I think I’m going to stop bathing, I said.
“What’s that?” asked my friend, Anita, frowning.
Just on the weekends, I said. At least starting out. Then, I’ll go to bathing once every three days.
Her eyes remained fierce. “I don’t think I like where this is going … but go on.”
Well, I said, I’ve started calculating how much time I waste on personal maintenance. When I’m finally finished showering, shaving, dressing, brushing my teeth, applying deodorant, finding my shoes, de-clogging my ears, plucking my nose hairs and clipping my toenails, the day’s half-over. We have only a limited amount of life, and I want to strive for maximum efficiency.
“While you’re busy being efficient, why don’t you take out the trash?” Anita asked.
Efficient with important things, Anita. Such as writing my blog. My best ideas come to me in the morning. My writing’s also clearer, sharper.
Unfortunately, mornings aren’t good for me. Either I’m sleeping late, or I’m busy showering, shaving, dressing, brushing my teeth, etc. Do you know how many articles I’ve written in my head while scrubbing the filth from my armpits? My best writing occurs when I don’t have access to pen and paper. When I finally do sit down, the magic’s gone, and I have to piece my ideas together from the smoldering ashes of my fevered creativity. It’s like writing in cold blood, as that most-knowledgeable of all writers — Stephen King — once said. My art suffers, and I’m unable to contribute to the betterment of society.
“The betterment of society?” Anita said, laughing.
However, I continued, if I omit hygiene, I’ll be able to maximize my time doing what I do best. And once I find out what that is, I’ll write an article about it.
“Give me a break,” Anita said. “It’s your own fault if you don’t have enough time to write. You take half-hour-long showers. You brush your teeth for 10 minutes. And you’ve never clipped your toenails. You look like a falcon, and your socks all have holes in them. It’s gross.”
See, not clipping my toenails is a savings of 10 minutes, I said. And what’s the point of showering every day? Seriously. We Americans are obsessed with cleanliness, which you wouldn’t think if you visited any of our major cities. We tolerate trash-strewn streets and rat-infested alleyways, but we cringe at the sight of damp armpits.
Also, look at our hardy ancestors — the ones who made the migration westward with a bath every two months in some icy river. They were cut from a different cloth … a fouler-smelling cloth, I’ll bet. And yet they accomplished great things. They populated the American West. They forged from bare earth settlements and cities. They —
“ — would have bathed if interior plumbing had been available,” Anita said. “They didn’t smell bad because they wanted to.”
Perhaps. But look at their work ethic. They mined, farmed and gunslinged from the early dawn to the late evening. Their daily existence was nothing but backbreaking labor. They wielded plows, slung shovels and sawed wood. Even something simple like butter for your dinner involved vigorous, arm-wrenching churning. And our generation complains if they don’t get Columbus Day off.
Anita frowned. “So you’re saying our ancestors were productive because they didn’t bathe?”
Exactly. You’re seeing my logic. Hygiene interferes with productivity. Bathing infringes on efficiency. Toenail-clipping curtails —
“ — the length of your toenails.”
Well, yes, that too.
“You’re not going to stop showering,” Anita said. “Don’t be disgusting. Your productivity — or lack thereof — has nothing to do with your hygienic practices. It has everything to do with your laziness.”
“Speaking of which,” Anita said, “the garbage stinks, and it needs to get taken out. Here you are threatening to quit bathing when you already live in filth.”
Clutter helps me create, I said. It gets the artistic juices flowing.
“The only ‘artistic juices’ flowing around here are two bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon you’ve had,” Anita said. “You’re acting like even more of an idiot than usual.”
I didn’t answer; I was too busy typing.
Anita leaned over and glanced at my laptop. “Hey! Are you writing this down? You are! You’re transcribing this whole conversation into your blog!”
See, I said, I’m already striving for maximum efficiency. Someday, I hope to become a paragon of proficiency. Imagine if I could blog, bathe and perform household chores — all at the same time. I could scrub the bathroom tile while showering. I could write about the decay and putrescence of American politics while cleaning out the fridge. I could —
“ — try clipping your toenails,” Anita said. “Forget American politics. The decay and putrescence is putting holes in your socks.”