Out Out Darn Fleas & Washing Machine Bliss
What to love and hate about East Greenwich this week.
RANT: I'm going to kill my cats. Not really, but I am banning them from the house.
Yes, it’s flea season. The reason it got so bad is because frankly, we had no idea what the cluster of bites around our ankles were. Somehow, despite having a multitude of potentially flea-prone pets ranging from rabbits and cats to mice and gerbils, we escaped infestation for the last ten years. But clearly, either our ticket has come up, our plague ship has come in or we – hmmm, or perhaps the if-it-moves-kill-it cats? – have bad karma. The bottom line is that our legs and arms are covered in tiny, maddeningly itchy red bumps and apparently nary a single one of us has the self-discipline to stop scratching so we look like walk-ons for Spamalot. There is a pestilence upon this land! Nothing is sacred. (Nerd alert! – name the quote.)
I think we humans are so used to being the Big kahuna’s in the species tree that it is hard to grasp that there are actually bugs that can slay us with a single nip. Well, fleas may not be able to create vaccines for small pox or have interesting social lives, but once they move in, they definitely rule the roost. A little reading revealed that we have been a bug-free society for a relatively short time. Apparently, just a couple of hundred years ago, the average bed was an itchy haven for fleas as well as a host of other insects and even rodents. Whatever your class, chances are your skin crawled with fleas and your clothes were stiff with dirt. At least today, we have remedies.
At first I called the doctor, the nurse and the lady with the alligator purse. Finally, I broke down and called the exterminator who explained that the bloody-looking dots on my windowsill were…well, blood that is in the fleas’ feces (TMI), commented that the fleas were able to propagate because my house is dirty and therefore they had plenty of skin and fur dust to feed on, and then ordered me to start vacuuming. He promised to return once my house was a pristine lab in order to mix his necessary poisons.
I blanched for a moment. Once reason we are seeing a resurgence is fleas, lice and bedbugs is that we have reformed our bad DDT ways and now use less lethal sprays and pest control. But when it gets personal, my eco-inclinations fly south. So Rachel Carson, be damned – I want the most toxic stuff available! I am so far gone that when I read about a casino that is forcing its workers to wear flea collars on their ankles to deal with bug problems, I thought it was a really clever idea.
In the meantime, I have begun auditions for a flea circus. I plan to get them on the high wire next week.
Monday: Wash Day
Tuesday: Ironing Day
Wednesday: Sewing Day
Thursday: Market Day
Friday: Cleaning Day
Saturday: Baking Day
Sunday: Day of Rest
With a few variations (some folks had a gardening day instead of a separate ironing day, or the days were not quite in this order), this is the way women (you know it was the ladies of the house doing all this grunt work) organized their days for more than a hundred years. It was so common and universal that the poem was regularly stitched (on Wednesday, presumably) on needlepoint pillows, wall hangings and quilts. I guess there was a fear that no one was going to remember the exact order – the woman would muse, “Now let’s see, is our day of rest Saturday or Sunday? Well, we’re not Jewish – but then there was my cousin on my mother’s side who converted, so maybe I should rest Saturday AND Sunday just in case – “ and then her husband would interject, “YOU SEWED THE LIST ON THE BED QUILT, YOU DAFT WOMAN!”, take another slug of beer and fall asleep.
Hard to believe, but there was some logic to the madness. Laundry was the toughest task and took a lot of effort – you would have had to scrub and hand ring the clothes and carry the heavy baskets to the close line. Since you were supposedly well-rested from Sunday, presumably you could deal with an extra load or two of work. Tuesday's ironing followed Monday’s washing and drying. Mending and sewing on Wednesday made sense when you'd just been through the clothes and noticed what needed a button or a patch. By Thursday, all the work in the house had made you starved. And so on. Though personally, if you ever visited my house after we have been baking, you would probably suggest that we switch Friday’s and Saturday’s chores.
All this is a circuitous way of singing, “Hallelujah!” I am so happier I live in the washing machine age. And I am even happier that instead of washing this Monday, I am heading down to Harbourside Lobstermania at 7pm for Martinis & Manicures night. There will be live music, $5 martinis and $10 manicures. Bliss. It may even be enough to make me stop scratching.