A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

The icky factor

Posted by Pepper on June 18, 2012

In me, it runs high. Slimy substances gross me out like nothing else. Hell, they might not even be dirty, but in my mind, those things are untouchable. Till date, I shudder at the thought of pulling out my hair from the bathroom drain. When I am forced to do it, I use plastic gloves. I can’t imagine cleaning out the waste from the kitchen sink, without wearing kitchen gloves. I can’t imagine touching the wet cloth that is used to mop the floors. Those things make me want to puke. Really.

One of the reasons I am not sure I will be a good mother is because I can’t imagine changing diapers. I don’t know if I have it in me to clean poop, wash the baby’s bum with my bare hands. I see parents doing it, and they never cease to amaze me.

My mother is a person who is rarely grossed out. She will effortless clean every soiled surface within her sight, without any thought of dirtying her hands. Each time she would ask me to swab the floor in the maid’s absence, I would agree to do it most reluctantly. The mop would be held by the tip of my fingers, so that I could avoid as much contact with the slimy cloth as possible. Most times, she would laugh and take over the task on seeing my agony. A lot of times she told me that the cloth was actually clean. That it had been washed, but nothing convinced me. In my mind, that object was classified as ‘dirty’. It repulsed me. All along while growing up, I heard my mother telling me, that one day, I would be forced to do something that I considered gross. Only that would help me overcome this feeling of disgust.

And it happened. Your mother’s words always come true. Always. I was in college. We were at a friend’s place, working on one of our group projects. I decided to take a loo break. She had an Indian toilet. I had my cell phone in the back pocket of my snug fitting jeans. You know where this is heading, don’t you? It’s always hard to squat while wearing tight pants. The moment I bent a little, I heard a little splash. To my utter shock, I saw my cell phone inside the hole on the ground with a pool of water surrounding it.

I ran out in a frenzy and told my friends. They were thoroughly amused. What was to be done now? I still remember my friend’s words. “Dude, did you just pee on your cell phone? This has to be the funniest thing, ever!”. No, I hadn’t peed on my phone, I assured her.

Really, what could I do? I was a student, and I really valued the cell phone my dad had bought for me. I couldn’t afford another one. Should I sneak in my hand and try fishing it out? I couldn’t even bear the thought. On the other hand, the phone was completely submerged and it might never work again. Was it worth putting my hand inside? Perhaps it would be easier to bid my phone good bye. Perhaps I should just flush it?

I spent two minutes thinking about it. Much as I dreaded it, I decided I had to try and rescue it. Even if there was a 50% chance of my phone surviving, it was worth it. I hadn’t earned that phone myself. I couldn’t afford to burden my dad by asking for another one, again.

My friend whose house we were in, told me she would ask her maid to pull it out for me. I considered this for a moment, and tempted as I was, I declined and told her I would do it myself. How convenient it is for us to pass on such chores to people who belong to a lower strata of society. That, according to me, is nothing but taking advantage of our social economic status. The poor maid may not have had the authority to refuse, even if she wanted to. I didn’t want to subject her to that.

So after pulling a plastic bag up my sleeve, I walked in to do what I couldn’t imagine doing. My friends were excited, gearing up for the entertainment, surrounding me with cameras, to record the feat and pass it on to my other batch mates. I took a deep breath, shut my eyes and put my hand in. By now, the phone had gone in deeper. I could only see a little silver tip. Since my hands were covered in a plastic bag, I couldn’t get a hold of it easily. After a few minutes of effort, I pulled it out. The next second, I threw up.

It was my lesson in humility. It was important for me to experience it. And yes, the phone worked. All it took was the hair dryer. It was a Nokia 6610, in case you are wondering.

Since the past few days, my maid has been on leave. We take turns to do the dishes. Each time it is the sister’s turn, I see her refusing to touch the food waste lying in the kitchen sink. I don’t insist on her picking it up. I cringe and do it myself. Because I know where she comes from. Perhaps one day she will be more willing to do it.

As for me, I have come a long way. I still cringe and at times, refuse to pick my hair lying in the bathroom drain. But perhaps, that is because I have a husband who, unlike me, tells me he has no problem doing it.


56 Responses to “The icky factor”

  1. vethal said

    I have done it too… taken the mobile from … guess where office toilet with bare hands 🙂

  2. Bubblegum said

    And the last line takes the cake!! 🙂

  3. Smita said

    Two years back I would have gone ewww! but this comment is being typed the mother of an almost 2 year old boy and after having cleaned his potty numerous times I am above it.

    Time, situation & experience changes us, That doesn’t necessarily mean that we start loving the things we hated but it is just that there is no option but to do what has to be done!! Sigh!

  4. Kanthu said

    I think everyone has this ‘icky factor’, with varied intensity, with different things. And like you said, life will certainly make us overcome these, at some point of time. My friend dropped his gold ring in the toilet(Indian) once. After much discussion and leg-pulling, we came up with the idea of taking it out using a stick. And after some struggle we managed to get it out. My friend washed it in hot water followed by dettol and then kept it in his locker, never to wear it again..:-)

    • Pepper said

      Yes, i know. My friend dropped her diamond earring in the same hole that I dropped my cell in 😛 She told me how she fished it out too. Sometimes, you aren’t left with much choice..

  5. techie2mom said

    ROFL at your phone incident……..
    About the changing diaper part, don’t worry, nobody can think he/she is upto this job..You will manage 🙂

  6. Jo said

    Huh.. I was holding my breath as my eyes “run” through ur words.. Just to know whether u got it back.. 😐

  7. Scribby said

    ditto on the feeling..I too feel pukish if I have to do such task…thankfully *touch wood* haven’t landed in such a situation myself…

    but like you said since I’ve become a mother I’m doing the diaper change and washing the bummies of my doll without cringing…much to my surprise..even when I was pregnant I used to tell Husby that I’m not going to do poop/pee clean business…and today I’m doing it all on my own with a smile 🙂

    so that much change has been brought in me by my daughter 🙂

  8. sugar said

    ohhh emm gee! don’t tell me that actually happened. I still can’t believe this.
    I’m like you but in a smaller degree. But I’m enlightened now. I don’t want such kinda episode to teach me some lesson. hahaha;)

  9. My ickiness tolerance is fairly high – so I’d be cheering with the ‘waiting-to-watch-you-change-diapers’ group around ya !

  10. R's Mom said

    Gosh! exactly the same thing happened to my Appa!! and not once but twice..but he had no issues taking out the phone and putting it under the fan to dry 🙂

    Honestly, I doubt whether I would have done it..though I must admit, I do remove my hair from the bathroom drain 🙂

    Hugs okie 😉

  11. Ashwathy said

    You are honest enough to admit it…..and call a spade, a spade. 🙂 I was smiling reading this post.
    Atleast u didn’t pass it on for the maid to do…. that in itself shows a lot.

    Oh, BTW, about the part where you said you wonder how parents effortlessly clean baby bums without cringing? I’ve wondered about it too. And the answer I’ve got from new mothers is that a lot more things became acceptable to them once they became mothers. Go figure!

  12. Jazz said

    Haha.. I do this icky stuff looking elsewhere thinking they are not my hands. The non veg cutting and cleaning is too much for me. 🙂

  13. Pepper I am sitting in a hotel room in Portugal reading your latest on the ‘icky’ factor and I empathize and sympathies with you and completely understand what you say!
    Everything you say chimes in with my reactions even today -despite having brought up 2children!
    We belong to the same category and my better-half will corroborate this statement.He is so cool and collected that I call him THE GREAT YOGI!
    His mother used to say about him as a child that he was THE PERFECT SON.
    And I am completely the opposite!I lose my temper at the slightest disturbance and suffer terribly due to this and he is the ‘BALM THAT CALMS MY MIND,HEART and SOUL!!!
    I am so ‘fastidious’ that even reading about such topics makes me sick!
    But life is a funny thing-the more we dislike something the more it comes to us!
    So as my dear MIL used to say never say I want this /or I dont want it -this /that OR the very thing we don’t like will come to us!
    There is the scientific law-OPPOSITES ATTRACT and LIKES REPEL!!!!!

    The self-taught tricks I have acquired over time are galore.One such trick is to pick out the hair is with a piece of dry toilet paper and use the tips of your toes!
    While performing this trick I have thought and imagined myself as one sharing my talents with the ‘foot and mouth’ painters!

    Shall be coming to Mumbai and so maybe we could meet up or have a telephonic chat.

    Keep on writing and my best wishes to you.
    Hope your father has recovered after his fall.

    • VCM said

      Saw your latest ‘uncategorized’ title which says that one has to enter a a password.Somehow using my password does not work.Could you clarify as to what is to be done.Thanks;

  14. DI said

    Eep! Why all these icky, yucky stories all of a sudden! 😦 😦
    My phone fell into a dustbin once, and I retrieved it. I still have nightmares about THAT.

  15. hahahhaha…….and i thought this only happens in comedy flicks….but after all the pain and mental agony u finally got your phone 🙂

  16. Tanishka said

    Lol… I just can not stop laughing at what your fried said about peeing on your phone 😆 Nokia phones are really tikaoo… 😀 😀

  17. shaktii said

    hi pepper,

    2 yrs back i did the same thing.. i was in my office toilet and my nokia phone fell into the toilet.. and i really wanted to flush out.. but i cant afford to lose my lovely phone.. so to my luck came the shower cap..i somehow made my mind to take it out.. very ickyy.. then i washed my hands so many times 🙂
    The phone managed to work fine after that.. but i lost the same interest with nokia and went for iphone lol..
    Nowdays being alone abroad makes me do such things on and off for my household work and its not the same icky as before..life changes..

  18. Amrita said

    Hi Pepper,
    I have been a lurker for far too long and decided to delurk and comment on this post of all others! The reason being that I too cringe and retch at the same things and I too am lucky that my husband will clean the bathtub drain without so much as mentioning it! 😀
    Keep writing!


  19. metherebel said

    Oh God. That was quite a story. You are very honest to share such stories 🙂

  20. pixie said

    I know exactly how you feel!!
    I gross out too on various things and yea, I’ve fished out my phone from the toilet and thrown up as well. 😐

  21. Kartikay said

    Jai Nokia! Hamara Nokia Mahaan!

    Incidentally, I will now associate you with my roommate. I generally do all the menial work and am pretty good at ignoring all the warning signals that my nose throws back at me. Like I tell people – it’s my “unagi mode” – before they correct me telling my understanding of Friends is completely wrong.

    Whatever. Unagi sounds awesome.

  22. Ramya said

    Really Pepper.. these things change with time. When you really have your kid doing potty on you while feeding, you just wont feel the cringe.. Instead you feel sad that your kid pooped all she had just then and start worrying on how full her tummy is while you clean her bum. Trust me. I was one person who couldn’t hear the word “Bathroom” while eating and I have changed from that to getting up from my plate to wash my son’s bum 😉 Just matter of time 🙂

  23. chandni said

    I think I am pretty comfortable doing such stuff….It helps to have gloves though 😀

  24. My glasses fell into the toilet too(recently, about two minths after proton was born). i considered and considered if i should pick it up FROM THERE, then rang up the husband and bro(in the middle of the night) to ask because i didnt want to decide myself. the godzilla said i might pick it up and use it again(ugh ugh ugh), but he said he would forever laugh and point at it whenever in company 😐 the husband just laughed and laughed that i had to cut the call eventually. the morons made up for their behavior by buying me a new pair, but god, i wont forget that night 😐

    (and no, cleaning a baby’s potty and THAT are totally different things IMO :|)

  25. soulmate said

    “I can’t imagine changing diapers” — something that even I cant do.. Have been with toddlers kids since I was 10 but still I cant do this… and yes even I find it difficult to clean kitchen sink and dishes if there is food leftover…

  26. Oh God!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Pepper – how, just how? Who are you? I have undergone every little thing you mentioned! are you like this one of the multiple personalities of mine who maintains a secret blog?
    -Shakes head totally bewildered-

  27. Raji said

    Hi Pepper,
    I am a silent but regular reader of your blog. Love the way you express your thoughts. Can i get password to your most recent posting?

  28. RK said

    Pepper, your latest post is asking for password! I tried my wordpress pw but not working…please help!

  29. CTexpat said

    Hi Pepper,

    I am another regular follower of your blog who enjoys your perspective on life in the US and India. Is it possible to get the password to your latest posting?

    Thanks very much!

  30. chandni said


  31. Pepper said

    Folks, I have emailed you the password. Should reach you, if you’ve entered an existent email address.

  32. Divya said

    Password please

  33. RK said

    Pepper! The old email id of mine is locked:-( I have added my current one! Please resend and sorry for the trouble!

  34. Mads said

    Please send me password too?

  35. Homecooked said

    I was eww while reading your post but seriously I would have done the same thing if it was given by my dad 🙂 For now we live in a rented apt so anytime the bathroom clogs up we call maintainence to deal with it.

  36. Hey Pepper, I am a follower of your blog… 🙂 Can I please have the password too?

  37. shaktii said


  38. Geeths said

    Hi pepper, a long time silent reader of your blog, can I have the password if it’s ok with you ?

  39. I also want password 😦 Pleash? (if okay with you Pepper 🙂 )

  40. Pepper said

    Emailed you guys.

  41. Jazz said

    You think I could get the password, no worries if its too personal. Take care !

  42. Elle said

    I love reading your blog, and I have been a silent visitor so far. I really enjoy your writing and most of all, I enjoy reading about your transitions and perspectives on life. The transition from USA to India is something I hope to do someday too (like so many others). Also, coming from a south Indian background and marrying a guy of a different caste, I could relate to the problems you faced!
    I would love to read your next post, but I noticed it was password protected. I am not sure if it is appropriate to ask for the password since I assumed it was meant for close family and friends. But seeing the previous comments I thought I would check. Can you share the password if you think it is okay to do so?
    Keep up the blogging 🙂

    • Pepper said

      Hi Elle. Thanks so much for breaking your silence. I love hearing from you 🙂
      I emailed the password to you. I’ve shared it with almost everybody who asked for it. It wasn’t meant only for close family and friends, because I didn’t consider it to be a very private post. In fact, I needn’t have even password protected it. I did it, only because I wanted to have some control over who read it. It’s good to know the people who are peeping into your deepest thoughts. Had I left it open, I have no idea who and how many it would have been read by. This way, I know exactly who has access.

  43. Aruna said

    I had a similar experience…I accidentally dropped my ring to the Indian style toilet. Fortunately it was there even after I flushed it. My grandmom fished it out and washed it, but I refused to wear it again 😀

    • Pepper said

      Your grandmom fished it out? Wow. Most grandparents can do these things without too much effort. It’s amazing 😀 We cringe so much.

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