So a few years ago I was working night shift as a floor cleaner for a national department store chain. Pretty easy work, not much to write home about but it pays the bills. My main duties involved using a floor scrubber to clean as much of the floor as I can in a night. Been doing it for years at this point so it's basically second nature to me.
This occurred in December, as we approached Christmas. Normally, this store opens and closes every day, as per usual. But during December, they opted to stay open 24 hours to let shoppers be shoppers. Yay. Now, normally we don't have to watch out for much, except for the occasional employee that isn't paying attention and almost gets creamed by my machine. With the store open all night, this throws customers into the mix, so we have to be extra careful. But that's not the interesting part...
Enter some guy, probably in his late 40s or early 50s. He walks up to me as I'm going by with my machine, and the following happens, he'll be SG and I'll be Me:
SG: Do you know where I can find this light bulb?
Me: Not sure, but the light bulb aisle is over there (pointing to it)
SG: You're not gonna help me find it?
Me: I am not familiar with specialty light bulbs, and I am just here to clean (thinking to myself do you not see this bigass machine in front of me‽)
He goes off after that and I assume goes looking for his precious bulb. Cool! Done! On with cleaning! I make a loop around and come back on a second pass to cover the other half of the aisle I was doing. This guy sees me again and walks right up to me again and shoves a light bulb package in my face:
SG: SEE? This is the light bulb I wanted!
Me: Okay...? (Congratulations! Do you want a medal or something?)
SG: You work here so you should know where everything is!
Me: Sorry but my job doesn't require me to memorize the location of every item in the store. Again, I'm here to clean.
He walks away again and I shake my head afterward. I can understand asking someone who looks like they're putting product out, (and there were quite a few around, it was near Christmas after all and there was a crap-ton of freight to deal with) but why come to ME when I'm clearly doing something that DOESN'T involve stocking merchandise‽ Durr. I hate when people assume I know everything just because I'm in the building. Go away.
From Basement Rat:
Back in the 1970s , I cleaned homes as a second job. It was a pretty good gig, you worked alone and set your own hours. I did a brisk business for clients who had pets , some cleaners were wary of taking on those assignments because of allergies or they were afraid of animals. Because I also didn’t mind households with exotic pets I was often first pick. During those years I met many amazing animals that I still think fondly of today. There were the usual cats and dogs, fish , birds , hamsters and tiny turtles, but the exotics were something special. From ferrets named Doc and Dolly to Sizzles the boa, Heckuba the tarantula and my brave little pal Edie the capybara, who bit the leg of a burglar. …and then there was Murray, a mynah bird who once belonged to a close friend. Murray lived in a ground floor apartment in a large pre-war residential building. He had his own room and was quite the bird about town. May considered him her housemate. He was very vocal , but it was his way with mimicking that amazed. My friend May was a secretary for a large corporation and often asked me to clean in the late afternoon before she came home from work. Murray would squeak and trill , repeat a command or learned phrase while I went about dusting and straightening up the apartment. He would also imitate sounds from the radio, television, other birds outside and household sounds like a blender, vacuum , telephone / doorbell ring or squeaky door. In fact he was so good at it that he’d often make the sound of a ringing telephone while I was in another room.
May spoiled Murray with attention and special treats , he was top bird. Murray was also the jealous type who would often intimidate any guy she brought to her apartment. Many would be suitors were pretty much run off by a screeching Murray, who would use his vocal arsenal to get rid of all male competitors. May was seeing this one guy , who I’ll call Jerry. Jerry was a bit self- important , a sous chef at an upscale Manhattan eatery. He was always broke , but had money for pot , beer and sports betting. He didn’t help with the rent or food, but May was smitten. Things were getting serious and Jerry moved in, only Mays very strict religious parents didn’t know about that. Jerry had lousy habits. He was a slob who believed he was too good to pick up after himself. I ‘d often come in to the apartment finding beer cans and cigar butts all over the place, not to mention sticky underwear on the bathroom floor and plenty of hair in the sink, that guy sure was hairy.
Jerry hated Murray and I’m sure Murray wasn’t too fond of Jerry either. Anytime Jerry and May argued, he’d threaten to harm Murray. When May's parents visited, Jerry would make himself scarce, storing his clothes and toiletries in his car until they left. The subterfuge lasted until one day while I was cleaning, May’s mom showed up early. I told her that her daughter would be home in a about half an hour , so she sat on the couch and waited. Murray started making strange noises, first the sound of a creaky door, then another creak, the sound of streaming water, a burp…then an all too human aaaaahhhh!!! May and Jerry came home and May quickly said that she had met Jerry on the subway and that he escorted her home. Ever the gent, Jerry excused himself and went to the bathroom. There was the sound of a creaky door, then another creak, the sound of streaming water, a burp …and the all too human aaaaahhhh!!!. The jig was up…Murray was imitating Jerry’s bathroom ritual! May’s mom was livid. Jerry quickly realized he was about to lose his free digs and explained that he and May were engaged to be married. Unfortunately the story doesn’t end well. Murray got evicted, he was donated to a zoo. May and Jerry got married. The marriage didn’t last a year. Murray turned out to be the better housemate after all.
From Basement Rat:
As a house cleaner you see it all. The big messes and the small…and some you should never see at all. Most folks just expect light housekeeping, weekly dusting, picking up and stowing away. Others expect a full dump out and hose down . Thankfully in my cleaning career, those moments were few and far between. One of the jobs highlights was meeting the client’s pets. Cozy cats and docile dogs would greet me with a purr and a wag. I love all animals and have fond memories of those I spent time with while cleaning their owner’s homes. Some were not run of the mill companions. Every once in a while I would come across the exotic pet such as a snake, bird or…….other.
I was called to clean at a brownstone in the city one day and was greeted by a couple who were in a hurry. I was told to dust and vacuum and make sure that “Edie” had plenty of water. The pair were artists and had to get to an appointment , so they hurried out the door. I looked around and saw that the apartment was bright and cheerful, neat, well decorated and that the living room was a huge open area with the furniture positioned against the walls. In the corner of the living room, I spied a large cage with bedding, and a child’s plastic wading pool. I assumed that “Edie” was a large dog. I set about my chores, dusting , straightening out couch cushions and the like . I saw shoe scuffs on the baseboards of the wall and decided to wipe them off . As I was on my hands and knees, I heard the tippy tapping of dog feet on hard floors. Figuring it was Edie, I kept scrubbing the baseboard until Edie butted my behind with her snout. Laughing, I turned around to say ‘hello” to the playful pup. To my great surprise Edie was not a dog at all, but a 70 lb. Capybara ! My new friend was quite the scamp, she loved a head scratch and would run around the vacuum cleaner playing “tag”. She would splash about in the kiddie pool and wait for me to towel her off. I really enjoyed seeing Miss Edie. Her pet parents told me that her full name was Edie Capy-Sedgewick, that they named her after the socialite/actor/model/muse, one of Andy Warhol’s superstars ! The capy version of Ms. Sedgewick lived up to her name, she knew she was adored and adorable.
There had been daytime break-ins around the neighborhood. Typical B&E stuff while people weren’t home, but there had also been a spate of recent robberies where the robber did much more than rob. I was always careful, making sure I had locked the apartment door and I could look out the peephole to see who was around. The building however had been undergoing renovations , so the front door wasn’t always secure. One day a scruffy guy rang the bell and said he was the exterminator. I took at him through the peephole and noticed he didn’t have any pest spraying equipment with him. The clients hadn’t mentioned any scheduled bug bombing of the place, so I told the guy that I couldn’t let him in. He said he had to get in now to do the job, that I was holding things up. I held my ground and said no, that the landlord had never mentioned it , so he’d have to come back another time. He started getting angry , began pounding on the door and screaming obscenities. I walked back into the hallway to try and call the police. I didn’t get the chance, the crazed door pounder was kicking the door in. He managed to break through and like a shot Edie ran at him! The guy let out a screech as Miss Edie sunk her very sharp teeth into his legs and hands. What is that? he yelped…I yelled that it was a giant rat ! He scampered away terrified and bleeding .
Like I said, one of the jobs highlights was meeting the client’s pets !
From Basement Rat:
I’ve held many jobs during my working life, sometimes two or three at a time. A day job, night job and weekend gig, all to make ends meet or help out a family member. Some were great, others, eh, not so much… then came the unbearable. The work wasn’t bad, but the people I came in contact with………well…..
One of the worst was my weekend cleaning job. For a couple of years ,I was a house cleaner. A maid that comes into your home to tidy up, get your place ready for a big event or do a total overhaul for a house sale. It was all pretty routine, most clients just needed simple dusting, washing floors or vacuuming, others needed to call in a crime scene clean up team. You’d be amazed what people would leave behind for me to “straighten” up.
I ‘d often walk into a totally trashed living room after a teenager threw a party, complete with the requisite puddles of vomit and stale beer, I would find the comatose teen hiding under couch cushions …and yes, once on top of a flattened muskrat. Why the animal had been invited to the party, the mind boggles ? The usual messes were fairly average in most homes and apartments, dirty dishes, piles of clothes on the floor or unchanged litter boxes . The clients were always appreciative for a cleaning job well done. That is except for friends.
I’ve learned over the years that friends change when they see you in a different light. Most of my pals were supportive of my job juggling and understood why I had taken on so much in the way of employment. Others jumped to the chance of one up manship, a way to lord it over another person to get discounts and/or ask for free service. One of my closest friends had recently married and moved into her new husband's former bachelor pad . He was a messy former frat rat who lived in an old building. My friend was working and going to graduate school, while her hubby was “finding” himself. He was home most days , so I could only clean when he was out . I was told in advance that the tenant before frat boy was an old man who had died in the apartment.
The place always had an odd smell and the toilet bowl was black, my friend said that black paint had been poured into the bowl and the landlord would not replace it. I took a good look at the “paint” in the bowl and discovered that it was not paint at all. With my arm shoulder deep in bleach I used a pumice stone to hack at that crap…it turned out to be just that “crap” …about a hundred years worth! When my friend came home she marveled at the sparkling clean toilet bowl, her husband said “Great, ya wanna take a look in the closet and de-stink it?” The stink came from a colony of maggots that had burrowed deep in the floorboards. I cleaned the closet , was given a $5.00 tip and told “I guess I should remember to throw out stuff when it gets bad.” The stuff he was replying to was a fish that he caught and was saving to use as a prank on a fellow frat member.
The last time I cleaned a friend’s house was the very last time I would ever clean for a friend again. This gal pal was living with her sick ,widowed mom. I had known the family since childhood. My friend was spoiled and never knew how to do anything because her parents did it all. I didn’t realize there was a problem until I walked in. The mom was bedridden and there were mountains of filth all over, on every surface. I tackled the place foot by foot, it was disgusting and very sad.
Around 6:00pm my friend walks in with take out bags of food, walks past me without saying a word and plops her ample self on the couch in front of the television. I was about to tackle the last room, the bathroom. As I opened the door I was knocked back by a horrific stench, the tub was filled with black garbage bags , the pile reached the ceiling ! I had reached my limit of compassion and asked my friend what was going on?. She stated calmly that since her dad died no one had taken the household trash out and how she couldn’t possibly be expected to do that, as she was raised to have servants not be subservient. I didn’t speak, I turned to leave and then she said: “What time will you be back to take the trash out?”
I, and two other people, are a team that clean people's houses for my maid service job in a very affluent neighborhood. This is several incidents, but I'm condensing them into one post for you.
1) I'm cleaning the place up. Mrs. Johnson is home, puttering around while I dust the high places and such. Hubby calls his wife's cell phone, and wife answers. Discussion is normal tone of voice. Thirty seconds later, Hubby calls the home phone. Discussion becomes heated, and from what I can put together, hubby thinks she's cheating and was making sure she was at home where she claimed to be. Wife slams phone and fumes.
2) I clean house basically every two days, so I'm back. Hubby is now on a "business trip" and I am asked to do a little straightening in the bedroom. My team and I strip the bed, then I go to take fresh sheets out of the linen closet... but the door won't open. I can't even turn the knob. I tell the Mrs. Johnson that the closet door is jammed. She tries; can't get it open.
We ponder briefly, then Mrs. Johnson gets the idea to call Hubby about the "stuck door" and let him know that she's going to call someone to try to unjam it.
She hits Dial...... and the phone rings from inside the closet!
We turn to look at each other, disbelief in our eyes, as we can actually hear fumbling sounds coming from inside the closet. I take the door knob... and the door opens without resistance. Hubby falls flat on his face, the now silent cell phone in hand, at my feet.
The whole lot of us (the wife, my team, and I) are just staring at him.
Hubby: "Oh... uh... hi honey..." *lots of awkward fumbling as he gets to his feet, and he won't look any of us in the eyes*
From what I gleaned from the following the nuclear explosion, Hubby still thought she was cheating on him and pretended to go on a business trip, when in reality he was hiding in random areas in the house where neither of them normally go, to try to catch the supposed side boyfriend in the house. Naturally the maid service is invisible to this dude, so it never occurred to him that those clean sheets happen because the servants DO go into those places, until like, the very last second. He'd panicked and grabbed and held the doorknob to keep me from opening it the first time.
Her very next call is to a divorce lawyer.
I'm just shaking my head. I'm used to some odd shit accidentally discovered, overheard or observed, but so far this takes the cake.
3) I show up for another appointed house cleaning and find the woman seething while on the phone with her bank. Right before I came in, she discovered that their joint bank account is $4,000 short and she's trying to figure out where the fuck it went.
Where else? Hubby. Hubby bought plane tickets to another country, and withdrew the rest for cash on hand... not suspicious at all! Tell me again, WHO was supposedly to be seeing someone on the side? Hmmmmmmmmmm... Hello Pot? This is Kettle. Yeah, just checking to see if you're also still black.
Mrs. Johnson has plenty of money in her own account, being the bigger bread winner of the family, so she promises that the cleaning services are to continue as normal, since she can still pay us. I shyly suggest she call my home office. She can ask for a referral from the cleaning company for some trustworthy house movers to remove Hubby's personal effects from her home.
(The house movers and cleaning company sometimes share job requests and bounce off of each other; they often carefully pack up entire households, then leave the place to us to clean the carpets, clean shelves, etc, and prepare the house for new families moving in. It's a very beneficial arrangement for both of us and we refer patrons back and forth.)
Less than half an hour later, four big guys arrive at the same time her lawyer does (when you have big bucks, response time can be measured with a hand timer, apparently) and they go room by room. The lawyer notes everything that is slated as Hubby's that the movers take down and carefully pack. My team and I coordinate with the movers and clean up behind them so that there aren't even dust rings left behind where the removed things used to be.
Lawyer is making careful inventory of everything and its condition when removed so Hubby can't complain about breakage. Hubby's things are taken to a storage facility.
4) Time pass calmly. Details are sketchy from here on, but Mrs. Johnson is now Ms. Smith, and is very happily living her life as a divorced woman. Rumor has it that Hubby fared very poorly in court... and with half the stuff gone, the house is much easier to clean.