Monday, July 27, 2009

Cleaning Woman Calamity

I think my cleaning woman has it in for me.

Without speaking a word of Portuguese, I managed to ask if she’d seen my new, favorite, life-changing bra. And she, with no hablos Ingles, managed to let me know it had gone through the washer and was now in the dryer. In ten years, this woman has never put an undergarment in the washer. Hmmmm.

Marisel wrecks a lot of things. A lot of things. And I’ve tried to part ways with her a couple of times because of it. But, she’s very nice. And I trust her. And she’s fast. And she’s good. So our partings don’t last long.

She wrecks big things and she wrecks little things. An example of a big thing would be the way she severed the string that holds the vertical blinds together. Or the way she’s managed to demolish my overpriced German vacuum. She wrecks things I never even thought possible, like the 40 lb. cast iron stove burner grate, which ultimately needed to be welded back together because it was too old to replace. She doesn’t ever tell me that she’s destroyed something, and sometimes she even hides the evidence. It’s a little like having another kid in the house – though admittedly, an astoundingly clean and productive one.

A big branch from one of our houseplants was recently lopped off. That would be an example of a little thing. As would the glass coffee pot from the Mr. Coffee maker. She broke that directly following my asking her to slow down a little when she cleans so she doesn’t break so many things.

She comes twice a month and I usually spend the day before her arrival securing our possessions. It’s not that I can predict what she will ruin, or in any way prevent it. But she also (in her incredibly well-meaning, non-English speaking way) puts things in places they don’t belong. Most of my friends “pre-clean” for their cleaning woman so the woman can spend time more cleaning rather than tidying. I pre-clean so I can find my coffee cups the next day.

Every other Monday I walk the house slowly, scanning for out-of-place belongings the way the Terminator would scan for Sarah Connor. Each time I tuck something back where it goes, I experience a huge sense of relief. I feel as if I’ve added hours to my life.

I don’t take her wreckage personally. She’s efficient. She’s klutzy. So am I. But the bra incident felt different.

Why, I kept wondering, would she throw my new bra into the machine if not as sabotage? I asked her as much and stood, dripping in my robe, quietly waiting for an answer. I didn’t dismiss it as inconsequential as I’d done with the burner grate, the vacuum, the blinds and the coffee maker.

“Sorry,” she meowed. One of the few English words she knows.

“Ok,” I hissed back. Letting her know that this time, amiga, you are playing with fire.


  1. I feel your pain. None of my bras have ever been ruined, but I am astounded at how our cleaning woman (Rosa) can leave a trail of destruction in her wake.

    We too need to pre-clean and make sure that everything is in its place or else be lost forver.

    Our Rosa is a coiler. She will coil up any stray wire she sees. She assumes that any wire laying on the floor must not be in use. So she coils it. She doesn't think about the fact that I may use that same wire every day when she's not around.

    And I know for a fact that her coiling antics have gotten her fired from another cleaning gig. She had better start treading lightly in my home!

  2. This came in my email, but I found it so entertaining, I wanted to post it...

    You're going to get a load of "Can you top this?" tales on this one, so here's ours:
    Just ask Nancy about Maybelle, presumably our cleaning lady, but more specifically our home's saboteur. I can no longer catalogue the wreckage except to say that I still hold on to the fragments of the antique lamp that she DELIBERATELY (I maintain to this day) broke to punish me for asking her to dust the den bookshelves...she hated dusting.
    We parted ways when Maybelle took to stealing not just our liquor, such as our supply was, but whole frozen chickens...
    Go figure.