Singing' the bathroom blues in Berkeley County

January 24, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

"I'm not above scrubbing toilets."

- Berkeley County, W.Va., Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely.

For the record, I am. Maybe not above it, but around it. Off in the corner somewhere. I don't mind cleaning, but scrubbing toilets? No Sir. Boy howdy.

Not just toilets, really, scrubbing anything - toilets, sinks, floors, tires, Kelly Osbourne's mouth, you name it. Somewhere between cleaning and scrubbing, routine household maintenance crosses the line for me.

I'll clean it, but if it needs to be scrubbed I'd rather buy new. The makers of commodes know this, so they fashion toilets out of a porcelain-like material that interacts with tap water to produce a substance roughly the color of skunk vomit that adheres to the surface of the bowl with such a tenacity that you can't get it off noways.


Scrub? You couldn't get it off with nuclear explosives, and rather than try, they know that people like me will just call my plumber (known in some circles as Dr. Nicodemus, although most people, rather disrespectfully, it seems to me, just call him "Drip") and ask him to install a new one.

Oh, I'm sorry. You're saying this diatribe against the Standard-Crane Corp. is all well and good, but what you really want to know is why in the world a prosecuting attorney for a major West Virginia county would be making public statements about janitorial services.

Apparently, it's because "downturns in revenue" have forced the county to rework its contract with - love the name - LeScrub Janitorial Services, and members of the Berkeley County judiciary have been informed that they will now have to clean the bathrooms and vacuum the floors and tidy up their own offices. Ouch. I've heard of order in the court, but this is ridiculous. Seems as if a judge ought to be more concerned about LeVerdict than feather-dusting the mantle, but maybe that's just me.

The revenue downturn that caused the janitorial cutback was attributed to "dips in permit fees collected from housing activities and real estate transfer taxes."

There's one side effect of the subprime lending crisis that I bet no one saw coming. You finally make it to the bench, and instead of a gavel they give you a Brillo pad.

You can't help but thinking that there's a certain element of dignity that the judiciary looses when you picture it down on its knees wiping mildew off a sink trap. If you have to get a continuance because the judge lost his mop, something's not right. "So you solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution and fight against wax buildup?" Right. Make punishment fit the slime.

To their infinite credit, the department heads - clerks, prosecutors, family court judges - say they will pitch in and help with the cleaning themselves instead of having their underlings do all the dirty work. And I am proud to say that - put in a similar situation - this is exactly what I'd tell the newspapers.

But after the reporters are gone, I'd be more, well, judicious.

Of course I'm a man; the department heads quoted in the news story were women. This does not reflect positively on men, but it has to be said. Where a powerful woman's natural instinct is to pitch in and help, a powerful man would look around for the lowest rung on the ladder and hand her a broom.

As he was sailing to the new world, can you picture Capt. John Smith saying to one of his grunts, "Here now. Let me give thou a hand mucking the rat dung out of thy flour barrels?"

Can you picture Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia taking a rag to the marble columns? Although maybe he should. Then he might be a little more agreeable toward protecting our freedom of bleach.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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