When I was young, Daddy’s work took him out of town four or five days a week, and Mother and I learned to muddle through by ourselves.
She had some serious health problems and made sure I knew how to keep things running if she had a bad day or two.
Before puberty struck, I could run the washing machine and hang clothes on the line. I even learned how to slip my jeans into pants stretchers so they’d dry out with fine, crisp, creases.
By high school I could sweep and mop like Cinderella and was cooking breakfast, burgers and brownies. When I started driving, I ran the errands and bought the groceries.
There were only two chores I hated to do.
I didn’t mind if the house looked “lived in.” Mother did. And according to her, “nice people” always hauled out the garbage and kept the bathroom clean in case somebody important came by, like the preacher.
So I hauled the trash and cleaned the toilet. I still do. To this day I consider tossing trash and cleaning toilets “essential” household chores.
The U.S. government doesn't.
At the end of December, Uncle Sam declared his pockets were empty and when Congress and the president couldn’t agree on how to pay the nation’s bills, more than 800,000 government employees were temporarily laid off to save money. This event was called a government shutdown.
The Lords and Ladies running the show in D.C. said the laid off workers were doing “non-essential” jobs.
If average citizens were asked which government workers they considered non-essential, they’d probably start with the entire U.S. Congress, whose 535 members only meet about 120 days each year, get paid over $170K each and don’t do a thing but sit around and argue with each other and cash fat checks from lobbyists while the national debt soars.
When the government decided to lay off workers, it didn’t part with the people who clean the Congressional offices and gymnasium. Instead, Congress closed several of the Smithsonian museums and shut down the panda cam at the National Zoo.
To make a bad decision worse, Congress also laid off employees who take out the trash and clean the restrooms at some of the country's most popular public places.
And now, as garbage cans overflow and trash piles up along the walking paths, the National Mall resembles Port au Prince, Haiti, after a hurricane. The U.S. Capitol building remains spotless, by the way.
Garbage piles at Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks are so big the resident buffalo have to make detours to reach their destination. As for public hygiene – many of the toilets at Yellowstone and Yosemite are so-called vault toilets. They aren't connected to sewer systems.
The excess waste has to be hauled off. Right now, that isn’t being done. Piles of you-know-what are reaching Mt. Rushmore proportions.
Visitors facing overflowing toilets now resort to relieving themselves along the roads and trails. As of Jan. 3, the website for Yosemite National Park said, “Yosemite, one of the nation's most-visited national parks, remains open but various campgrounds, as well as snow play areas, are closed due to human waste issues and lack of staffing."
“Human waste issues.” Charming.
My mama always said you couldn't trust somebody who didn’t clean the toilet or take out the trash. I didn’t realize until now that her description fits the people we elect to run the country.
Alex McRae is the author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .