This has nothing whatsoever to do with my dissertation.

In preparation for the final and least pleasant task of my post-ex-girlfriend-moving-out cleaning spree, I bought a pair of bright yellow rubber gloves today, and a matching bright yellow can of Easy Off Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner. I enjoy washing dishes, scrubbing floors isn’t too bad, and I don’t mind cleaning bathrooms, but something about using aerosolized lye just freaks me out. Maybe it’s the warning on the label that says “avoid inhaling spray” and the mental picture of my lungs bleeding on the inside. Maybe it’s the fact that even though I avoided breathing the spray, it still smelled terrible, and my lungs still tingled after using it, so now I’m taking exploratory deep breaths every few minutes to feel just how much they tingle and give myself a morbid thrill at the thought that maybe I’ve done more than cauterize a few thousand alveoli.

I had an Army buddy who worked in the Division Chemical warehouse. He told me this story. He was working in the warehouse one day, he said, when the sergeant driving the forklift missed the proper pedal with his foot. The forklift lurched forward and one of the tines punctured a sealed drum of something particularly nasty and caustic. A lieutenant slapped the alarm. The klaxons sounded, the hazard lights started flashing, and everybody in the warehouse evacuated, except for the sergeant, who couldn’t get his seat belt undone in time. The gate sealed with the sergeant still inside.

The lieutenant didn’t know what to do. Nobody did. It was quiet for a couple seconds, all of them gathered around the door, until the intercom next to the door crackled. “Hal,” the sergeant’s voice said. “Open the pod bay door, Hal.”


2 thoughts on “Lungful

  • June 27, 2003 at 12:02 pm

    Jeez, what a disturbing story. I don’t know if it was supposed to be funny or what…anyway, I too hate cleaning ovens, so much so that I don’t even really use my oven. When I’ve cleaned it, I do all the window-opening and fan-positioning the label suggests, but I still end up coughing. Why can’t they make something that’s, like, baking soda or vinegar-based?

  • June 28, 2003 at 7:58 pm

    Well, they do, but usually you end up having to scrub pretty hard to make it work.

    LifeTree makes pretty good non-toxic cleaners; I don’t know if their line includes oven cleaners, but their bathroom cleaner (tea tree oil and lavender) works well and smells nice.

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