I've always had a "gag" reflex when it comes to incredibly offensive odors. My mom still tells the story of how I used to stand in the room while she was changing my sister's diapers. I'd gag and gag, but I was too young to understand the concept of walking out of the room to avoid throwing up. Mom thinks it's funny. (I keep trying to explain to her that two-year-olds don't have reasoning skills at that level, but she still likes to tell the story.)
I don't know what causes it. For some reason, when something horrendous hits my nose, my olfactory nerves send this signal to the brain: "Release all contents of the stomach." I begin to gag, etc. I've never actually thrown up because of a smell, I think because my stomach knows my nose is a little uppity and therefore tries to hold back for as long as possible until I can escape said stimulation. (Now this doesn't mean I'm a coward. I've done some pretty brave things, including scuba diving in 70 ft deep of murky water surrounded by hundreds of barracuda, jumping off a 40 ft cliff into a river, white water rafting down a class 5 rapid, and rappelling off a 120ft cliff. Just don't get get me anywhere near a dumpster.)
As you know, Weston Commercial Cleaning, Inc. specializes in offices and cleaning the outsides of homeowners associations. We also specialize in cleaning foreclosure homes. (Unfortunately, that side of the business is booming down here.) We're pretty good at it, too. Every single home that we have cleaned is under contract. Other homes cleaned by other cleaners? Not under contract.
Until last Friday, I had been fortunate enough to escape having to clean these homes. Let me explain why I was fortunate. When the bank forecloses on a home, most people get really mad at the bank and leave little "presents" around the house. I think they have this mistaken belief that the bank president himself gets in there with a toilet brush and a rag and cleans the place personally, but that's not the case. The bank hires innocent people like us to clean up the house, and we have to deal with the little "presents."
Examples of said presents include, but are not limited to:
- One guy gave a dog a laxative and sent him running through the house.
- Food still in the fridge after a month of no electric.
- Just not cleaning their house for a year...
Remember that since we don't get to a foreclosed home for at least a month, some of these gifts are incredibly ripe.
Last Friday, I got to help clean my first foreclosure home, which was pretty clean. (Except for the kitchen which had onion skins all over it. Onion skins are staticky and take forever to clean up.)
My specialty is bathrooms. Usually, the toilets haven't been cleaned in a month or two, and they've got some hard water stains, etc. We use an emulsifier to get rid of the stains and mold. This stuff will take anything off--rust, hard water stains, the upper-epidermis on your fingers. It's pretty sweet. Unfortunately, the fumes will dissolve the lining inside your nose and lungs, so I squirt the emulsifier in the toilets and leave the room as it sits. You can imagine how this stuff smells.
After I let the emulsifier sit, I set to work cleaning the sinks, and the toilet itself. Then I grabbed my toilet brush and began scrubbing the inside of a toilet.
That's when I discovered a "present."
What I thought was dirty, moldy water at the bottom of the toilet was actually urine that had been sitting there for over a month.
Freshly emulsified urine...
...which when I tried to flush the toilet, which only had a little bit of water in the tank because the water was turned off, spread into the atmosphere.
Did I mention that I had just eaten a three-egg omelet for breakfast?
No, I did not throw up--but I almost did, because I really wanted to finish the job. My stomach did not settle down until about four hours later--just in time for me to tackle the bathroom that had, again, been staked out by the returning Special Operative Frog... (More on that tomorrow.)