The Bathroom Fork

Why is there a fork on the floor in your bathroom? I personally didn’t think having a fork on the floor in the bathroom would really have agitated a guest’s interest enough to actually inquire but here I was, answering the same question posed just four days earlier by another guest.

The modern-amenities-showcase, which is the bathroom, sports a pedestal sink and a turn-of-the-century claw-foot bathtub complete with a triangular tuft of green carpet supporting one leg. There’s a makeshift shower curtain assembly hanging from the angled ceiling by four short strands of cotton rope and accented by an Austin Powers shower curtain sporting phrases like, “Yeah, baby, yeah!” and “Smashing.” Also suspended from the ceiling is a leather pot holder, cradling a plant that has long since passed away and all that remains of this once green specimen is a pathetic brown stem with approximately 40 crispy leaves drooping towards the floor. This space is also accompanied by a run-of-the-mill, water-conscious toilet that makes a distinct “pop” sound every time it is flushed - predictably spitting water from the bowl in unpredictable directions. It’s like the Mighty River water ride at an amusement park – you never know when the geyser is aimed at you, so it’s best to keep your distance while flushing. Three windows, from just about nipple height to the ceiling, span the wall next to the bathtub, offering a clear view of the backyard which borders the parking lot to the small grocery behind the house.

From the cock-eyed way the house sits on the corner plot, to the fading paint, the slanting porch, the sloping floors, the leaky basement, the lack of curtains, the cracked windows, the constant draft, the minimalist wall hangings, the keg-erator, the 12-foot oar, the foozball table, the bullhorns, the deer-skull postcard, and right down to the kitchen without a single drawer, it seems unlikely that a fork on the floor in the bathroom would be the question of choice nor should it be a surprising accompaniment. The house as a whole is the antithesis of a Better Homes and Garden feature - simplistic, behind-the-times and free from the pollution of curios, worthless crafts and all that is sacred in the Martha Stewart world of proper living.

Taking inventory of the items on the floor in the bathroom we find; one 64 ounce bottle of hair remover (for drains), one toilet float and valve assembly (replaced a year ago but somehow has not found its way to the garbage), one nearly empty 8 ounce bottle of liquid soap (melon fresh scent), two 24 ounce bottles of bathroom cleaner (one aerosol and one pump action), one scrub brush (supposedly for use on the bathtub), one scrub brush with long handle (apparently for use in toilets), one shaving kit bag (abandoned), and one fork (stainless steel).

When I was growing up, I lived with my parents in a modern four-bedroom house. My sisters and brother lived there too and with that many kids engaging in a multitude of activities, items far more obscure than the common kitchen fork found their way into the bathroom. Things like internal parts from automotive engines, rocks, soccer balls, photo developing equipment, and really peculiar things like cereal bowls, spoons, juice glasses, and Tonka trucks. This was back in the day when Tonka trucks were made from heavy duty materials like steel and had the capacity to cause real harm and endanger the lives of those who cherished them most. If you look real close, you can still see the scar at the base of my skull where I fell backwards off the toilet and connected with a spike from my beloved Tonka truck.

Clearly, my upbringing is responsible for this penchant to maintain a collection of useless, obsolete, abandoned and bizarre items in the bathroom. However, I assure you that the fork belongs in none of the aforementioned categories. It serves a purpose, it has a utility and it performs its task well. It’s not as if the fork was lain in the path of traffic, ready to impale an unsuspecting bathroom patron – rather it rests quite safely just underneath the bathtub near the hot-water pipe. It is in plain view though and obviously has a distinct visual appeal for those engaging the toilet in the sitting position.

I firmly believe in using the right tool for the job at hand and sometimes it takes hundreds of years to convince a populace that a particular tool is well suited to a particular task. Typically, force-of-habit and ignorance are the two major factors preventing people from embracing new tools or rather, new uses for old tools. For example, forks were in use in the Middle East well before 1000AD. It wasn’t until after 1600 that forks were commonly found in England and even then people were mocked for using them. Not all of the Europeans were as slow to accept the fork though and the Italian nobility commonly used forks dating from the 11th century.

Alternatively, sometimes people find new uses for old materials and even new uses from seemingly useless materials and the public rallies behind the discovery. For instance, Penicillin (discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1929 and used to cure bacterial infections) is a natural antibiotic chemical extracted from mold. It takes innovation, experimentation and in some cases, thick skin to weather the mockery, shame and ridicule that may erupt from a public opposed to a new vision. Or it may take years of toil, famine, and unrecognized genius to erupt a public into a celebratory frenzy.
It should not be assumed that the fork on the floor in my bathroom is the next vehicle to cure cancer, eliminate gout or grow hair. Nor should it be assumed that my gift of identifying multiple uses for common kitchen items is going to precipitate a ticker tape parade in my honor. My roommate, who just happens to have a receding hairline, agrees fully with these sentiments.

It should be noted though that an open mind and inexpensive dining equipment might be a fabulous way to solve a simple problem. Assuming your dwelling is equipped with a bathtub and assuming your name isn’t Mr. T, Mr. Clean or “Cue Ball”, it seems plausible that hair may have a tendency to congregate in the drain of your bathing device. Here is where the fork proves its mettle as a plumbing tool, capable of removing vast amounts of funk from a bathtub drain while allowing the operator’s hands to remain clean and un-tainted from the collection of soap scum, hair and dirt collected there. It has a natural superiority over the common, everyday human digits in that its tines can poke, prod and pull with precise accuracy, leaving no hair behind as an upstart alliance for future follicles.

I've come to grips with the fact that it may be years before the rest of society will accept my groundbreaking methods of drain-care but I’m willing to persevere, thick-skinned, against the resistance of fork-fearing bathers everywhere to spread the word on the versatile nature of kitchen utensils.

The house in question was an old but fabulously located dump in Arlington, VA