Story Value

random musings and episodes from the life of a 40 something comidienne/corporate refugee/mom - since whatever doesn't kill you provides excellent story value.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I hate the help

What a bourgeois complaint, I know -- right up there with “it’s so hard to find good help” on the obnoxious cliché scale. Yet, right now, I am hiding from my cleaning ladies upstairs in my home office. I cower as a cleaning lady captive, un-showered and too hideous to leave the house since I woke up late, at the crack of dawn, just to get ready for them.

I woke up with a start. “Crap, its cleaning lady day!” I dashed around straightening toys and books, collecting errant socks, half-eaten fruit snacks and the sippy cups that routinely litter every room. After all, the cleaning ladies can’t clean if you haven’t straightened up first. Even with all my frantic efforts, I’m sure they are still rolling their eyes as they look at our sinks. “Have they ever considered rinsing the toothpaste down the drain?” I imagine them wondering, “How on earth did that much shaving cream get on the mirror?” and “Have they ever tried peeing IN the toilet?” Hey, I live with two little boys who enjoy a good game of “crossing swords” at least a few times a week. I wouldn’t take your shoes off in my bathrooms.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be able to afford cleaning ladies twice a month. I am grateful to have someone to clean at all. It is just one of the most awkward relationships I have ever been in, and there is simply nothing worse than actually being here at home while cleaning is happening.

When I worked outside the home full-time, I really used to enjoy the experience. The cleaning ladies were an abstract idea. I would imagine them as little elves, working their magic while I was at the office. Now we exist in close proximity and none of us harbor any illusions about one another.

The cleaning ladies we have now play against the classic types we’ve engaged before. They are two affluent-seeming, impeccably groomed women in their mid-sixties. They feel more like aunts than employees. During the interview, they waxed on about the loveliness of each of their own homes. I could picture their living rooms filled with table-top lace doilies and mirror-paneled cases of Hummel figurines. Their ‘little boy with umbrella’ probably hasn’t ever seen dust.

The odd thing is -- they are the worst cleaning ladies we’ve ever had. At my house, they chatter loudly the entire time they’re here, discussing grandchildren, arthritis remedies and lasagna recipes, often loudly enough for my clients on the phone to wonder who is in the room with me. On top of it, they don’t clean; they just re-arrange.

What they must think of me, holed up in my book strewn extra bedroom, tapping away on a laptop while yapping on the phone. They seem so much like relatives, I can’t imagine firing them. I almost wonder if their sloppy cleaning – forgetting to dust book cases and lamps or not washing the kitchen floor, is their passive-aggressive way of thumbing their nose at my obvious domestic inadequacies. “You’re sitting right here Missy – get off your duff and pick up a mop!”

In the six years we’ve used professional help, we’ve gone through five sets of cleaning people – and that is only because we are too lazy and socially awkward to fire them on a timely basis.

First there was Melita, the hyper nosy cleaning lady who came whenever she felt like it. Her schedule was almost entirely random. My husband couldn’t stand her. Like a demented patient in a nursing home, he was absolutely certain she was stealing his asthma medication. I couldn’t shake the mental image of Melita hanging out in some parking lot with the other cleaning ladies, sporting their gang-colored bandana head kerchiefs, and taking hits off his Albuterol.

Then we had Tetrazinia … or something. Neither one of us could pronounce her Brazilian name. She, meanwhile, had trouble pronouncing “Sue”. Each week she would come and apparently bring a gaggle of grand children who would follow her around and play with our kids toys. Every week, they left snacks and more than a few of their own toys behind. We had a cleaning lady who we had to pick up after!

My most embarrassing cleaning lady experience was with Linda. Linda was extremely thorough and used some sort of black-market, Teflon-based wonder product that made every surface super shiny and lemony fresh. My kids and I would routinely wipe out on the wood floors and things would slide right off our slick counters after her visits. If you were ever home when Linda was there – watch out. She was like out of her mind on Methamphetamines. She’d find you, sit you down and babble at you at 200mph until you made up some fake excuse, like appendicitis, and slinked out the back door.
One horrible rainy night she was there, I had to legitimately leave to pick up the boys from daycare. That night, instead of her regular beater car, Linda had borrowed some friend’s fire-engine red sports car and parked it directly behind my garage bay instead of on the street. I pulled out without looking and hit the car with a sickening crunch. I tried to look out the window but couldn’t make anything out in the pitch dark and driving rain. I wanted to tell Linda, but I had to go get my kids before they were put out on the street.

We came home and Linda’s car was still in the driveway. I was terrified. So of course I did the adult thing and told the kids we were going to Dunkin Donuts to wait her out. “We want to go home!” They wailed. I was having none of it. We sat at Dunkin Donuts for nearly an hour before returning. Linda was still there. She was babbling at my husband who was nearly catatonic and desperately craving his asthma medicine. There was no obvious damage to Linda’s fancy car, but she drifted away shortly thereafter. I think the car was the first step towards an uptown life for Linda.

Every cleaning lady breakup is hideously awkward – whether it’s the clean break or the drift-away. It’s judgment-filled on both sides. When we initiate the break, we feel like we have to offer some elaborate explanation of our personal circumstances. “Well, finances are tight and we’re cutting back and I think we’ll be doing our own cleaning for a while.” The cleaning ladies just look at us and sneer. They’ve seen our shower drain and they know we are incapable of cleaning for ourselves.
So here I sit, immobilized between utter laziness, social phobia and embarrassment, unable to make the break. Maybe I’ll just change the locks and the phone # and they’ll get the message. Maybe I’ll hire a new cleaning lady from East Africa and pretend she’s a relative who has moved in to help out. Maybe I’ll hire a hard-core industrial cleaning company the day before their next visit and pretend I cleaned myself and don’t need them any more.

More likely I’ll just stay trapped up here in my sweatpants twice a month hatching elaborate schemes and avoiding contact. It’s working great so far …


Blogger Askinstoo said...

Just thought I'd say Hey!!!! We you the one who was asking me where I was working on the internet? Take it easy, I'm enjoying this California weather!!!! I just moved here from the east sooooo :)

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1:52 AM  
Blogger Askinstoo said...

Just thought I'd say Hey!!!! We you the one who was asking me where I was working on the internet? Take it easy, I'm enjoying this California weather!!!! I just moved here from the east sooooo :)

I made an extra $2000 a Month Using this site!!

2:01 AM  
Blogger Miss Violet said...

Get out there and kick some cleaning-lady ass, girl! I know you can. It just takes a little fortitude. When I have to scold Jules, the man who cleans my diamonds, I just use a firm tone of voice combined with a light slap on the back of his hand. Works every time. XO Violet

4:24 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Ahhhh, I feel your cleaning lady pain. ;) Ours also feels like family and doesn't clean that well. She may be having hot flashes or something as well, as each time I return home (having slunk away on minimal pretenses for the exact reasons you describe) the house has every window open and is a frozen tundra with tumbleweeds wheeling by while she fans herself and says "Blazing hot today, isn't it?"

We also had a cleaning lady who combined two of yours, since she showed up at random unannounced times, day or night, and always with teenagers and toddlers in tow whom I felt I had to entertain while she cleaned. That one also spoke *not one word* of English, not even the word "wash," which seemed awkward in her line of work. ;)

And I, too, am incredibly, humbly grateful each time I return home to a few shiny surfaces and some re-arranged piles. ;) Ahhh, bliss.

8:52 PM  

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