This is an anecdote from my much younger years, recalled to me by reading Tarquinious' writeup on Bathroom Furballs.

Now, the more wimpy fastidious readers (such as Tarquinious) may want to stop reading at this point, since this anecdote involves explicit references to human residue found in drains.


In the early 1980s, I was working summers as a cook's mate on merchant ships, as well as on oil rigs. Most of what a cook's mate does is scutwork - doing the dishes in the galley, peeling potatos, mopping the floors and stuff like that. In short, all the jobs that nobody else wants. It's thankless, hard work, even on ships - and on oil rigs, the hours are particularly long: 12-14 hours a day, for two weeks straight (no weekends off - you can rest when you get sent back ashore after your shift ends).

One part of the job that I'm sure many people would find particularly revolting is the between-shifts cleanup detail.

You see, on oil rigs (in the North Sea, anyway - I don't know what it's like elsewhere), the crew is divided into two shifts, working about 12 hours on a stretch. They share bunks, so that there is one bunk for every two crewmen (due to space considerations). This means that at every shift change, the crew's cabins must be cleaned and made ready for the other shift. Bed linen must be changed in every bed (which means you have to change about 40 beds in about one hour, or people get upset - in consequence of which, I can make a bed in less than 40 seconds).

During this same interval, you must also clean up after the crewmen who took showers in their cabins. There's one shower for every four bunks, which means that there are about 10 showers to clean, during this same one-hour interval. Not easy, but achievable - if it weren't for one little hitch:

Crude oil.

Crude oil and mud.

Crude oil and mud and hair.

Crude oil and mud and hair and stuff that defies identification.

Believe me, Tarquinious, Bathroom Furballs are penny-ante stuff.

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