I was warned about the urine when my son was born. In the fog the dominates the brain of a mother with two small children and one impossibly blossoming teenager, snatches of humorous essays would float through my brain at the weirdest moments. That horrid little roadside stand sign jingle lives permanently in the dark recesses of my mind, ready to spring forth whenever I pass the bathroom: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle/Be a sweetie, wipe the seatie”
I knew about cheerios in the toilet, and I knew some people simply never taught their sons to stand up to pee until they left for college. I’d heard stories about urine splattered walls. I just…didn’t bother thinking about it. I was so busy doing the everyday things. The motherhood things, right? Can we do them all? I do the urgent thing in front of me, that’s what I do.
Like I said, my mind was elsewhere. I’m a grandmother now. I largely checked out of so much of this process, the raising of a son. To tell the truth, I encouraged him to pee outside. Many a sunny day has found me whistling idly, looking away, pretending not to know him as he drops his pants and pisses into the trees at the edge of the playground.
Therefore I was shocked to discover myself totally unequipped to handle the stench coming from our bathroom last month. I was climbing my way out of a depression (shocker) that had robbed me of months (years?) with my family. I was noticing little things. Dust on the fan blades. Dings in the paint. And also: I found that every time I passed the hall bathroom, I was assaulted-and I do mean assaulted-by the stench of musky urine. No big deal, I thought. I’d recently been sick, and my husband had brought home a canister of bleach wipes. I’ll just start wiping down the toilet every day with one of these. Easy peasy. I started wiping the toilets every single day, with purpose. Mindfulness. The working meditation of piss removal.
It’s not like we’d never cleaned them. Just OK, maybe they needed more than once a week swishing around.
Still the wall of urine. You have to walk through it to get to any room in the back of the house. It’s just right there. I’m walking to the bedroom to put away laundry and I walk through a wall of urine. I’m vacuuming the hall and I pass through a wall of urine.
I turned to the internet for help. Wash the walls, said the internet. It’s the shower curtain, said a message board. Check the receptacle where you keep the toilet bowl brush, said a hilarious blog post.
Guys, I scrubbed the screws under the toilet seat with a toothbrush. Did you know that urine collects in the threads of those screws? Would you like to know that I found out, without gloves, when I took the toilet seat off of the toilet?
I learned several lessons last week. About toilet seats. About when it’s appropriate to wear gloves. About where my limits are as a mother, and as a human being. I learned about how porous the grout between bathroom tile can be, and what happens when urine collects there. I learned that bleach and urine combine sometimes to create an even worse odor than urine alone. My sister, god bless her, warned me off the bleach and advised me to use enzyme cleaner.
In the end, the toilet seat was sacrificed. The floors and walls were bathed in enzyme cleaner. I mentioned learning some things about my limits. There is a cost/benefit involved in taking apart a toilet seat part by part and soaking it in enzyme cleaner. I did a rough calculation in my head on the way to Home Depot and came home with a shiny new toilet seat and a set of rules for my son that involve allowance incentives for perfect aim and financial penalties in the form of replacement toilet seats for shoddy aim.
I office-spaced that piss-infused toilet seat, and it felt so good.