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Column: Living the good life without urine cleaner

We were in Duluth last week, at Park Point. Park Point is a strip of land just big enough for a road and houses on either side; it separates the harbor from Lake Superior. They hold a Park Point garage sale every year, and it has turned into a family gathering.

Everyone brings some junk. Everyone takes some junk home. I found some pretty neat stuff, like two coils of air conditioning refrigeration line, a $5 vacuum cleaner (which I just used for the first time and the cord winder broke), and a heavy-duty cold chisel, useful for hammering off the heads of nuts and bolts. Whenever I have to hammer one off, that is. You just never know, it could be tomorrow. Hope blooms eternal that I'll get to use it before I take it back and sell it next year to some other hopeful nut.

I got rid of some stuff, too, and, counting gas over and back, did it all for about a negative 50 bucks.

But who's counting?

We were driving down the main street of downtown Duluth, and in the window I saw this sign: "Urine Cleaner." There were some other things posted along with it, but they made no sense to me either. Now, in my life in the plumbing and heating business, I've had some rather distasteful encounters with urinals. Plugged urinals, that is. I've dug snooze can lids, plastic bottle caps, and who knows what out of them, but I was never really there to clean them.

So why is urine cleaner so hot a seller that it gets the window treatment on main street. I've got a cat, and maybe with some cats one would find urine cleaner essential. Frankly, the first time my cat--her name is Icky; not because of her hygiene, but because of her attitude--finds me looking for urine cleaner, she'll be looking for a different home.

So I turned to my daughter, who was driving, and puzzled out loud: "Urine cleaner? Who buys that?"

"Dad," she began in a tone just ever-so-slightly tipped with the growing knowledge that without knowing exactly when it happened, the parents got old and are now the ones asking endless inane questions, "it's for people who use drugs and have to pass a urine test."

Oh. Drug tests. I know about those. I have students at the tech school who probably worry about them. So the next day of classes, I asked the class about the likelihood of such a chemical allowing them to pass such a test.

Opinion was varied. They said: Might work. Might not. Man, am I hung over.

Times have really changed. Back when I was in college, working and studying and frantically trying to maintain enough of a grade point to hold a 2S and not to get reclassified 1A, drafted and sent to Vietnam, we too were looking for a chemical solution to a problem. Only back then, it went more like this: "Did you hear about sugar? Eat enough and you'll show up diabetic on the test, and become 4F." (Which meant that you failed the Army physical.)

Mostly these magic formulas were the drug-influenced byproduct of a generation that was already smoking its breakfast and frying what few brain cells they had left in their head. And in case you're wondering, no, that wasn't me. I got drafted when they changed the rules about spending more than four years achieving a degree. (Maybe that was a good thing. Otherwise, I'd likely have still been in college, 40 years later.)

Had I still been in college, however, I wouldn't have had to ask my grown-up daughter to explain urine cleaner to me.

I looked up urine cleaner on the Internet, and didn't find much to guarantee any success in its use.

I did like one entry to a urine cleaner discussion site: "Hey, man. Any dude that wants a job that makes you take a urine test should grow some more bud and lighten up."

The truth is, I've spent my working life stating that as soon as I retire, I'm going to take up drugs, stay stoned, drop out, be cool, live the life we all talked about back in the '60s, during my brief post-Vietnam long-haired pot smoking days. Back then, such a life seemed devoid of stress, a life lived with ease.

It was also devoid of money.

Now, suddenly, just when I'm on the edge of retirement, there are all these things that I have yet to do: Fun things, travel things, house things, farm things.

Things take money.

Back in the sixties, with no money, stoned seemed a substitution of sorts.

Now, suddenly, the urine cleaner I may well need will be the result of an aging prostate, bathrooms one step too far away, and stained shorts.

It's just not fair.

"Is that a bathroom up there?" I wanted to ask my daughter.