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LJ Idol Week 3 Re-Post

Here’s what I entered in for week 3 of LJ Idol, which ranked in the top 5 for my “tribe”. Our prompt for week 3 was coprolite. Coprolite is defined as fossilized dung, so anything relating to poop seemed to be fair game for the contestants.

When the site manager handed me the can of Old Dutch Cleanser, I knew they had run out of tasks to give me. I was thirteen and participating in a program called Mission at the Eastward (or MATE as we referred to it as. Nothing funnier than telling people you were “going to MATE”). MATE was a program in Maine where groups of people would come in over the Summer months, live in the dormitories at the University of Maine Farmington, and help repair the homes of the people in the area who sustained damage over the Winter. Sometimes we also would be sent out to help Wilton Affordable Housing (like council housing here in the UK) with some of their projects if we had a lot of volunteers.

That week I worked on several sites because I wasn’t quite strong enough to do some of the building tasks, so myself and the other young teenagers were all given lighter tasks. We were usually sent to the sites that were near completion to go in and assist with painting or with cleaning up. I spent a lot of time that week trimming blackberry bushes, sweeping floors, and panting.

With four of us working on these tasks, it didn’t take long before we were shuttled over to a new project. The new project was renovating a home that had sustained lots of Winter damage. We started out in the garage, a very weak wooden structure next to the house. We were emptying the garage out and then the building would be torn down to make way for a newer, sturdier garage. Our group numbers increased, and by the end of the day the garage was empty and ready for demolition.

We really enjoyed it and dubbed ourselves the “demolition crew”. We made light work of the kitchen, ripping out the cabinets and counter tops to make way for new ones and once again, ran out of work. We were sent upstairs to take a look at the state of the bathroom. The bathroom was extremely dirty, but underneath all that grime was a gorgeous claw footed bathtub that was going to be saved and restored to it’s former beauty. When I was handed the can of Dutch, I knew this would be my project for the day.

I started by pouring drain cleaner down the drain. Once the drain was clear, I felt it would be easier to clean. It took an entire bottle of Mister Plumber to deal with the years worth of clogs. After I was satisfied the drain was clean, I devised a plan for cleaning it.

Old Dutch Cleanser was a granulated powder style cleanser, similar to Comet. You sprinkled it on, added some water to make a paste, and let it sit for a few minutes and then scrubbed it off. Given the state of the bathtub, I knew it was going to take quite a while, but I was going to give it my all. Donning rubber gloves that went up to my elbows (I was small for my age), I went to work.

Boy, did I work. I finally decided it was going to be easier to get the corners of the bathtub clean if I climbed inside of it. Working on the other side of the wall was my friend, Rocco. He was trying to remove the sheet rock to gain access to the plumbing behind it. All of a sudden, the entire wall gave way and collapsed into the bathroom. The bathtub was now full of tiny round mouse droppings…and I was covered in it.

The mouse droppings were everywhere. They covered my legs, my arms, and I had plenty stuck in my hair, too. Fortunately, the droppings were hardened from the years it had spent between the walls and there was no sign of the rodent. Unfortunately, I was a thirteen-year-old girl who had just recently discovered fashion, make-up, and boys. The older boy I had a crush on was working in the next room over and when he head my scream, came in to see what was wrong.

I bolted. I ran past both my crush and my friend, down the stairs and out the door where one of the adults managed to stop me. He went and got his wife, who helped me get as much of the droppings out of my hair as we could. When we returned to our dorms for the day I think I washed my hair at least three times to try to get the dirty feeling off of me. I’m pretty sure everything I had been wearing that day went straight into the garbage.

Despite all this, I was determined to finish my project. I didn’t want any of the mouse droppings to land on me again, so I wore a trash bag over my clothing and borrowed a hat. By quitting time, I had that bathtub gleaming.

On our last day, we always had a bit of a party. Each site group would put on a skit, we would look at a slide show of photos taken during the week (this was pre-digital!), and we would have an awards ceremony. Everyone received an award, no matter how silly. You could give an award to anyone you wanted for whatever reason. The man who got locked out of his car at one of the sites received a coat hanger and a piece of cardboard with “lock picking kit” written on it. The man who hit a deer received a block of wood with one of those things designed to deter deer mounted on top. The woman in charge of cooking for the week was presented with a set of cutlery glued to a plate ringed with dry macaroni. One of the teenage boys was given a roll of duct tape. Things like that. Nothing that would mean anything to anyone else, and nothing that cost too much money. And me? I was given a canister of Old Dutch cleanser.

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