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The Fungus Among Us

I never thought I’d be one of those suburban moms who talked about cleaning problems, but I have to admit it; I have fungus issues.

In the past, I think I’ve handled those pesky minor battles with mildewed tile grout, scummy shower curtain liners, and other assorted moldy nuisances with appropriate reactions. Tilex in hand, I spray like a maniac, and moments later, I am fungus-free.

But one day, I happened to lift up the rubber bath mat in the kids’ bathroom to rinse the tub after one of them took a particularly filthy bath, and saw black.

Literally.

The bottom of this formerly white bath mat was covered in a living, breathing black mold that pretty much, completely grossed me out.
Now I don’t gross out easily. I routinely have to clean up after a dog, a lizard and a chinchilla, not to mention two kids and a husband, so being grossed out is something I’ve gotten used to.
But this bath mat was beyond grossness. It was the bath mat from the black lagoon. An entire civilization of stinky fungus breeding in my bathtub. Mutant mold from outer space. I was sure if I didn’t get rid of it immediately, it would continue to multiply and grow until it enveloped my entire bathroom, then my house, and eventually, the world. Yes, it was my duty, as a member of the human race to kill it.

Of course, at this point in the story, you’re probably wondering how, as a world-class homemaker, I managed to miss the underside of my kids’ bathmat?

I didn’t. The cleaning ladies did. I assumed they were routinely scouring under the bath mat and then returning it to its original location.
But as Felix so wisely once said to Oscar in The Odd Couple, “When You ‘Assume,’ you make an Ass of U and Me!”

OK, so I’m an ass. And an ass with a disgusting bathmat, to boot. But rather than dwell on unconstructive negative self-blame, I decided to harness that self-disgust into some positive mold-ridding energy.

So first I broke out the Tilex.

(Note to self: Write letter to Tilex people that product doesn’t work on Mutant Mold from Outer Space).

So then I tried some scouring powder. But still some of the mold survived the attack.
(Note to self: Soft Scrub with Bleach stains expensive clothing).

So then I whined.

“I can’t get rid of the mold on the bathmat,” I cried to my husband one day.

He gave me a blank stare.

“So spend, what, like 79 cents and buy a new one,” he said matter-of-factly.

“No, I like this one. And it’s not about the money, anyway,” I protested. “I have to save this bathmat… and the world.”

Another blank stare. I forgot… the mold may be from outer space, but men are from Mars and there was no way my husband was going to be able to process the magnitude of my crisis unless there was a trip to the hardware store involved.

In desperation, I finally dumped the bathmat into the washing machine with detergent, bleach, and any other cleaning products I had in the laundry room that looked toxic; turned on the hot water, and waited.

Half an hour later I took out the bathmat and the mold was gone.

So was most of the bathmat. Pristine white and riddled with holes: It was now a bath-net.

I appeared before my husband, sweaty and disheveled from my ordeal, clothes stained with scouring powder residue, holding the remains of my former bathmat.

“I got good news and bad news,” I told my husband. “The good news is I got the mold off the bathmat.”

“Thank God!!” he exclaimed in mock excitement.

“The bad news is I killed the bath mat.”

“Sorry to hear that,” he said mournfully.

“But at least I saved us from the mutant mold,” I said cheerfully.

He eyed me fearfully. “Great. But now who’s going to save us from you?”

©2006, Beckerman. All rights reserved. For more LOST IN SURBURBIA columns, go to www.lostinsuburbia.net

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