Monday, November 15, 2010

The Cleaning Lady Hates Us

We have a lady that comes in once a week to clean the house. She's been working for us for about five or six years. She's in her 40s and from Mexico. I only know her first name - Bertha.

She does a great job cleaning our house. She leaves the house smelling fresh and clean,  like clorox. I really look forward to the day she comes to sanitize the place and kill all our nasty germs.

We've been paying her the same amount since she started. No raises just a holiday bonus each year.

I'm sure she hates us.

But I'm sure money is not the reason. I know this because there's one room in the house she won't clean. It's a spare bedroom that was used by a live-in au pair we had when our kids were younger. Even though the au pair has been long gone, Bertha refuses to clean the room as a matter of principle. She doesn't clean the "help's" room she said. But for an extra 20 bucks she would do it on special occasion. It ain't the money.

She hates us because of who we are and how we live. I know this because each time she finishes cleaning the house she leaves venomous reminders of her feelings towards us.

For example, she hates the fact that we have shoes.

Yes, shoes. Shoes cannot be left in her sight when she comes to clean.

I usually have a slew of shoes near my bed. I have my dress shoes, my running shoes, my slippers. And in the summer, I have my flip flops and sandals. I like them all to be accessible even if I don't ever use them.

I line them up neatly in a row alongside my bed. I thought I was being helpful. I realized I struck a negative chord with her when each week my little assembly line of foot protectors would go AWOL. At first, they would be placed at the foot of my closet. Over the weeks and months to follow, they were hurled into a vicious, uncaring pile at the back of the closet. I've only seen similar images of scattered heaps from old pictures of book burnings.

She hates our faces.

When I arrive home at the end of the day, I find all our picture frames on the wall on a downward tilt. It's as if she hopes our portraits tumble out the side and splat onto the floor.

She hates our lamps.

Each lampshade is left askew. I imagine her aggressively dusting the covers, slapping them back and forth with her cleaning rag. Her satisfaction comes from knowing that when we flip on the light switch we become temporarily blinded by the protruding light rays.

My wife thinks I'm crazy, that I'm imagining all this. But I see these signs each week. And if I'm crazy then why does she announce the night before Bertha arrives that we need to clean up the house?

It's because she's scared of her, too. She doesn't want to Bertha to know what pigs we are. She doesn't want to face her scowl. I mean, who cleans up before the cleaning lady? That's like washing dishes before putting them into a dishwasher (which she does too).

Perhaps Bertha does these things to get attention, to communicate, so we take notice of her work. I'm sure I'll never know the answer. And I'm not going to ask. I don't want to offend her.

She doesn't steal. She doesn't eat our food and watch TV. And she doesn't show up late. [Prerequisites I have to mention, right?]. Good help is hard to find.

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