A Gentleman’s Guide to Home MaintenanceLondon Study London, Fall 2011

My roommate walked into the flat carrying bleach, rags, a machete, and (something which international weapons law prevents me from describing as) a makeshift flamethrower. Having lived together for several months, I’d long ago learned to stop asking irrelevant questions like, “Why are you holding a flamethrower?” or, “They let you take that on the bus?” He’s from New York. To be honest, I always just sort of assumed this sort of thing was normal there. This time however, my curiosity was piqued. He was unusually heavily armed for a Tuesday night. “Don’t tell me we’re going clubbing in Brixton again. I’ve still got scars from that last time.” “No, we’re cleaning the apartment.” “Seriously, one of them is turning green. That’s not normal. Green is not a normal color for a scar to-” My blood froze. “Anything but that.” If you’re like me, housework is something that happens to other people. I usually send a condolence card. Much like Mother Nature, bachelors abhor a vacuum. Personally, I’ve always found that a massive pile of laundry adds a little color to an otherwise dreary room. If nothing else, it’s a nice conversation starter. Granted, quite a few of them begin, “How do you live in this?” To be honest, it wasn’t easy. Mostly because the British equivalent of the CDC kept trying to have us evicted on public health grounds. Eventually we quit reading the notices taped to our door, on the grounds that they only depressed us. Something about that splotch on the far wall being poisonous mold, and not the psychedelic wallpaper we had previously mistaken it for. But my original point was that studying abroad has a way of causing one to neglect some of the more tedious minutiae of daily life, and honestly, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Faced with a short and finite span in a foreign city, most people are more eager to go out and explore, rather than stay home and mop tiles. The only time the downsides of this system become readily apparent is when it comes time to try and reclaim the security deposit. I shook off my reverie and returned my attention to the delicate task at hand. Using the light from my cell phone, I looked underneath the beds and jumped back in alarm. “Well, it’s worse than we thought,” I announced. “We may need another (thing which is definitively not a) flamethrower.” “How is that even possible?” my roommate asked incredulously. He looked. “Dear gods.” “Yep. Rough estimate appears to be a plate, two mugs, a staggering amount of beer cans, oh, and the dust bunnies seem to have evolved and constructed a small and peaceful civilization which seems to have rallied together to protest our wanton destruction of their homes.” “Ow. One bit me. I think they may have gone feral.” “Don’t panic. I think I have a plan.” So, what’s my advice for traveling abroad? Don’t neglect the banal daily chores of life simply because you’re in a brand-new culture full of excitement? For the purpose of plausible deniability, sure. That’s a good moral. But failing at that, consider torching your apartment for the insurance money.
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