Coming Clean About Housework

The Dirt On My Housekeeper

Elmira the maid came today and once again I’m in a foul mood over it.  She was supposed to come yesterday but didn’t, and last week she stood me up altogether.  So she finally shows up today (late as usual), does her typical sorry job of cleaning my house and then has the nerve to leave early – something about lunch with a friend from out of town, as if that’s somehow more important than my tile grout.

I don’t know why I put up with her.  She’s been with me virtually since the day I married, and never once have I ever been happy with her performance.  It’s not just a matter of habitual unreliability.  I’ve pretty much gotten used to that.  What galls me is the fact that when she finally does get around to actually cleaning my house, she does an absolutely horrible job.  I hate to be unkind, but it’s the truth.  You know that wonderful smell a house exudes when a really good cleaning woman has been there?  Well my house has never once smelled like that, I don’t care if Elmira’s been cleaning for six hours straight.

I can’t quite explain it, but it’s like she just does everything sort of halfway.  You know what I mean?  Take the bathtub for example.  Elmira uses powdered cleansers.  Okay, fine.  I don’t have a problem with that.  What I do have a problem with is climbing into the tub later that night and feeling like I’m sitting on a sheet of 30-grit sandpaper!  Does the woman not bother to rinse when she’s done? 

And another thing, she’s only 5’4” tall, so it’s like anything higher than her sight level simply doesn’t exist.  Case in point, the other day I climbed on a chair to get something out of an upper kitchen cabinet, and right there on top of my refrigerator, covered with a thick layer of greasy, dusty grime was a huge dead roach!  I just about puked.

I’ve decided she’s either the worst procrastinator on the planet, or she should be declared legally blind.  I can drop a blob of grape jelly on the floor in front of the stove and I promise you, a week later it’s still there.  Of course you might not recognize it, what with all the crumbs and dirt and corn kernels and hair that have stuck to it by this time, but it’s the same blob alright.

Other women’s maids do things like cleaning the light fixtures and wiping down the telephones.  Does Elmira do that?  No.  Does she dust the window sills?  No.  Does she hose out the garbage can?  Air out the bedspreads?  Sweep cobwebs from the ceiling?  Wash the bathmats?  Polish the doorknobs?  No, no, no, no, and "Is this some kind of a joke?”

And don’t even get me started on her floors.  You can eat off my kitchen tile – literally (see above reference to the blob of grape jelly).  I could fashion a hair extension out of what’s behind the bedroom door, and I don’t even want to know what’s down in my carpets.  She waits until the floor is so filthy it’s getting our shoes dirty before she finally breaks down and tackles the job, and even then she only vacuums and mops the traffic areas.  It reminds me of something I read one time – I think it was in the book of Ruth in the bible, but it might have been in National Geographic.  Anyway, it was talking about harvesting crops back in ancient times.  Supposedly the land owners used to instruct their workers not to glean all the way to the corners of the fields, so there would be some grain left for the widows to gather up later.  Well guess what.  Elmira doesn’t glean (or clean) all the way to the corners either, which begs the question:  Is she expecting some widows?

It’s not as if she doesn’t have adequate supplies.  I buy her expensive cleaning products all the time but she never uses them.  I even bring home the latest new time-saving products, like those disposable toilet wands, hoping to spark a little enthusiasm.  She chunks them under the bathroom cabinet and never even says thank-you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encouraged her to set up a schedule, you know, like Monday is "scrub the shower” day, or Wednesday is "throw away the rotten potatoes under the sink” day, but it never works.  Oh sure, she always seems to get into the idea…at first.  She’ll spend hours creating elaborate color-coded charts on my fancy computer graphics program, and when she prints them out on glossy cardstock and ceremoniously posts them on the refrigerator door, I think, "Wow.  Maybe this time we’ve found the key to success!”  Then Monday morning comes.  The chart clearly says "scrub the shower” but will you actually find Elmira in there vigorously scrubbing the shower?  Note:  If your answer to this question is yes, then I suggest you go back to the beginning of this article and start over because clearly you have not been paying attention.

As if being inefficient and incompetent aren’t enough, she also has all these annoying little idiosyncrasies that really get on my nerves.  For starters, the woman has some serious ADD issues.  She’s constantly stopping to check her e-mail or bid on some random EBay item or talk on the phone.  Heaven forbid that she should be expected to clean during "The Barefoot Contessa”! And this one’ll really get you.  She strips down to her underwear to scrub the bathtub!  Trust me, you do not want any more detail than that. 

Oh sure, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re wondering why I don’t give her the boot and hire somebody decent.  Believe me, I wish I could.  She is lazy, inept and unreliable.  She raids my refrigerator, uses my debit card, wears my lipstick, and sleeps with my husband.  If I had the guts I’d fire her on the spot, but it’s just not that easy because, well, there’s just no other way to put this – I am Elmira, and I’m stuck with me. 

In case you’re wondering, I provide my own transportation, I require Monday through Sunday off, and I don’t do windows.  Or floors, or baseboards, or toilets, or ...

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