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After Work: Should I Fire The Cleaning Lady?

…I’ve always figured that cleaning ladies could figure out what was dirty and clean it. I’ve always supplied top-notch tools. There’s a vacuum cleaner that was engineered to suck up dirt more efficiently than a jet engine could swallow an errant goose on the same flight path. And, unlike a jet engine, it can continue without a hiccup….

Ah, but the cleaning lady in the Gibbs household is perhaps…how to put this?...not quite as vigorous with those cloths as she ought to be. But what would happen if she was fired?

Welcome back to the inimitable Dona Gibbs. The light of good humour is once again shining brightly in Open Writing.

I fear the sad time has come. I’ve been pondering my decision for a couple of weeks now.

I must fire the cleaning lady.

With practice I’ve become a patient person. It’s been patience that’s been hard won. For several years, I rode herd over a creative group in a New York ad agency. Yes, much of those ad sitcoms have a ring of truth. The tantrums. The divas. The wan thin artistic thin-skinned types. The brash. The bullies. And the just plain meanies. Those behaviors are familiar.

What I never learned to cope with are those that smiled, nodded and went about what ever they were doing in whatever way they pleased.

Isn’t that called passive-aggressive?

Well, now that’s what I’m up against.

I’ve always figured that cleaning ladies could figure out what was dirty and clean it. I’ve always supplied top-notch tools. There’s a vacuum cleaner that was engineered to suck up dirt more efficiently than a jet engine could swallow an errant goose on the same flight path. And, unlike a jet engine, it can continue without a hiccup.

Because we care about such things, we keep a kit of environmentally- friendly cleaning products. They do exactly what they’re supposed to do, which is clean and leave a wonderful clean scent in the air. They’re not harmful to the surfaces that they’re meant to be used on. And what’s more, they aren’t harmful to the person using them. Not that I’d recommend using any of these products as a mouthwash.

There is always a pile of clean cloths to use. Soft ones for furniture. Terry ones for mopping up excess water. Microfiber ones to trap dust.

And the sponges, brooms and mops. All supplied.

With the right tools, cleaning should be a snap, right?

Here’s what happens on a weekly basis. The cleaning lady shows up punctually.

Of course from time to time, Ever-Enthusiastic Husband is still in residence, holed up in his little cubby he grandly refers to as his office. He read the three or four newspapers that he devours along with his morning coffee and makes phone calls. He hates to hear the vacuum so the cleaning lady starts in the further reaches of the house. These rooms see little use so the job should be simple.

She finishes up and since Ever-Enthusiastic Husband is still thumbing his Blackberry and in Command Center mode, she decides to take a break.

I’m okay with that. She makes a cup of tea and without so much as a “Do you mind?” she checks her email on my computer. See, I am very understanding. She wants to see if any of her old friends have sent her a message on Facebook or if there’s a tracking number of some little something she’s ordered online. I’ve noticed that she has a bad Amazon habit. I bet she’s signed up for one-click service.

Once Ever-Enthusiastic Husband is headed out the door, she makes a big show out of plugging in the vacuum and zooming around. She attacks the tabletops and counters with fierce purpose. She strips the beds and shoves the linens in the wash.

She goes through the laundry. Here’s where I start to wonder about her professionalism. Sometimes she sorts the whites, the brights and the darks. Lately she doesn’t. Ever-Enthusiastic husband has had to endure pink boxer shorts and grey undershirts, a color combination not popular since the mid-Fifties, and even then never for underwear.

She reaches the kitchen, the hard part, I grant you. I’m noticing more and more that she doesn’t remove the little knobs on the cook top to clean under them. You’d be surprised how much yuck awaits.

As for the refrigerator, there are spots and spills left behind. Here, Texas Pete hot sauce. There, fig jam. And back in the corner lurk unidentified crumbs.

The ottoman in front on the television tattles. It’s upholstered and has buttons on top. They form little indents and collect lint, not unlike human bellybuttons. The ottoman needs a vacuuming every week. Often, she skips it.

She is usually in great spirits however. She loves to play old R&B and dance around with feather duster stuck in her back jeans pocket.

By the time she’s reached bathroom, she’s flagging a bit but she picks up the toilet brush. Germs, look out.

Fingerprints around light switches? She overlooks them. Baseboard dust?
Sometimes yes. More often, no.

Now comes the truly disturbing part. I’ve caught her having a little rest on the unsheeted, unpillow-cased bed. She sprawls out, picks up a book and reads.

The job has been haphazard. And now she’s resting.

You’d think that with the economy in such a grim state, she’d be more concerned about keeping her job.

Maybe that’s the way it is with cleaning ladies. After they’ve dusted and scrubbed the same old territory year after year, they get bored. Or maybe they don’t see the grime in the corners, the streaks on the cabinets, the haze on the mirrors, the dust under the bed. It’s all become too familiar.

I’m ready to fire her. Right now.

The only trouble is that the cleaning lady is me.

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