road, Barb Perusse

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