There are many reasons to watch TV: to be numbed, to be entertained, to simply avoid boredom. Occasionally, television can even make us feel good about ourselves, particularly reality TV. The main benefit of watching addicts in need of an intervention, or bartender/models in need of a good slap, is to be able to lie on the couch thinking, "At least I'm not that person." For those of you in need of a good dose of superiority, I highly recommend A&E's houses of horrors, Hoarders. It's on Mondays; the second season just began this week.
If you even spend even a minute thinking that you really shouldn't be such a slob, or a moment wondering why you can't bring yourself to get rid of those jeans that don't really fit anymore, this is the show for you. At the end of the hour, you'll first maniacally clean your kitchen and bathroom, and will then lie in bed feeling good about the fact that you live in a house where you can at least find the bed. You will know that, no matter how much of a pig you think you are, you can feel good about the fact that your city codes office isn't about to condemn your property.
Monday night's show centered on Augustine, a 68 year-old living in Gretna, LA. When I think of hoarders I think of people accumulating piles of possessions, or scores of cats or dogs, but Augustine had clearly spent decades accumulating tons of trash. Her house was so full of trash the cleaning crew needed to shovel it out. She had electricity but no heat or hot water; her bathroom looked like it hadn't functioned in at least a decade. Augustine collected not only garbage and sewage but also mold, mildew, and general filth, three or four feet of it in every disgusting room of the house. By the end of the episode, 4,000 pounds had been hauled away.
Augustine had lost her dentures in the filth, so she spent the episode gumming fast food, uncooked hot dogs, and I don't know what else. She clearly suffers from at least depression and probably also some sort of antisocial disorder, and sat in a chair eating while her children and a crew cleaned things out. The upper set of her dentures were found amid the debris. Also found were the carcasses of two cats, which had apparently either been flattened by the garbage or which had expired and then been crushed. Either way, two cats died and decomposed in her "living room" and Augustine didn't notice.
Are you disgusted yet? But wait, there's more. The bathroom was a Haz Mat zone, filled with dried excrement, mold, crud. I could smell it through the TV. Since her toilet didn't work, Augustine had one of those portable toilets for the elderly in her, what, dining room? I guess the notion of "rooms" doesn't really apply, but at any rate there the toilet sat, with what appeared to be bags of feces piled up around it and tied to the arms.
Yes, this woman is clearly in need of physical and psychiatric help and yes, this is an incredibly sad story. Yes, it is perhaps wrong to film this family's plight, to televise it, and then to lie on the couch, rapt, watching it. But in the end, I will never again worry about the fact that I could definitely clean my cat's litter box a little more often. In the end, at least I'm not that person.