I got a call from a potential new client the other day.
“Hello!?! Is this the Cleaning Lady?”
“Oh, thank god! I got your number from [insert old client’s name] and I am desperate for help. My cleaning lady just walked out on me and I’m frantic!” Can you say red flag, and why me?
“[Insert old client’s name] held you in such high regard, I had to reach out. Can you fit me in tomorrow?”
“It’s such a large house, the dust builds up so quickly. I’m beside myself!”
“Um, let me think.” Bad idea! Bad idea!, my instincts shouted. I did have a cancellation tomorrow afternoon, but I was going to clean my own house. You could use the money, my stupid logic brain said. And besides, by her logic, your house is so small that it would take 1000 years for dust to build up. Damn you logic brain!
“Ok,” I said hesitantly. My brain said “Score!”
“I can be there at 1.”
So I went. The house itself was a very large two-story brick colonial, with it’s square façade and symmetrical features that screamed “I live in a perfect box.” It certainly made my house look like a shoe box. The yard was painstakingly manicured, with square bushes surrounding the square house giving one the impression that Q*bert lived there. It reminded me of the Hoarder’s house but with an air of pretension so thick, my nose started sticking up on it’s own. For some reason my mind started thinking about all those horror movies where you have the perfect house, but inside the perfect house is a house of horrors where they eat people or do crazy witchcraft stuff.
I rang the door bell and what greeted me I can only describe as the Queen of Karens. She was in her early 60s with a blonde football helmet for hair. A hurricane could have blown through and that hair wasn’t moving an inch. She had a pleated skirt on and button-up blouse, complete with the ruffly scarf. She beckoned me in with a pearly white plastic smile. “Welcome!” she exclaimed, like I was the guest of honor (or dinner for her Coven).
All I can say about the interior of the house is that it looked like 1980s Martha Stuart vomited all over the place. Ruffles and plaid and doilies draped the walls and furniture. Heavy mahogany tables held fine china and crystal. There were enough flower bouquets scattered throughout that it resembled a florist’s shop. “What a lovely home you have.” What have I done?
I had brought my caddy full of cleaning supplies and set it on the floor. She looked sideways at it and started shaking her head. “Oh, no, that won’t do,” she said. I looked at her quizzically. “Let me show you what to use in this house.” Thanks brain, we’re going to have a talk when we get home.
She led me down a long corridor by the kitchen which opened up into a laundry room that was as a big as my living room. Then she put on rubber dish gloves and I thought she might help clean for a minute. Nope, it was just to not soil her delicate hands while pulling supplies from the cabinet. And supplies there were.
I didn’t know that there were rich cleaning supplies for rich people, but I guess there are. Most of the names were in French. She unloaded a bevy of bottles and cloths onto the counter. Oh god. Then she ran down the list of what to do with each. By this time my instincts were beating my brain to a pulp in the corner.
And just to clarify, I get it. You have expensive stuff, you need to keep it nice. And using the wrong cleaning product on a surface can really mess it up. That being said. I’m a minimalist. If I can clean a house with one spray bottle, bring it on.
So I begrudgingly gathered up her arsenal and went to work. Or so I thought. Mind you, I can handle a picky-product Karen. What I can’t handle is a belittling, overcritical Karen (who was truly turning out to be an utter witch). After I finished the bathroom, she went in and inspected it. Then she started shaking her head and sighing. “Something wrong?” I said.
“There is a spot on the floor by the toilet that you missed.”
“Oh, let me get it.” So I went over to the toilet and looked for the spot. I didn’t see anything. “Ma’am, I don’t see anything.”
“It’s right there,” she huffed and walked over and pointed to the floor. I really still couldn’t see anything so I just took my rag and wiped in the general vicinity of where she was pointing. Then she walked over to the towel rack. “And these towels are not properly hung. Have you ever worked in a setting like this?” You mean the setting where I stick this mop where the sun don’t shine? There’s probably already a broom up there. I bit my tongue so hard I think it started to bleed. My brain was no help as it hadn’t recovered from the beating instinct gave it.
I went about to clean the rest of the house, with her trailing behind in veiled disdain. I would have walked out, but I was already committed and I was going to see this torture through and get my money.
Finally, I mopped the last room and gathered my things. Queen Karen of the Harpies came out with my money. “Well,” she said. “I don’t know what [insert old client name] was talking about when she gave you a glowing recommendation, but you’ll have to do. I’d like you to come three times a week. And please wear something more appropriate next time.” I guess my Sunday-best t-shirt wasn’t good enough.
At that point all I could do was laugh, and hysterically. I laughed hysterically for a full minute, like a mad women. I was still wailing as I took her money and walked out. As soon as I closed the door I could feel my nose turning back to normal. I had come out uneaten, uncursed, and with most of my pride still in tact.