Good Help

Sometimes it’s hard for me to maintain my liberal perspective. Oh, my day started off well. I was at my rental place for the very last time, having moved all my stuff out. I was eagerly awaiting the cleaners I had hired, in hopes of getting more of my rental deposits back.

Yeah, I guess I could have done it myself, but did I feel like it, after all this packing and moving and all the unpacking still in my future? Heck no. And since the company owner said it would be a ballpark figure of $200, I was thinking of it as money well spent. I’d be helping put money into the economy, and giving business to a mom and pop company. It’s all good.

I had no idea what a nightmare this day would become.

Since it was to be a cleaning crew, I was guessing maybe 4 hours work. That seemed reasonable. All the furniture was gone. The carpet had already been professionally cleaned the previous day, and I had done a cursory vacuuming of all the non-carpeted rooms. So I figured I’d hang out in my beloved back yard one last time, maybe take a few cuttings from some of my favorite plants, in hopes they’d take root in my new home. And I’d bring a book. The time should pass by quickly.

But then the “crew” arrived. It was one tiny little woman, who couldn’t have weighed more than 90 pounds, soaking wet. She said her boss couldn’t come that day, so he sent her. Well… if the boss trusted her, then I would, I suppose.

I asked her how long she thought it would take, and she said it would be hard to say at this point. Fair enough. No doubt she would tell me once she got a better sense of the place.

But now the liberal guilt set in. I never had a maid in my life, and now here I was, lounging in the back yard, while this poor little woman toiled away. I wondered how much of the money she would get. What a thankless, hard, boring job. I felt as if I were exploiting her.

When I expressed my concerns to a friend, he suggested I give her a big fat tip in cash at the end of the job. What a great idea. That’s what I would do.

She started off by vacuuming the cobwebs. And as I was hypnotized by the sound of the vacuum, I came to realize that I was developing a really bad sinus headache. Not good. I had no meds with me. And this was the worst possible kind of sinus headache– the kind where the stuff drains down the back of your throat and makes you nauseous. I spent the next couple hours vomiting in the bushes. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty miserable. I didn’t want to wake my neighbors, so I sat there feeling like death until I saw them put their dogs out, and then I went over and begged for meds, which they kindly provided. I started feeling better again after that.

During all of that, my focus had naturally shifted away from the house and toward the bushes. But once I was on the mend I realized that no sounds were coming from the house. When I walked in, she was standing in the middle of the room, with no cleaning supplies nearby, eating a snack. Well, everyone is entitled to a break, right? So I just asked how it was going, and she said fine. I didn’t press her for a timeframe. I didn’t want to disturb her break. Stupid me.

I went out and lay on a big patch of soft moss, and promptly fell asleep. (I’m really going to miss that yard.)

What woke me up was her coming out into the yard with her lunch. I think she was really surprised to see me there. She explained she needed a break. I said, “Of course.” I left her alone.

From the looks of it, in the 4 hours she had been there, she had yet to touch the kitchen or the bathroom. I was kind of shocked, but she had assured me that she had been cleaning houses for this property manager for many years, and knew exactly what he expected, so I supposed she was being thorough. The other rooms did look good, but I didn’t think they had looked particularly bad in the first place.

After she finished her lunch, I asked if I had time to go down the street and get something to eat myself. I was starting to get the shakes. I hadn’t expected to be there that long. She said yes, of course. That would have been a good time to tell me how much longer it would be, but she didn’t. Okay, fine. I was hungry. I left.

When I came back, she was cleaning the bathroom. Yay! Progress! I went back into the yard and had my lunch.

From where I sat I could see the kitchen. I kept expecting to see her in there. But no. I read my book. But by now 5 hours had passed. I was getting irritated, and bored.

By hour 7 I was afraid I was going to shout at her. I was feeling really ripped off. But I don’t want to be one of those people. You know, the kind who talk down to people. The kind who are rude to waitresses and bell boys and the like. That is not who I am. I’m one of the good guys! I’m a liberal!

But I would be damned if she was going to get that tip now. She was milking this job for all it was worth, as far as I was concerned.

I needed to get away from this woman, so I asked her if I had time to go grocery shopping. She said it would probably be 2 more hours. She also said it would be $315, which is so far from that $200 ballpark that you probably couldn’t even hear the cheering crowds from there. My jaw dropped. Then she told me that she could give me a discount. If I paid in cash, it would be $290. That seemed a little sketchy to me, but it’s a moot point. I had no way to get my hands on that kind of money that late in the freakin’ day, and I hadn’t used my ATM card in about a billion years, and could no longer remember the code.

At hour 9, I got back from the grocery store to find her eating a cookie and staring vacantly at the washing machine, which she had accidentally filled with water. She said she couldn’t figure out how to empty it. So I turned it on. She thanked me.

By now I was so frustrated that I was on the verge of tears. I was tired. I just wanted to go home. By hour 10, after watching her slowly move throughout the kitchen, the dam broke. I started to cry. I don’t cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m pissed off. I was pissed off.

I wrote the check. I walked next door. I told my neighbor that I couldn’t take it anymore. I was going to pay the bitch the $315, and would she see that the house was locked up after she left? She said yes she would.

So I went in with the check, tears streaming down my face, and handed it to her. And she had the nerve to say that it had taken longer than she anticipated, so she was running the dishwasher to let it clean itself. I had my doubts about the efficacy of this, but I had to leave there right that second to avoid getting arrested. So I handed her the check and she said that since it took so long, it would cost even more.

I said, through gritted teeth, “No. No. I’ve already written the check. Do you want it?” She took the damned check.

And then she had the nerve to say, “Do you have any questions before I go?”

I was tempted to say, “How the f*** do you sleep at night?” But I just said “No.”

And off she went, after 10 hours.

I swear to you, I never thought these words would ever pass my lips, and I know they don’t make me look pretty, but you really can’t get good help these days.

cleaning lady

Claim your copy of A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude today and you’ll be supporting StoryCorps too!


2 thoughts on “Good Help

  1. Sam Ramirez

    Unfortunately it’s true Barbara. It is very hard to find good help these days. Some of the worst offenders in New York City are cab drivers. They don’t help you with your luggage, they’re rude, and they sometimes get lost and take you out of the way. And then they get offended if you don’t offer them a tip. I’ve only refused to give a tip on one or two occasions and I could see the disgust on their faces. I even jumped out of a cab when the driver was so rude that I told him I wasn’t interested in going anywhere with him. He started to yell at me as I open the cab door to step out onto the street. Boy that’s the way to drum up business isn’t it? I’m sorry you had that terrible experience with the housekeeper. You could tell that she was just wanted to get it over with. I’m glad you did not pay her cash. Lord knows where that cash would have ended up. The owner probably would have called you next day and asked why you never paid him and the woman would be three states away spending the cash on a “snack”.🏠

    1. Good for you for jumping out of that cab, Sam! I’m always so shocked by rudeness that I probably would have ridden in stunned silence and then been forever resentful that I had paid him for the ride. I need to work on that. And yeah, I’m still waiting to see the property manager’s reaction to the state of the dishwasher.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s