Category Archives: RHKOA

RHKOA: So You Think Your Job Sucks?

If you’ve ever spent a day on a job at any point in your life, it’s very possible that you’ve felt like you were being crapped on by your employer. There’s just no way around that fact. How did you feel on days like that? Did you feel like quitting your job? Did the slight make you want to seek redress? Did you go home fuming, vowing never to be crapped on again by that cruel manager/boss? I’ll bet you did.

But what if you had literally been dumped on by your employer?

This is a story about a cleaning job that changed my world view forever. Be forewarned. The details are grotesque and heinous. Put on your gloves and aprons as we enter the apartment where Dignity’s Child drew her last breaths.

****

It was a bright Saturday morning. Barely a cloud hung in the sky. A warm breeze whipped around Hilary’s bangs as she loaded the last of the supplies in the trunk of her car. The two of them rode in stony silence, neither one happy that they had to spend the weekend on a job.  Outwardly, it appeared that Hilary was handling it a little better. She chatted idly about nothing until they got to the gate of the apartment they were scheduled to clean. Samira rolled her eyes and mumbled “uh huh” at the required times, inwardly wishing Hilary would just shut up.

Hilary fished her cell phone out from the console in the car and dialed the client’s number.

“Hi!” she said loudly. “This is Spic ‘N Span Cleaning Hands! We’re here to clean your house?”

“You’re early,” said a male voice on the other end.

“Yes,” she conceded. “We were wondering if we could get an early start on the job.”

“No,” said the man firmly. “You’re scheduled for 12 o’clock and you can start then.”

He hung up the phone.

Samira looked at the clock and sucked her teeth. It was 11:43 am. She hated clients like that.

“Ashook Parivar,” she muttered, looking at the email with the details of the job.

“Must be Iranian,” said Hilary.

(For the record, these two think anyone from India, Pakistan and the Middle East in general were ‘Iranian’…pronounced EYE-rain-ean.)

Finally at noon, Hilary called Ashook on the gate box and he permitted them to come in. They climbed two flights of stairs before they reached the apartment. Hilary was excited. Cleaning apartments was easy. They could be in and out in an hour and a half at the most. She stuck her hand in her pocket and pulled out a business card to hand to the client. Samira struggled with the buckets and brooms in the background.

Finally, a disheveled twenty something man with brown skin opened the door and let them in. The plastered smile in Hilary’s face soon faded. Samira never smiled, and pursed her lips even further.

“What do we have here?” asked Hilary, attempting a joke.

There were beer bottles all over the floor. Red Solo cups containing day old liquor dotted every surface of the room. The apartment smelled like urine, weed, and body odor. Another man in his twenties lay half sleeping on the couch with his hand shoved down the front of his pants.

“We had a party last night,” said Ashook, smiling at the memory of what was obviously a wild night. “Can you clean the balcony also?”

It was not a polite request, but rather a terse demand.

“That will cost you an extra $25,” said Hilary, throwing her shoulders back haughtily. She expected him to balk at the upcharge.

“No problem,” said Ashook pulling two twenties from his pocket. “You can keep the rest.”

He flounced onto the sofa and began to play video games.

Samira pulled out a clear plastic bag and shook it noisily glaring at the two young men who had wreaked intense havoc on the apartment. She began picking up empty beer cans and vodka bottles and tossing them into the bag. Hilary chatted gaily with the men whom she had come to learn were students at Emory.

“I’m going to clean the kitchen while Samira works on your two bedrooms,” she informed them. “We can work a little faster that way.”

“Okay,” Ashook said dismissively.

Samira stormed into the room, dragging the vacuum behind her. When she got to the master bedroom, she stopped dead in her tracks.

“Oh my Gard!” she gasped in her deep Southern drawl.

The bed sheets were strewn everywhere. She lifted her eyes and noticed something reflective on the night stand. Two empty condom wrappers were hastily thrown on the wooden surface. When she walked around the bed, her worst fears were realized. Semen soaked prophylactics lay lazily on the carpeted floor. She gagged and threw on another pair of gloves.

As she hurriedly picked up more cups, bottles, cigarette butts and drug paraphernalia she heard water running  from the sink adjacent bathroom. An overweight ‘Iranian’ man stepped out, shaking his wet hands vigorously before wiping the excess dampness on his jeans.
“Oh. You’re here to clean. Good,” he said in greeting. “You can get in that bathroom now.”

He stepped past her and walked into the living room where his friends were sprawled and laughing. Samira heard one of the guys say something in response to Hilary.

“Yes, yes! Many girls were here last night. Many girls!”

“Hey dude, you remember that one girl?”

“Ahhh…yeah. THAT girl.”

They broke into the universal, self-satisfied male laughter that signaled they had all probably banged the same chick during the course of the night.

Samira couldn’t understand their next words, as they began to speak in their own dialect. She didn’t need to. She already knew what 3 college aged men who had had a wild party the night before were saying. Her disgust for the three of them was replaced by utter dismay. The fat collegiate who had just left the bathroom had left the door cracked and a foul stench came filtering through to the bedroom.

“Oh my Lawrd!!!”

“What?” asked Hilary, who had come to monitor Samira.

“Look in the bathroom,” she hissed. “Do you smell that?”

“Oh snap!” cried Hilary. “You might want to use some Comet on that.”

Samira shook her head frantically.

“Naw man. It’s the Bleach time to shine nuh.”

toiletShe sprayed until the fumes threatened to knock her unconscious.

There were no words to describe the dishonor Samira felt that afternoon. Never before had a grown man pooped, looked her in the eye, and walked out as if nothing had happened. He had literally taken a dump and left it there for her to flush. It was the ultimate disrespect.

******

So you sit there, dear reader, and complain about your job if you will. Unless you’re a sh*t carrier in Jakarta (and they do have those) I guarantee you’re not having half as bad a work day as this pair did.

Stop laughing. Happy Hump Day.

 

 

RHKOA: Curry Fried Wahala

Although I am no longer a Real Housekeeper, I still have an arsenal of stories left untold. According to @msmartei on Twitter, there is at least one person who wants to hear the scoop on ATLien poop. So this one’s for you, my friend. (And I mean friend as in ‘friend’ and not at all in  Joe Biden’s villainous definition.)

Atlanta’s place in the Civil Right’s struggle is firmly cemented in history. If you asked the average person to conjure three cities that impacted Civil Rights, they’d mention Washington DC, Selma, AL and Atlanta – no mention of state required.

Many people suffered under the oppressive thumb of discrimination in years gone past. Jews, Asians and Negros (as we called ourselves in those days) were subject to various manner of social injustice, depending on their race and ethnicity. However, recognizing injustice anywhere was injustice everywhere, some of our forebearers banded together to demand equal rights, and they got them! All these races learned the incredible power of unity…until there was nothing left to fight for. We each then went our segregated ways and eventually began to look at the other with disdain and suspicion. As a new resident to this city, I have tried to live my life as an Atlanta transplant without a racial chip on my shoulder; but I can only imagine that this history was why Deepthi treated us as she did when we got to her home.

It was a sunny Friday afternoon, and Samira and I were already spent. We had expended at lot of energy cleaning the house of a woman who declared that her kids “would never remember if they lived in a clean house or not, but they WOULD remember that she was a fun mom who was at all her baseball games.” I found the carcass of a petrified moth stuck to a blanket in her foyer. You can imagine the state of the rest of the house. So needless to say, by the time we arrived at Deepthu Singh’s townhouse in Alpharetta, I was somewhat ‘sensitive.’

As was our custom, Samira and I crossed ourselves and prayed before we entered the Indian woman’s house. Ever since that incident with the woman rolling her eyes back and following another team around while chanting, I was taking no chances. A slender, hawkish woman opened the door. She had an interesting face and jet black hair that was damp with water. The noonday rays danced off the aqua blue kurta that fell just below her knees. I was almost blinded by gold bangles that covered her wrists. We arrived at her door at 11:49 am. The appointment was for 12 noon.

“Yes?” she whispered, blocking the door with her thin frame.

“Hi…we’re with Spic n’ Span Cleaning hands,” I answered. “We just called you from the gate?”

“Yes,” she said breathlessly.

Oh dear.

“May we come in?”

Deepthi stood to the side without another word. This was becoming more awkward with every passing moment. Samira piped up and asked her for a copy of her voucher to determine what service she was getting.

“I don’t have it printed out, but I can show it to you,” Deepthi offered.

We said that would be fine. It said that she could get up to 3,000 square feet cleaned, which included 4 bathrooms and any 6 rooms of her choice. We were to clean for a maximum of 3 hours. Fortunately, Deepthi and her husband only had a 3 bedroom townhouse with 2 ½ baths. With her living room, dining room and kitchen, that made up the entire 6 rooms. She bullied us into mopping her laundry room since we could not clean her back porch, which we decided to do for the sake of customer service. Still, it wouldn’t take us long at all. We went over the terms before we began cleaning.

“Actually, I would like to add a room to the service,” she informed us. “We have my in-laws coming into town and I want my porch cleaned.”

That wasn’t a problem. It’d been done before. The only problem was Deepthi didn’t HAVE a porch. She had a slab of concrete with two chairs nestled on the surface. Her A/C unit hummed noisily in the corner…and it was dripping rusty water onto the concrete. She wanted us to scrub it.

“I’m afraid we don’t have the materials to do that,” I said apologetically.

Actually, I wasn’t sorry at all. This woman was off her rocker if she thought I was going to scrub her back porch! Samira was breathing heavily. I shot her a look, begging her to calm down.

“Oh, I have something you can use to clean it with,” Deepthi said brightly.

She led us to her laundry room and pointed to a soft bristled broom and mop.

“I really need you guys to get those stains up,” she implored like a damsel in distress.

She was nuts…and clearly had never cleaned a day in her life.

“This is concrete,” I said emphatically. “You really can’t get rust stains out of it unless you have an industrial broom and some heavy duty scouring powder.”

We spent another 5 minutes discussing it until she finally admitted to herself that it wasn’t going to work. Next we discussed her hardwood floors.

At this time, we were still using the horrendous bottle of blue Pledge, although we had no idea that it was leaving streaks. She said it would be fine: she was not too particular about her floors…although she WOULD like to see it tested in a corner before we mopped the whole thing.

Sigh.

Of course, we obliged.

Finally she led us to the steps leading up to the second landing. I noticed that she took off her slippers and asked if she needed us to remover our shoes as well.

“Yes, please,” she said vehemently. “My husband is very particular about the carpet. Me, not so much, but he is.”

Samira and I smiled knowingly. Those dastardly husbands and their affinity for clean carpets! As it turned out, the carpet should have been the very least of his concerns; that repulsive bathroom should.

As Deepthi led us into the brown tiled room I felt a shiver run up the length of my calf to the nape of my neck. The floor was sopping wet and there was hair, mold, toothpaste and soap scum everywhere.

“I’ll move my perfumes and other bottles before you start cleaning,” Deepthi offered.

I forced a smile. Samira looked like she wanted to throw something. I couldn’t blame her.

Deepthi went to her laptop and then stood at the door as is remembering something.

“Oh! I also want you guys to clean my fridge before you go,” she said in that whispering voice I had so quickly come to despise.

“Cleaning your fridge is not part of the service you purchased,” I warned her. “It will cost an extra $25 to add on a service.”

She seemed heartbroken. A whole $25!

“But it’s not that dirty,” she gasped desperately. “All you have to do is wipe it out. My husband and I cleaned it just last week!”

I understood that. But it was still going to be $25. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity spent haggling over the issue, I made her an offer. She could substitute one of the other rooms in the house in exchange for the fridge. She looked at the spare bedroom which was overflowing with her husband’s trousers and suitcases. It was not a high priority. She only wanted it vacuumed, but she wasn’t sure. She said she would get back to us when she’d made a decision. I looked at her suspiciously. Being from Africa, I’ve seen this trick many times. She was going to get “busy” doing something else while we cleaned all the rooms and say she “forgot” to get back to us about the fridge and ask us to do the fridge anyway. You wait and see!

In the meantime, Samira had gone downstairs to retrieve our shoes.

“Ain’t no way I’m standing in this here shower barefoot,” she growled.

I looked down and almost crapped my pants. The shower floor was a mashed mix of pitch black and dirt brown. An avalanche of shampoo bottles came tumbling down when Samira tried to clear the shelf surface. I turned my attention to the tub, which was besotted with hair and slimy soap. I won’t even go into what I encountered in the toilet.

Deepthi didn’t keep her promise to remove any of her precious bottles. I spent a great deal of time deciphering what was to be kept and what was to be thrown away. A pair of old contacts lined with dust. Long used samples of lotion squeezed till the packet was unrecognizable. Dull, rusty razor blades stuffed with facial and/or pubic hair. Junk, junk, junk! I was not going to be accused of throwing anything precious away. I scrubbed the counters and dutifully placed everything back.

Samira was still working on the malodorous shower when I left to tackle the other bathroom. All the drains were clogged with hair. I was miserable – absolutely miserable. Meanwhile, Deepthi sat in her room on an “important call”…that is until I entered the domain where her in-laws would be staying. She instantly materialized.

“I need special care in this room,” she cautioned. “Everything must be perfect.”

I understood completely. No one wants to be berated by their in-laws. I made sure the blinds were properly dusted and the furniture well-polished. I wasn’t ready for what Deepthi asked me to do next.

“Hey! Can you hang these lamps?”

“What?”

“Oh it’s very easy!” she said quickly. “Just move the bed and plug it in from the back.”

I sighed and obliged. Then I noticed she was quizzically looking at the headboard.

“Hey! Did you polish this?”

(For the record, I don’t like being referred to as ‘hey’.)

“Yes, I did,” I shot back, my patience wearing thin. “But you have some sort of wax on there they I can’t dig out.”

“Keep trying,” she instructed. “Please.”

I was gobsmacked. When she left I grabbed some Windex and sprayed the surface angrily, not caring one iota if it stripped her varnish. It got the wax (or whatever it was) out though!

Finally it was time to move downstairs where Samira had already done the half bath and laundry room. I moved into the kitchen and looked around. My wits abandoned me. There was curry everywhere. In the sink, on the granite counters, fused into every crevice of the stove! I sprayed Easy Off cleaner on the stove and tackled the sink. 10 laborious minutes later and it was gleaming. The stove was not to be conquered so easily. I ended up removing a layer of coating just get it clean.

Deepthi had followed us downstairs, just to make sure we weren’t stealing, I was sure. There was nothing I wanted out of her house. Even the air had become despicable to me. I had long cleaned the spare room upstairs, and she knew that. I waited to see if my suspicions about her cheap a** were right.

“Hey, do you think you can do the fridge now?”

“I already vacuumed and dusted the other room upstairs,” I said tersely. “You never said which you wanted done.”

“Oh, oh! I forgot,” she said, feigning absent mindedness.

Right.

“But can you still clean it?”

I reminded her it was going to cost her $25. When she started prattling on about whatever nonsense she was talking, I stopped her and said I would give it a quick wipe down. But I was NOT cleaning it.

Samira quickly finished dusting and began mopping the floors. She was irritated and I was flat out angry. This woman was trying to take advantage of us in any way she could and it was making me feel cheap. Like slavery cheap. Then, she dealt us the final, tawdry blow.

“You guys say that you are finished cleaning, but it has not been 3 hours.”

“Excuse me?” I was confounded. “It’s 2:50. We’ve been here longer than 3 hours!”

“No, no,” she asserted. “You began at 12:00. I still have 10 more minutes.”

I didn’t curse her out. I didn’t say anything at all. I began grabbing cleaning items, and Samira mopped the same spot for another 10 minutes.

Think Deepthi left a tip? I’ll spit on your shoes if you say yes.

RHKOA: Get The Mop. It’s Time For The Final Curtain Call

I didn’t work with Big Lou on Friday. It was decided that Samira and I would clean together that morning and that Hillary and her mother would pair up again. When Samira got into my car, she was ecstatic.

“Aww man! When I seen that email that come in last night that said we was working together,  I was TOO happy,” she gushed. “This is the way it’s supposed to be!”

“Mmmmhmmm,” I murmured.

Why was she so happy to see me if it meant she was going to have to work harder? And why was Tyranny riding to the site with us? I hope she didn’t plan on splitting our tips. That was NOT going down.

Samira seemed completely oblivious to my disagreeable mood. My answers were short and direct. At one point I turned on the radio so we wouldn’t have to talk, but she ignored the cues. She launched into a tirade about how awful it was to work with Hillary.

“Malaka, you just don’t know how bad it was,” she sighed. “All she wanted to do was boss us around and take charge. Then we got into over some Wendy’s. Got MyMomma and brother all mad with me over $3.00!”

She grabbed my attention with that last statement. Big Lou had told how Tyranny and Samira had tried to take advantage of Hillary and asked her to pay for their lunch at Wendy’s because they didn’t have any money. Hillary was desperately trying to get her money back…all $6.00 of it from the dastardly pair.

“I’m so sick of them!” snapped Bid Lou just a day before. “They always trying to bully Hillary, but she won’t let them.”

I took my eyes off the road momentarily and looked at Samira.

“Really?” I said, encouraging her to continue. “What happened?”

Samira went on to describe how Hillary had pulled up to the drive through window and asked if the two wanted anything to eat. They said no several times, because they didn’t have any money. Hillary badgered them relentlessly until they gave in and ordered a few items off the dollar menu. Hillary upgraded each meal.

“Now she callin’ my brother telling her that we was askin’ her for food and he mad at me!” cried Samira.

Tyranny  was playing on her DS, hemming and hawing in agreement where appropriate. To be honest, Samira’s version of events sounded much more plausible. Sure she rarely contributed to paying for gas while riding with me, but she certainly has never begged me for anything. It was all inconsequential. We had a house to clean and I wanted to make sure it was done right. I changed the topic to business. By the end of the next two hours, the homeowner was pleased and her house was in order.

I still was uneasy with Samira’s congenial chatter. Was she that two faced? I has asked her to babysit the kids for me that night, but now I wasn’t sure I wanted her anywhere near my house or my children. The whole affair had given me a headache and I cancelled my plans. I told Samira as much. She was disappointed, because she was looking forward to babysitting.

I smelled a dead fish.

“Samira, give me your perspective on what is going on,” I asked rather forcefully.

“Going on with what?”

“Big Lou said you were the one talking smack about me at the meeting,” I said, cutting to the chase. “You’ve heard me go on and on about people gossiping about me, but you’re acting like it wasn’t you.”

If it were possible, I believe Samira would have turned bright red in fury. Her lips tightened at the corners and her breathing quickened.

“It won’t me talking about you at the meeting at all!” she bellowed. “It was Hillary! She the one said you always messing up the people’s houses!”

Tyranny confirmed the allegation, saying she didn’t know who ‘Malaka’ was, but Hillary certainly seemed to dislike this person. Samira jumped back in.

“Matter of fact, Big Lou said Harriet should have fired you a long time ago! She said she didn’t know why she was still keeping you around…just ‘cause you’re her friend.”

I was stunned. My shock must have registered on my face, because Samira continued to unload details that she had withheld for days. Then she revealed something that was unforgiveable.

“AND she talks about your children! What kind of grown woman talks about other people’s children?!”

What kind of woman indeed.

I was relieved to hear that Samira was not the culprit, but I still couldn’t figure out what Big Lou and Hillary’s motivation would be for throwing me under the bus. I recall that Big Lou had told me that she and Harriet had had an intentional falling out with a ‘cousin’ a short while ago, because they didn’t want to babysit her kids. Was all this rumor mongering due to some slight I had brought against them? The grown up thing would have been to tell me so. I decided that night that this whole scenario was crazy, and far beneath me. I would work out the next week as I had promised and be done with the lot of them.

But the devil had other plans.

During the course of the night and the next afternoon, there were a series of calls made and texts sent between Samira, Big Lou and Hillary. It culminated with Gloria calling Big Lou and cussing her out (or attempting to cuss her out, according to Harriet). Where and how I got involved in all this is still a mystery.

Call me back.

I had two missed calls from Harriet, who was texting me. Big Lou had called me earlier to say she hoped I wasn’t offended by anything and that none of this should affect my friendship with Harriet of her kids and mine.

“Harriet loves her some Malaka,” she assured me.

I liked Harriet as well; very much, in fact. But this was all too bewildering.

“I am honestly confused, not offended Big Lou,” I said. “And it shouldn’t affect anything, because this is all crazy!”

When I got off work at the shoe store I returned Harriet’s call.

“What’s up?”

“I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this thing,” she said, trying to be diplomatic. “Gloria just called over here trying to cuss Momma out, and you know that wasn’t happening.”

“Cussing her out for what?” I asked.

“She said that every time Momma tells you something about Samira, you run right back to her and tell her everything.”

“WHAT?”

“Yeah, something about Lake Lanier and some other stuff.”

Of all the stories Big Lou has told me, she has never mentioned anything about Lake Lanier. In fact, I didn’t know she was chummy enough to GO to Lake Lanier with Gloria and her family. This was BS. I told Harriet as much.

“Okay fine,” she said. “But why did you go back and ask Samira about all the stuff Momma said? I thought you said you were going to drop it because it was “high school” drama?”

Wait. So this was MY fault because I wanted to bring Samira to the carpet for speaking disparagingly about me? I was incredulous, and I was yelling.

“Yeah I asked her! Because every time I turned around, your mom had more information about something she said!”

At that point Harriet informed me that Tyranny and Samira were fired and that was the end of that.

“Okay,” I said nonchalantly. “Have a good day.”

What did I care if those two lost their jobs? Still, something didn’t seem quite right. I sent Harriet a text 30 minutes later to ask if she could talk. She didn’t respond. I called her and she didn’t pick up. I chose to leave her a message.

Heyyyy, Harriet. Listen, I would love to hang out with you for drinks sometime or grab a bite to eat, but all this other stuff is just too much. I honestly don’t know what’s going on. It’s confusing, there’s so much drama and just crazy. And I absolutely don’t do crazy. I can’t be a party to this anymore. Okay? Talk to ya later!

3 hours later I got a text telling me to send in my time sheet, which I assume was code for “F*** you, you’re fired.”

Let’s not forget that I had already quit.

So that’s how my position with the Real Housekeepers ended, MOM Squad: in utter chaos. I tried to sort out how it came to this, and have come to the conclusion that I was nothing more than a pawn/casualty in these people’s petty personal ghetto skirmish. Samira called me on Monday, confirming my suspicions – or at least she would have, if Tyranny hadn’t snatched the phone from her.

“Gloria never said you were the one talking about Big Lou. She just assumed it was you because you were a common acquaintance to all of us. The person who was telling Samira everything Big Lou said was sitting right here when Gloria was cussing her out.”

I thanked them for calling and told them to have a good night. I didn’t know who to believe.

Was Samira just trying to play me to save face, or is she a decent young woman? Is Big Lou to culprit? Was she just stirring the cauldron the whole time just to create chaos or was she being honest? What was said that was so detrimental that Harriet would cast me off so easily? At the of the day, I was never really friends with any of these women. My friends know that if they tell me something in confidence, it stays with me. If I betray that confidence (or plan to do so), I always give a friend fair warning…and it will only be in cases where I feel that harm will befall my friend if I don’t share vital information. None of the information these women shared with me was vital, useful or noteworthy. It was petty and useless.

So so akata drama. Beh I’m better off without them anaa? You tell me.

 

-Fin-

RHKOA: Some Messes You Can’t Clean Up

You may have noted by now that I have hardly mentioned Harriet at all. Harriet is in my estimation, the most constant of the bunch. When there is conflict she generally chooses neutrality, but if forced will side with her family. In some ways that is admirable, but in others it’s unfortunate. I think she and I could have been great friends, but I see no possibility of that now.

After all the customer phone calls and emails laden with complaints, we held a company meeting. Big Lou and Harriet had decided 2 weeks prior that it would be a good idea to break up the teams to see where the disconnect was and what failures were happening on the job. Basically, they wanted to ferret out the weakest link. I had already made the decision to quit, but I have never left a job in poor standing. This cleaning job, menial and costly as it was, was going to be no different. It seems that Fate had something very different in mind.

For three straight days I had the worst time getting the kids out of bed. Their lack of cooperation meant I spent more time lifting and pulling bodies when I should have been directing them. The ricochet effect meant minutes wasted in the morning. I was 15 to 30 minutes late getting to my appointments during that week, and that was the week I worked with Hillary.

Eventually it was reported that I was habitually late. It didn’t help my case that I was also late for the meeting to discuss my lateness – among other things. My husband had gone to the grocery store an hour before I was supposed to arrive and didn’t get back until 2 hours after I was supposed to be there. Just as I was sending Harriet a text to explain, she called. Big Lou was thundering in the background.

“Tell Malaka to get her ass up in the morning!” she roared. Her miniature pinscher yelped loudly, added to the barrage of noise. I could barely hear what Harriet was saying.

“Momma said if you make her late, she’s gonna beat your ass,” Harriet said ominously. “She said come over here now so she can hit you in the head with this hammer.”

“Oh Jesus.”

I was actually worried. Big Lou was so unpredictable.

“I did not say that Harriet!” Big Lou yelled.

Harriet chuckled and told me to hurry up. I said I would be there as soon as my husband pulled up.

When I got to her house, there was a newcomer at the couch. I suspected that this was Tyranny, Samira’s cousin and a recent transplant from Tennessee. Big Lou abhorred her. She was 20 something and thought she was the ‘ish’, according to Big Lou.

“That little heifer said she didn’t want to touch this, and didn’t want to do that,” she snarled at the bus stop. “I quickly let her know she could take her ass home if she didn’t want to work.”

I said hello to everyone there and sat down. What had I missed out on? I looked around the room and noticed that everyone’s eyes were averted. They were either looking down at the floor or at a cell phone. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. I was so late that Big Lou had long left to go meet her good friend the Stud.

“We’re discussing the floors,” said Harriet. “Is it the type of mop we’re using? Is it the solution we’re using? Do we need to go back to a bucket and old school mop?”

“I don’t think it’s the mop at all,” I replied. “I have all 3 mops that we’ve used in the past, and they’ve never given me a problem. I really do think it’s this blue Pledge that’s the problem. We never had this many complaints before we started using it.”

Samira nodded her head in agreement. Hillary didn’t say a word, which was uncharacteristic.

It was decided that we would use Zep, Pinesol, or any products that the customer had in their home to mop the floors with to clean and that should resolve the problem. Harriet reiterated that we were supposed to fold the toilet paper into triangles, wipe down the blinds, put mints on the bed and pass out doggie treats to the clients with pets. It was a good refresher. I have left several homes and forgotten to put mints on the bed. I was re-invigorated and ready to start the next week. It was my turn to be on rotation with Big Lou. I was terrified.

Where are a customer can only complain, Big Lou could cuss you out. She had this uncanny ability to build you up and make you feel really special, and then within minutes make you feel completely inept. I would much rather not ride those emotional waves, so I try to give Big Lou everything she wants. I asked Samira what she likes to have in her bucket.

“She loves Fabuloso,” Samira informed me, helping me pack my bucket. “And make sure you have lots of bleach. Keep your bucket organized too.”

“Got it,” I said. I felt ready, but I wasn’t sure.

“How was your week with her?”

“I had a good time with her,” Samira said. Her teeth shone in the darkness. She was smiling broadly.

Maybe I’d have the same fortune. The schedule said we only had one house to clean the next day at noon. I needed a good night’s sleep to prepare.

The next morning I work up with a start. I jumped out of bed and threw on my clothes.

Sweet Jesus! I’d over slept!

I ran into the girls’ room and shooed them to the bathroom. They needed to get dressed and into the car asap. I had to pick up Big Lou no later than 7:15 am. After racing to the bus stop, I paused and took a look at my emailed schedule again.

NOON. The house cleaning was at NOON, not 8 am. Shaking, I went back home and crawled back into bed. Big Lou was frowning when I went to pick up. I grinned foolishly in greeting. That usually had a way of disarming her.

“Shut up, Malaka,” she chortled. “And don’t start nothing with me today!”

The client we were doing was a repeat customer. Her entire bottom floor was laid in wood, save the carpeted living room.

“What are we going to use to clean the floors?” I asked earnestly.

“This,” she said, pulling out the gallon of Pledge.

“Not this sh*t again,” I mumbled.

“It’s not the Plede,” she shot back. “It’s you. You’re the one who doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing!”

Any other person would have taken offense to her tone and accusation, but I was fortunate in that I grew up with a mother who took pleasure in berating me for the majority of my formative years. I shook off her indictment and inspected the bottle more closely. The solution was no longer blue. It was clear – almost like bleach, and it smelled like lemons. What was in it? Was someone trying to sabotage me? I refused to pour the substance on the floor until I saw Big Lou do so. The floor came out fine. I decided I needed to get a grip. No one was out to get me. Big Lou turned on Pandora and we cleaned the house to an 80’s and 90’s soundtrack. It was shaping up to be a decent day, until the ride home.

“You know I cleaned with Samira last week,” said Big Lou.

“Yeah!” I smiled. “She said she had a great time cleaning with you. It was a lot of fun.”

“That’s because I cussed her out like her Mammy do,” Big Lou chortled. “She sat there in the passenger seat like she was scared or something.”

She demonstrated a recoiled pose. I laughed. I could certainly see Samira huddled in the corner like a frightened marsupial.

“She said that you’re the one who messes up every time y’all go out to a house,” Big Lou continued.

“What?”

“Yeah, you should have heard her at the meeting. She was lighting your ass up! Malaka don’t sweep corners, Malaka don’t do kitchens, Malaka don’t do master bedrooms.” Her voice was mocking as she imitated Samira.

I was surprised. Samira and I had a really good working relationship. We had a rhythm when we went into any home: Do the masters together and then fan out from there. Where was all this coming from? I explained this to Big Lou, who grunted in response.

“Well I got back on her too for all the sh*t she don’t do,” Big Lou replied. “How she don’t fold toilet paper or wipe blinds, while she’s accusing people!”

That was true. Samira never folded toilet paper, but it wasn’t an infraction so dire that I felt like I had to report it. However, what she was (allegedly) accusing me of was not doing my job, plain and simple. I dropped Big Lou off shortly after that and decided to forget about it. It didn’t matter.

But Fate would not let it be.

For the next 2 days, Big Lou had more information about things Samira was saying about me and my work…or lack thereof. I was incredulous, almost bewildered.

“What is going on with this girl?” I wondered out loud.

“She’s so stupid,” Big Lou spat. “I can’t stand her or her family because they’re all beggars. They just beg for e-v-e-r-y thing.”

“How do you mean?”

“They don’t pay for nothing,” she explained. “I mean nothing.”

My mind went back to a conversation Samira and I had had about her mother and some dispute over the furniture in their house. She revealed that a church had donated all the bed frames and mattresses and a few other key items.

“You’re right,” I nodded. “She’s never given me a dime for gas.”

“A be the first one with her hand out when it’s time for a tip,” Big Lou concluded.

I was angry. I can’t control much in this world, but I can control my reputation. At the end of the day, it’s all that anyone will remember me for. I just didn’t get it. Why was she talking about me this way? I asked Big Lou what she thought.

“Women always talk about each other,” she said, her voice deep and ominous. “I’m sure all of y’all talk about me, although it’s never gotten back to me.”

I paused and thought back. No, no one had said a disparaging word about Big Lou – at least not to me. We had all come to the conclusion that she was crazy, but in that no-nonsense, angry Black woman in the big creepy house on the corner kind of way. It was endearing. A fleeting thought passed through my head. Perhaps Big Lou was trying to drive a wedge between Samira and I. She had already confessed that she didn’t like her. She wanted Harriet to fire her before she had a chance to quit, just as one of the other cleaners had done over the summer. She wanted to fire her so bad it had become a passion. But what did that have to do with turning me against her and vice versa? What did Samira have to say for herself? I would have the opportunity to ask her on Friday morning.

RHKOA: Big Lou

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Black families were strong. Like men of all races and backgrounds, there were a few Black men that mistreated their wives, but overwhelmingly there was a sense of loyalty, fidelity and responsibility with the male populace. These were the men who share cropped to help feed their burgeoning families, who helped build schools from raw materials and who marched for civil rights. They scraped and scrimped to help raise their families, but it was often not enough. Segregation and discrimination kept them from earning higher wages and put a firm, impenetrable economic ceiling above them. Many of them migrated to different parts of the country in order to find better work and send money back home. A lot of them never came home at all. Some of them started new families in their new locations. A new culture within the Black community was being developed. Seeing these hapless, struggling single mothers, the government wondered how they could help?

“Well, let’s offer them welfare,” Uncle Sam replied. “But the resources must only go to single/unmarried women!”

Those men who did remain were firmly put out of the house and required to languish on corners…just for the time being…just until the social worker left. Food stamps and cans of non-perishable good were rewards for destroying the family unit. Pretty soon, enough women decided they didn’t really need a man. The government had taken his place! And in time, sons were left without fathers, growing up not knowing how to be fathers or responsible men themselves. After being declared obsolete by their own women folk, these men sought comfort in the arms of any other woman who would make them feel needed and important. The trouble is, these males had not grown into full manhood, and the Caucasian women they have come to overwhelmingly lust after and depend on today do not have a complete understanding of the part of the Black man’s narrative. As such, they are content to coddle and indulge these  men in their every whim often to the chagrin and disgust of Black women. How dare this fine brother choose a White girl over us?

“Well, there’s just some Black men you need to let White girls have!” was the pained outcry from the sisterhood.

We were content to let White girls and women suffer through the immature ways of little boys in grown men bodies, and now at sunset, the chickens have come home to roost.

This is where we find Kim.

I mentioned Kim in one of my previous blogs. She’s the brunette who works at a bar less than a mile from my house. Her children Korey and Karen (or whatever names I previously gave them) are bi-racial, and just as sweet as they want to be (when they’re not crying in front of the police at my house). There has been much speculation that they’ve been exposed to male propagated violence, as Kim would often show up with unexplained bruises and blackened eyes. Little Karen would sometimes show up with bruises as well, and it is for this reason, among several others, that Big Lou despises Kim.

I said that I think of Big Lou as a patriarch, and I mean no insult by this. When I think of a ‘matriarch’, I think of someone who makes cannolis and smells like chocolate chip cookies. I think of someone who is a unifier and strives to bring peace wherever she goes. Big Lou is the antithesis of that persona. The best way to describe her is like an M&M. Hard on the outside and soft in the middle. With a little bit of pressure you can eventually break through an M&M. There is not enough pressure in the world to crack Big Lou…at least none that I can think of.

Did I mention that Big Lou detests Kim? Good, because that’s important.

One of Big Lou’s many gigs is babysitting at night – which is an odd occupation if you know her. She completely dislikes children. Her ideal child sits on the couch and doesn’t move until she says so…and that is precisely what all the children in her care do. They take off their shoes at the door, sit on the couch, and take small sips of air. I’ve never seen her strike a child, and I don’t think she would have to. She’s so menacing that it would be folly to disobey her.

However, her treatment of Korey and Karen was more than I could bear. The two little cherubs seemed so forlorn in her presence that I felt it was my duty to save them. That’s why I took over the charge of caring for them for those few days. I believed that her utter disdain for their mother was what was causing her to mete out such foul treatment upon them. I didn’t know at the time that her disdain for Kim was warranted.

“You are SO retarded,” I heard her snarl at 18 month old Karen at the pool one day. “That’s because your Mammy is retarded too. Ugh!”

It was like watching  ‘The Help’ in reverse. Instead of edifying her charges by telling them they were “kind, and special and important” and so on, she made it a point to tell them as often as she could that they weren’t going to be shit…because they were retarded, of course.

“These little White girls don’t need to be having kids by no Black men if they ain’t got no sense or strength,” Big Lou muttered that day at the pool. “How you gonna let a man whip your ass in front of your kids? And then let him take your car and live up in your house that you pay for? That nigga don’t pay no bills!”

“That nigga” wasn’t the kids’ father at all. He was a new man that Kim had declared that she was completely in love with. In time, another man would move in and take HIS place. That nigga brought some other chick to Kim’s house one morning and said that he was screwing her, which was why he hadn’t touched Kim in 8 weeks. She should have cut his balls off, but instead she broke down and began to cry.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to you to deserve this!” she wailed.

This is another reason Big Lou deplores the very air Kim breathes. She hates a begging woman.

I came to admire Big Lou very quickly. Not in the sense that I wanted to emulate her, but more like a fly drawn to a sweet, sticky paper. I should have known early on that my demise was imminent, but it was hard to resist the power of her charms.

You see, Big Lou is a master story teller, and there is nothing I crave more than I good story. Her life is like a series of train wrecks, interrupted by incidences of good fortune. I was powerless.

Big Lou thought I was nothing more than a giggling buffoon. I’m sure she could not understand why her daughter thought so highly of me. I would often sit next to her in my car or in her garage with my mouth agape, sometimes laughing uproariously, sucking in every detail of the stories and events she’d recount. Stories about near rapes, beat downs at bar-b-ques, drug deals gone bad, encountering children who beat up and/or slept with their own parents in the juvi system where she worked…basically everything that was opposite of my experience in life so far. I was like milk toast and she was like hot pepper soup. I only needed to absorb a little to add some flavor to my mundane being.

It was from Big Lou that I learned most of what I know about my neighbors and what they in turn think about me. I found out that the angry woman up with row with two evil little children is a lesbian who has sex (or what she calls “suckin’ ‘n f*ckin’”) in front of her kids. She was actually Harriet’s best friend until the two of them had a falling out.

It was from Big Lou that I discovered that the enormous stud that lives 6 doors down from me thinks that my kids are “animals” because they come outside to play when she wants to publicly fondle her new girlfriend(s) and can’t because of their prying eyes.

I also learned that the very sweet interracial couple isn’t as agreeable as they appear. The woman, being from the Islands, is very hot tempered and beats her husband. She demands that he take care of the children and do EVERYTHING relating to their care. In order to escape his mini-prison, he comes across the street to the Stud’s house to smoke (and yes, I do mean weed), which is supplied by our local dealer who lives 7 doors down from me!

I’ve lived here for 7 years and have never known any of this!

In time I grew to trust Big Lou, and trust her completely. She was a straight shooter and never minced words. Was my trust misplaced? I still don’t know.

Stay tuned for the conclusion. I’m going to do some laundry and be right back! Remember, you’re supposed to help me figure this whole thing out.

RHKOA: A Streaky Finish II

I’ve met Hillary before, several times in different stages my life, actually. When I met the first version of Hillary, I was in high school and detested her immediately. However as I got older and met other versions of Hillary, I learned to get along with her by ignoring her.

As I’ve mentioned before, Big Lou, Harriet and Hillary are all very light skinned, which has its benefits and detriments here in the South – just as being dark skinned does. I can’t say that current Hillary suffers from a color complex, but I can say that she has complete confidence in her looks – and to that end, her ability as well. Unlike Samira, Hillary has several goals. She wants to join the army, become a masseuses (or some job that requires her to touch people and put them to sleep) and a third occupation that completely escapes me now.

As I said before, Hillary is completely confident, so much so that her confidence reeks of arrogance. That in itself wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t challenge you on every bloody thing!

Lest you think I exaggerate or decry youthful exuberance, allow me to provide you with two examples to illustrate my assertion.

Hillary and I went to a house somewhere in Norcross to do a cleaning. The owner had purchased an add on service and requested that we clean the baseboards (in her entire home) for an additional fee. I groaned inwardly. Cleaning baseboards requires loads of water, several rags and an hour on your knees to wipe them all down, at the very least. When Hillary walked into the master bathroom to find me doing just  that, she asked me what I was doing. It was a hostile question.

“You have to wipe the baseboards with a wet rag,” I replied simply.

“Well, I just swept mine with the broom,” she said dismissively, “and it looks just fine.”

I straightened up and shrugged my shoulders. I have no authority over Hillary, and having met her ilk before, I know it’s better to leave her to her own devices.

“Okay,” I said, feigning neutrality. “I just know that the first time I did base boards with Harriet, she told us to use a wet rag and wipe them all down.”

I wet my rag, and continued cleaning. Hillary paused for a moment before declaring her intentions.

“I’m going to call Harriet and ask her,” she said resolutely.

Of course, Harriet was at work and unable to answer the phone. However Carla, Spic n Span’s administrator, was. When Hillary placed the phone in her pocket, she admitted that I was right: we had to wipe the baseboards with a wet rag.

I know I’m right…but you go ahead and get through your days the best way you know how, little girl.

On a separate occasion, virtually the same incident took place. We’d gone to clean a client’s house in West Bubble Fart, Ga. His name was Ajax and from I gathered, he worked as a contractor for an oil and gas firm in the Middle East. On this particular day, Ajax was having new shelving being put it, windows in his living room tinted and his house cleaned. However, Ajax was not at home on this particular day. His house-sitter was in charge of overseeing all the activity. After informing me that Ajax was very particular about dust on the blinds and asking if we could wipe those down, she generally ignored us and settled down to watch TV. I didn’t mind, because I had just as much interest in The Bernie Mac Show as she did. I was content to clean and watch at the same time. Hillary should have been just as content, but she was quite busy directing me.

“Don’t sweep the stairs,” she whispered loudly. “They don’t get that as part of their package!”

“I have to sweep the stairs,” I replied tersely. “When I swept the hallway, some of the dirt floated on them from the landing.”

For Heaven’s sake! There were 12 stairs. It was no big deal…not in my estimation. But I was glad she had come to find me. I reminded her about the blinds.

“That’s not in their package either,” she hissed. “That’s a deep cleaning.”

Now here’s where the trouble began.

A few weeks prior, we’d had a “company meeting” (which always ends up being a bitch session with the members gossiping about an absent party or pointing fingers at others for a job badly done), and in this meeting it was made clear that we were to do ceiling fans on the first visit and wipe down the blinds on every visit. HOWEVER, if the customer wanted their blinds wet wiped individually, that would be an additional charge. Ajax’s blinds were not dirty. They just needed a quick sweep with a dust catching rag. Where was the difficulty in this?

Hillary whipped out her phone to call her sister, who in turn told her to do just that.

“She said just give the blinds a quick wipe,” Hillary directed.

Okay, Hillary. Whatever gets you through your day.

Reader, can you see how this might be taxing on your psyche? How your very God-given soul might be vexed if you had to listen to someone question your every move…particularly when that someone does not retain information completely? As I said, I’ve worked with people like that in various stages of life; people who think they are right about everything until they find out they were wrong.

I have yet to describe numerous incidences of copped attitudes, silent treatments and condescending behavior. Over all, I overlooked most of it. She’s still very young, and it will take someone with much more time on their hands and fortitude to humble her…though that’s not likely. I think Hillary is happy with herself just as she is. Her new fiancé certainly thinks so as well.

So who is responsible for crafting this exquisite human being? In Hillary’s instance, the apple is still hanging on the tree, and that mighty arbor exists in the personhood of Big Lou, the patriarch of this trio.

Yes, I said patriarch. Hold on and let me grab a coffee and some lunch. This is where it all gets VERY interesting.

RHKOA: A Streaky Finish

It is my duty – and somewhat a pleasure – to report that I am no longer a Real Housekeeper. I voluntarily separated from Spic n Span Cleanings hands this past Saturday. My departure was abrupt, but eminent. The work was beginning to take a toll on me physically and I originally planned to leave in December. However when I sat down and calculated how much my job was costing me week to week, I put in an immediate resignation notice.

$200 a week in daycare + $50 a week to fuel my vehicle + Wear and tear on my car from driving all over Georgia to clean a house for two hours + Water and electricity utilized to wash towels and rags EVERY DAY + a $275 bi-weekly cheque = utter lunacy.

And that’s just from the quick math I’ve done in my head. I haven’t even included to emotional costs this job has levied on me: which brings me to the impetus for my resignation.

For the previous week and a half, my team received a barrage of customer complaints, all centered around their floors.

“My floors look like they were never even mopped!”

“Your cleaners left streaks on my wood and stone floors!”

“I could have done a better job cleaning my house myself!”

In the past, we would have chalked such a complaint to a customer looking for a free cleaning or a discount, but the complaints were coming in with such frequency and veracity that it deserved some looking into. When I went back to a client’s home that had been cleaned two weeks prior, there were indeed streaks on the floor. Big, white, ugly lines…as though someone had strewn shampoo all over it and left it to dry.

“My momma said you left the streaks on the floor,” said Hillary.

Harriet had sent her to this client’s house to ‘help’ us because we had a 4,000 square foot house that needed to be cleaned later in the afternoon. I immediately bristled at her accusatory tone.

“I did NOT leave streaks on the floor,” I shot back.

“And I NEVER leave streaks,” interjected Samira.

Instinctively, we knew where this was going. There was a blame game being kicked off, and every man was out to protect himself.

“Well, when we got here to clean the house, there were streaks on the floor,” said Hillary smugly.

“Look. If we left streaks, then fine,” I said, wanting to bring an end to the whole ridiculous conversation. “But there will be no streaks today when I leave here.”

Hillary soon discovered that she could go get a start on the large house and left Samira and I to our own devices, which was just as well. Hillary and Samira had a contentious relationship and the air was thick with their silent animosity. It made me uneasy.

After we cleaned the rest of the house, I got a bucket of hot water and began to rub out the residue on the floors. They sparkled by the time Samira and I were done, which gave me no end of satisfaction.

My happiness would prove to be short lived as more and more complaints came in. My anxiety level was through the roof.

“I don’t get it babe,” I said to my husband one night. “I’ve never had this many complaints before.”

“What are you using on the floors,” he asked.

“Some Pledge multi-surface cleaner.”

“That might be the problem,” he concluded.

 It turns out he was right. This bottle – this solitary jug of blue solution – had brought an abrupt end to my cleaning ‘career’ and poisoned a budding friendship before it had a chance to bloom. By the time it was all said and done, Pledge Multi-Surface cleaner had turned five women against each other and reduced us all to inferior versions of ourselves. Now that I look back on the series of events, it’s actually quite comical.

One of my biggest contentions as an employee in a corporate environment was that there was too much back biting. In a realm where being a “team player” was touted as a value, almost every individual was subversive and out for personal advancement. I’ve always assumed that the high stakes of a five figure salary and a shot at an office with a window brought out the worst in people; but I now see that such poor behavior is a character issue. It has nothing – or very little at least – to do with expected rewards.

The Real Housekeepers have a myriad of character flaws.

I suppose this would be a good time to introduce the rest of the team. I’m really depending on you, Reader, to help me figure out what went wrong and where. I’ll start with Samira, since she is the one I’ve worked with most recently and has the most tragic story. Samira is 19 years old and a recent high school graduate. In fact, she and Hillary graduated from the same class. That’s where their similarities end, however. Big Lou, for all her foibles and cast iron exterior has always taken very good care of her children, protecting and defending them in every instance, whether it was warranted or not. Gloria, Samira’s mother has done the exact opposite.

Samira is the second of six children. Each of those children has a respective father and have siblings born to a woman other than Gloria. If you watch Maury or Springer, you catch my meaning. Gloria has been sexually active since she was 12 and had her first child at 15 or 16. She spent the majority of their lives antagonizing and whipping her kids, punishing them for the slightest infraction.

“I remember once we went to the pool and got our hair wet after MyMomma told us not to,” Samira told me one day. “We went ahead and got it wet though! We knew we was gonna get beat for this or something else. She whupped us in the house while our skin was still wet.”

I couldn’t imagine the logic in that. Who sends their kids to the pool or the sprinkler park without the expectation that their hair would get wet? Not a reasonable person certainly. But this is the kind of environment Samria has grown up in and continues to live in today. She told me at one point her mother beat her kids so much that they became immune to it.

“Oh, so y’all not gonna cry anymore when I whup you, huh?” Gloria challenged.

That’s when she began thinking about punching them. Samira never confirmed if she actually ever did. Gloria has slowed down in her old age, and has taken to lobbing personal insults at her children instead, calling them “bitches” and “motherf*ckers”. She derides them in public, telling people that all her children are retarded. Not all of them are so despicable to her, however. Her pick of the litter is her 16 year old daughter who gave birth a year ago at 15. I suppose it’s comforting to see yourself in your child…to see them making the same mistakes that you did at the same age. It’s a twisted mentality that finds comfort in the failure of others, and that’s precisely what this cycle of having children before one is equipped to and living on the public dole: an utter failure.

Samira is desperately trying to break free of what she has referred to as a “house or torture”, but I don’t have confidence that she truly ever will. Somehow, your past has a way of catching up with you and following you wherever you go. To add to that, I don’t think she’s been equipped for success. She graduated from Centennial High, but her language skills are appalling. She has no ambition other than living hand to mouth, and she has not been taught how to forecast or use powers of deductive reasoning. She’s sweet, but incredibly shy – and not in an endearing way. It comes off as defensive and angry. I know her just well enough to know that she’s just being guarded, but in a workplace environment such behavior can come off as hostile.

I figured there was one thing I could do for her in the short term; and that was help her build her resume. A good resume starts with a strong objective.

“What are your goals?” I asked her.

“What do you mean ‘goals’?” she queried.

“I mean your future. What have you thought about doing in the long term?”

She paused and thought long and hard. I thought she had forgotten to answer my question, so I asked her again. When she finally answered, I was stunned.

“Haven’t really thought about any goals,” she admitted.

I looked at this beautiful, hard working girl with more pity than I’d ever felt for another human being. (Outside of those cancer kids or the starving ones in Africa, of course. But I don’t know them personally, so I don’t think they really count.)

“Well, let’s begin there,” I said, typing away at my keyboard.

Within 20 minutes, we’d crafted a decent started resume. I smiled and emailed it to her so that she could access it later. Inside, I was not so sunny. I knew that it was going to take more than flowery prose and some strong keywords to free her from this cycle of misery she was in.

Did I mention that Samira had an older brother? He just proposed to Hillary a few weeks ago. Hang on while I get to that.

 

RHKOA: Jackie, the Nubby Troll

There are certain groups of people I tend not to ridicule if at all possible. Gays, people with disabilities and the mentally retarded are clusters that I tend to spare any derision. We’re not at the point where we can mock these groups without being bullied into a false apology by interest groups and in turn are scorned for life by the heralds of social media. However, once these groups achieve full equality, it’s game on.  I’m looking forward to that day. Thanks to the civil rights movement and Kanye, we Negroes have finally been accepted into the mainstream and are no longer “special interest groups.” It’s a wonderful thing.

Today, however, the folks with the disabilities have it coming. Well, one in particular: Jackie Marsden, whom I’ve dubbed “the nubby troll.

I hadn’t even met Jackie before I decided I didn’t like her at all. When I woke up this morning, I hastily checked my email to see what orders had come in on my schedule. I had two houses, both in the Cumming area. That meant I had to get up early to make a 30 minute drive. Jackie had special instructions on her order and had sent an email the night before we were scheduled to arrive.

2 of 3 cleaning. All wood floors NO broom!! All surfaces includ closets need to be vacuumed first before damp mop/cleaning otherwise dirt trapped in shine. Mop must also be rinsed in HOT water frequently to eliminate trapped dirt. Plan to clean for full 3 hours. Please dedicate cleaning time to cleaning without distraction (talk on the cellphone or other things).  Glass cook top. Thanks

Her tone said A-class beeyotch.

I might have been too quick to judge her. I asked Hillary what she knew about the woman.

“This is her second cleaning,” Hillary said sleepily. “I did her house about 2 weeks ago with Clarice. She was the woman with the nubs. Remember? I told you it looked like something had bit off her hand.”

“Ohhh,” I said nodding. The email was making sense now.

Clarice had joined our staff a month ago. Like many people in our city, she was out of work and was willing to do “anything” to start earning some income again. After cleaning for three weeks, she suddenly fell pregnant and was told by her doctor that she couldn’t do the job anymore. (Which to a woman who has had 4 kids and worked every day until the day they were born is completely laughable.) As it turns out, Clarice’s sister has also been ill for quite some time. While she and Hillary were cleaning Jackie’s home, her sister called and asked if she could pick her up later and take her to the clinic.

“Sure,” Clarice whispered. “As soon as I get off I’ll come get you.”

That was the end of the conversation.

Apparently, it was this 52 second telephone call that had Nubs’ knickers in such an enormous twist, thereby  inciting her to send such a foolish email. My morning had already started badly. Stone was angry that I’d woken him and removed his precious, urine soaked pull up. He made his displeasure known by shrieking uncontrollably for the entire ride to daycare. I also had not eaten.  It was not the way I wanted my day to start.

When we pulled up to Jackie’s door, she was already standing there. We were supposed to have gotten there at 8:00 am, and had arrived at 8:06. I willed her to say something to me so I could spit at her, but she smiled and greeted us warmly instead. I said an absent “good morning” in response. My attention had been drawn to a moss covered stone monk or saint standing in her flowerbed. He had a strange expression on his face. It made me a little uncomfortable.

I finally got a good look at Jackie’s face when we walked into her house. She had olive colored skin and wiry jet black hair with stray grays darting in and out of the mop settled atop her round head. Her eyebrows were bushy and graying as well. Her voice was warm and inviting, but there was something insincere – and sinister about her face.

“Clarice isn’t with you today?” she asked Hillary, sweetness dripping from her voice.

“Uh uh,” Hillary replied.

There was a moment of awkward silence. Oh! I was supposed to introduce myself.

“I’m Malaka,” I said, mustering a false smile.

“Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise.”

“Well,” said Hillary. “Let me show you around.”

She led me up the wooden stairs which were covered in brown and opaque fur. The house stank both of the 80 pound beast Jackie called a pet and the remains of his kibbles near the back door. Since we had been instructed to clean without distraction, we went straight to work. Hillary tackled the master bathroom and I cleaned her teenaged girls’ bathroom down the hall. I scrubbed the black ring around the tub with anger and frustration, causing a bottle of shampoo to fall into the tub. It barely missed my head.

“What was that?” Jackie called from downstairs. “Is everything alright?!?”

“Everything is fine,” I replied. “I just dropped the shampoo.”

“Oh.”

I went about my duties undisturbed for the next few minutes. Jackie called one of her utility companies and began to complain bitterly about her service. I believe she was kvetching about a router.

“That explanation doesn’t sit well with me,” I heard her say assertively. “I’ve never had the screw come out like this before. Yes – yes I bought a used part, but still…”

What a miserable human being I thought, shaking dog hair from the quilt that was crumpled on the side of the bed in a small bedroom. I dusted carefully, knowing that nothing of substance would come from Jackie’s mouth if it was not a complaint. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of it. A set of dentures sat on top of a blue applied bible. There were scriptures and ceramic Catholic figurines. On the wall in front of the bed, just at eye level, there was a sticker with a motivational phrase painted on it.

My previous inclination to hold Jackie in contempt suddenly dissipated. She was such a tragic cliché that it wasn’t even worth the effort. Clearly she was stuck in a cycle of self-loathing ,regret and seeking to make others pay for it. According to this poster, Jackie was not disabled because she was missing a limb, but rather because her attitude sucked…and big time. According to this poster, she had the mental capacities of a crayfish. Hillary interrupted my thoughts when she saw me cleaning the room.

“We’re not supposed to do this room,” she whispered somewhat loudly.

“Oh. Well she made it seem like she bought a full house cleaning,” I said nonchalantly.

“Hold on. I’m going to ask her which rooms she wants cleaned. She only gets 6 rooms and 3 ½ bathrooms, if I’m not mistaken.”

Hillary strode off determinately. I kept cleaning to room, already knowing that Jackie was going to croak her way into having it some anyway, despite the fact that she was not entitled to it. I was right.

“I only have 2 ½ bathrooms,” Jackie snarled. “Can’t you substitute one of the bathrooms for a bedroom?”

Of course that’s exactly what we did. What’s the point in arguing with a troll on red alert?

I heard Jackie call up the stairs to us again.

“Hey! I have a vacuum that’s just for wood floors. Do you want me to bring it up to you?”

I looked over the balcony and made eye contact with her. Her voice was pleasant enough, sure…but her face looked like she’d spent the morning sucking on rotting lemons.

“No, no. I’ll come get it,” I offered.

I plugged up the vacuum and drew a sharp breath. A plume of vapor shot out of the back end. It reeked – REEKED – of musty dog. I suffered through the stench for an entire hour. I would have gladly suffered a little longer if it meant I didn’t have to hear Jackie’s mouth. Her phone was ringing off the hook.

“Ugh! All these calls!” she bellyached. “What county do you live in?”

I was ignoring her, so Hillary was forced to answer.

“Fulton.”

“Well, here in Forsyth, we get these robocalls every time something happens,” she explained. “Like if there is an escaped convict and the police want us to look out. Do you get those?”

“No.”

“Well, you’re lucky,” Jackie continued. “One time we got a call about a missing child, which is fine…but it was in the middle of the night! My sleep was all messed up after that!”

She shook her head in angst as she recalled the event. I shook my head in disbelief. What an evil whore. If she was any sort of Christian, as her plethora of plaques and posters would lead a stranger to believe, she would be up praying for that lost child, or better yet, out helping to patrol for him in her immediate environs. Somewhere, the Holy Spirit just puked. I was sure of it.

The next hour went on like this, with her attempting to strike up conversation and we only answering where absolutely necessary. As someone who has given many people the silent treatment, I’m sure our passive hostility was not lost on her. Finally, it was time to go. I felt hours of pent up tension leave my shoulders.

“Can I write you a check for the tip? I didn’t go to the ATM today.”

“Sure,” said Hillary. “You can make it out to me.”

Jackie changed her mind suddenly.

“You know what? I’m going to go ahead and go to the ATM. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

We continued mopping while she was gone. I was overcome by the spirit of religion that overshadowed her home. There was no love in this house – only a counterfeit version. This woman and her dark heart mocked Jesus and His sacrifice. Then I was overcome by something much worse. Fleas were jumping on the kitchen counter and disappearing behind medicine bottles. UGH!

When Nub…er, Jackie, finally returned, I was loading up the car and Hillary was mopping the entrance. When she got to the car, she was scowling.

“Here’s your tip,” she said, thrusting a wad of bills at me. I put them in my pocket without looking at them.

“Matter of fact, I don’t even want mines. You can have it!”

“Okay!” I said happily. I didn’t mind a little extra cash.

“You didn’t even look at the tip,” Hillary said darkly. “It’s TWO dollars.

“Wait. What? Each?”

“Yes, girl! She done gave us $2!”

That evil, crusty slattern. She was sending us a message.

“You know what that means, right? She’s calling us a pair of $2 ho’s.”

Hillary’s eyes widened.

“Oh, nuh uh!”

“Oh yes she did girl,” I said, moving the car out of the driveway. “She basically told us we could suck her ‘Richard’.”

I felt ill. I wanted to throw the money out of the window, but I’m too miserly. I put the car in drive. Distance. I needed as much distance between me and this woman as possible. But the little handicapped troll wouldn’t allow that, would she? In my side mirrors I saw her chasing us down the street.

“My vaccum???” she screeched.

“It’s in the living room!” I yelled.

“I didn’t see it,” she huffed.

“Then it’s in the bonus room!”

Did this $2 tipping wench really think we wanted her stankin’ vacuum? She motioned for us to wait while she went to look. Sure enough, it was right by the door, where I’d left it.

“I see it!” she said, waving her arm that had a hand attached.  The she looked around and rubbed her arms, warding off a chill in the air. “Is it supposed to be cold all day?”

F*** you!! I said inwardly. All you do is complain! Audibly, however, I told her it was supposed to warm up to 83 degrees and to have a good day.

Wench.

Don’t you hate people that complain all the time? Do you have someone on your job that you just want to PUNCH IN THE MOUTH just so you won’t have to listen to all that bull? I know you do.  Come on. Let’s imagine it together. Ready?

BAM!!!

RHKOA: Can You Put that Out? I Can’t Breathe!

There is an adage that says real life is stranger than fiction, and it is a rare treat to encounter someone who is stranger than real life itself. Honestly, I thought they stopped manufacturing women like Shri Bangcroft in the early 90’s. Encountering her was like someone handing me a device run on MS DOS and asking me to send a tweet on it. (Yeah, you sit there and figure that one out.)

I was already irritated when I arrived at her house. Samira and I had driven from Cumming to Snellville in order to clean Shri’s home. The journey alone took an hour and fifteen minutes to complete, and by the time we alighted from my car we were stiff and exhausted. I extracted my heavy frame out of the driver’s seat and made my way up a flight of dilapidated wooden steps. Samira pointed out an army of ants that was scurrying across one of the cracked beams and rolled her eyes.

“This house about to be nasty,” she muttered.

I nodded in agreement. Shri was an Indian/Pakistani name, and so far each Southeast Asian’s home we have cleaned has been in deplorable condition. However, they do keep their grounds very neat. The exterior of Ms. Bangcroft’s exterior was fading blue/grey (a color so washed away it was difficult to ascertain what the house might have looked like in better days) and weeds were growing through the cracked cement. The porch was adorned with a myriad of knickknacks. A bouquet of faux flowers hung from the ceiling, accompanied by red foil decorations of parts of the solar system. I knocked on the red wooden door and waited. A lacquered octagonal shape with Chinese and Sanskrit symbols sat in the center of the door. I peered closer and saw my reflection in a mirrored portion of the object. What manner of Indian woman lived like this? And what kind of Indian name was “Bangcroft”? It didn’t make any sense. It was an peculiar mix of redneckery and mysticism…so you can imagine my surprise when a yellow skinned Black woman answered the door. She was smoking a Black & Mild and glowering at us.

“Hi,” I said smiling warily. “We’re with Spin ‘n Span Cleaning Hands…”

“Hello,” she replied, pulling her cigar to her lips. “You ladies have your work cut out for you today.”

She stepped aside and let us into her “home”. It was like stepping into a time warp. Her walls were painted a strange blue. Instead of invoking a feeling of calm, I immediately felt as though I was drowning. Of course, the heavy mixture of cigar smoke and incense might have had something to do with my sudden inability to breathe.

I tried to remain professional. I asked Shri for a copy of her receipt. She sauntered over to her computer and tried in vain to locate it.

“Y’all just don’t know,” she said, pulling another drag off her smoke. “I’ve had a week’s worth of shit thrown at me in one day!”

“Oh?” I said, trying to sound sympathetic. I was surprised that she cursed so casually with us.

I glanced at Samira. Her mouth was twisted into a ball of disgust. Her eyes had been wandering over the house and she did not like what she saw.

“Humph,” Shri continued. “I have a sixth grader who went to class and decided to act a damned fool.”

I looked at her attire. She was wearing a black and white wrap dress and black sandals with a conservative heel. Her jet black shoulder length hair was slicked to a side part. She would have looked contemporary, save for the burgundy matte lipstick that was plastered on her thin lips. I chuckled and offered a phrase of motherly support. She had still failed to find her receipt, which gave me more time to look around her home.

There were pictures of Malcolm X, Bob Marley and Martin Luther king everywhere. In the foyer there was a poster commemorating the Million Man March, circa 1995. Above the fireplace there was a mantle with all manner of Buddhist paraphernalia: aged sages sitting cross-legged and some sort of silver half human beast throwing up a peace sign. Above THAT sat an enormous rendering of a scene that is difficult to describe. In bright primary colors, two people were battling vampire donkeys and throwing their carcasses into dying trees, while other “normal” donkeys looked on and laughed. I couldn’t wrap my head ‘round any of it…which was probably attributed to the fact that my audio senses were being assaulted by strip club bangers.

Drop

Drop

Drop it on the floor

Make it

NASTY!!

rapped some unknown entity. She finally found the receipt, which was a good thing. The guy on her mixed tape had begun to discuss how he was going to get his “d!ck hard, put it in the back door, and put her lights out”.

I wanted to flee, but I had a job to do.

“We’re sticking together, right?” I asked Samira hopefully.

“Oh, you already know.”

We slipped into our black rubber gloves and went to work. Shri followed us around, giving us directions and referring to herself in the third person…plural.

“We know that you guys usually throw away the plastic bags in the bin, but we ask that you don’t. We recycle them.”

“Sure!” I said reassuringly. “That won’t be a problem at all.”

There was something inauthentic about this woman standing there in her conservative dress. Finally, I got it. It wasn’t her. It was her DRESS. This had to be her go to outfit whenever she needed to present her “corporate side” to the world. Shri Bangcroft was more comfortable in booty shorts and a wet shirt than this dress.

If you attended an HBCU in the 90’s you’ve met Shri. She’s “that sista” who’s read every book you’ve never heard of. She concocts theories in her head and can defend them with such eloquence that even the most learned of scholars would doubt him/herself. A lover of The Roots and Talib Kweli, she shunned the emerging and invasive glam culture that took over our campuses with the advent of Amerie and Destiny and her Children. Shri hangs out with vegans, 5 percenters and weed heads from Little 5 Points…and she’s that chick who can administer at least one sexual act (or five) that will leave a man (or woman) senseless and pondering over it for days. She’s brilliant – and crazy. Like I said, they don’t manufacture women like that anymore.

That still didn’t give her an excuse for living in such nauseating conditions.

Samira went into her son’s bathroom and began to choke.

“What’s wrong?” I whispered.

“It’s a big brick of doodoo in the toilet!” she cried. “I cain’t flush it!”

I folded my hands across my chest. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I set about cleaning up the boy’s room who from the looks of it, is on track to being as odd as his mother.

I made his zebra skinned (yes, you read that right) linen and arranged his pillows. After sweeping behind his bed, I unearthed an apple core, a dumpling and some candy wrappers. From the notebooks haphazardly placed on his desk, I discovered that his name is DeKang. (For those of you who are not from or familiar with the South, that is translated as “The King”.) I imagine that Shri must have a difficult time raising her son. There were signs of mock discipline and over indulgence everywhere; from the half attempt to make his bed to the clothes that lay around the laundry basket, rather than in it. After I tidied up his room, I moved on to her bedroom – which was more like a lair than a place to get a good night’s sleep. The walls were blood red, as though it were place where she offered sexual sacrifices to the kissing, intertwined Hindu gods smiling at me from the glass encasement.

Shri had settled herself on her red silk sheets and had her laptop settled on her knees. I walked past her and decided to tackle the bathroom first. I paused at the door.

Oh. My. God.

Blackness, MOM Squad; Blackness everywhere! And by “blackness” I mean petrified poop under the rim and black mold in the tub. I frantically began to spray bleach, hoping it would melt away the besmirched surfaces. It didn’t.

In my frightened state, I had forgotten to breathe. Gasping for breath I opened the door to her bedroom, expecting and hoping for some reprieve. Instead I was greeted by plumes of Shri’s second hand smoke. How was I to choose between cancer and a melting lung? I took my chances with the bleach. When I finally vanquished my porcelain foe, I staggered to the bedroom and prepared to dust it. Everything was blanketed in particles of dead skin and dirt. Everything except a strange artifact that hung from her wrought iron head board. I got closer so that I could inspect it better. What was that? It looked like a question mark with a ball on either end. I touched with my finger tip. It was rubbery and stiff.

Holy Jesus.

Visions of Shri winding this object between her tulips suddenly flooded my head. I wanted them out. I dusted with urgency and left the privacy of her erotic accommodations.

Samira was finishing up downstairs and had discovered a few things about Shri. It turns out that she WAS half Indian, and her father was a Black kung fu master from Detroit. She was also a CPA – a profession that just didn’t seem right for this character. She had hung her degrees in the darkest part of the house; in the back where she kept her vacuum. It was as though she was both proud and ashamed of her accomplishments.

Samira packed up the car while Shri inspected our work. Did we dust this? Did we make the beds? Did you vacuum that? Yes, yes, and yes I replied sullenly. She turned and looked at me. Her expression oozed of dissatisfaction.

“You know, Malaka…”

Crap! She knows my name!

Someone was supposed to come clean my house in August and they never showed up…”

She was talking, but I was barely listening. I was too enthralled by the sound of her voice, which was husky and throaty. Was that the effect of too much smoking , fellatio, or both?

“I’m so sorry about that?” I replied. “I will certainly have the owner look into that.”

“Thank you,” she purred.

I wished her a better day and smiled expectedly. She said we had done a good job. Was it good enough for a tip?

The closed door in my face said “no”.

*Sigh* That’s okay. The image of Shri being someone’s windup toy was reward enough!

RHKOA: Behind Beverly’s Closed Doors

Beverly took in a deep breath and looked around at her newly cleaned surroundings. It had indeed been years since her house had felt and looked so sanitary. She ran her hand along the top of the white wooden ledge where she hung her badge, keys and purses. An image of her smiling face and clear brown eyes stared back at her, reminding her that in a few hours she’d have to get back to the other side of her reality.

There was a 12 hour shift approaching at the local Gwinnett Medical where she worked as an RN.

She traced her hands along the cream banister, now devoid of finger prints and liquid stains, and climbed the stairs. How had she allowed her surroundings to become so unsanitary in the first place? She stood on the top of the landing and inhaled again. The faint scent of lilacs flooded her nostrils. She closed her eyes and relished in it.

“Are they gone yet?”

Beverly’s eyes flew open before answering. Craig was standing at the bedroom door with a beer in his hand. She eyed it gloomily and checked the tone of her voice before answering. She didn’t want to have a fight today.

“Yes, they just left,” she replied softly.

“Speak up!” Craig roared. “I can’t hear you when you talk like that. You’re not in the hospital!”

“Sorry”, she muttered.

Beverly had always had a hard time separating her professional life with her personal one. She WAS a nurse. She lived and breathed her job. It was all she ever wanted to be. Now that she had moved from Chicago to Atlanta, her dreams had become a reality and she was enjoying the full manifestation of years of prayer and hard work. Somehow, she never imagined that part of that manifestation would include a depressed husband and an asthmatic child. She worked in medicine, but she couldn’t cure either of them. She sighed and maneuvered her hefty body around her intoxicated husband.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to take a shower and get ready for work.”

“You don’t have to work for another three hours,” Craig pointed out.

“Yes, but I have some errands I wanted to run before I had to go in,” Beverly replied. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to make it to the grocery store before it closes.”

Beverly pulled on a pair of scrubs and carefully unwrapped her hair. In the mirror she could see Craig staring at her. The look on his face was full of contempt, his eyes icy with disgust. He had never forgiven her for moving the family down to the South. In Chicago he had made a decent living as a security guard at his cousin’s beauty supply shop. It was enough money to put gas in his car and buy nice things for his closet. They had lived in a small apartment and rent wasn’t that bad. Beverly paid most of the bills anyway. Life was good. Suddenly she got it into her head that she wanted to move to Atlanta and get this house. He still remembered the day she gave him the ultimatum.

“You can stay if you want to, but I’m taking Omicron and leaving.”

Craig couldn’t imagine his life without his son. Deep down inside he knew he was a bum, but Omicron was the only thing he felt like he’d done right. No judge in the world would ever give a barely employed Black man with a high school education full custody of a lab rat, let alone an infant. He felt like he’d been bullied into this new life. He hadn’t been able to find a job in Atlanta in months. He wasn’t qualified to do anything, at least not for the pay he expected. He felt worthless.

He leaned against the door frame and glanced at the hallway which was now devoid of pet hair and fur.

“I see they got all your nasty dogs’ hair up off the ground,” he snorted, taking a swig of warm beer.

Beverly ignored him and continued to get dressed.

“You really are a nasty whore,” he spat. “You can’t keep a house clean for nothin’.”

When his insults went responded to, he dug in further.

“In fact, you can’t do nothin’ right. You’re fat and you’re stupid. The only thing you ever did right was lay on your back and carry my baby.”

Beverly spun around and started to say something. She drew in a sharp breath and stopped herself. She couldn’t risk a physical fight before going into work. She and Craig had gotten into it so many times before, but this last time had been the worst. She had nearly killed him with the choke hold she’d put him in. It didn’t matter what kind of names he called her, she still loved him. She was sure they could get back to that teen aged love they’d shared so many years ago. He used to make her feel like she could fly. She had grown up so much…but why hadn’t he? His failure as a man had made him so mean. She was sure moving to Atlanta would be good for him –to stop relying on his family, force him to stand on his own two feet and support his wife and child. Instead it had just made him introverted and mean.

“Can you please pick up Omicron from daycare by 6:30 tonight?” she asked, her expression stoic.

Craig flopped onto the bed and turned on the TV. She rolled her eyes and poured dog food into a bowl for her precious pups. Beverly knew better than to ask Craig to walk or feed the animals. He’d sooner run them over with his truck. The spare room was the only safe place for them while she was gone. When she unlocked the door and stepped over the threshold the dogs came running wildly at her, barking and nipping at her ankles. She welcomed the assault. Her dogs were the only being in this house that seemed to hold her in any regard.

“Here babies,” she cooed. “Here’s your food. Momma will be back in the morning, okay?”

“Shut that damned door!” Craig roared. “Them animals stink!”

Of course he was right. Pet hair and animal feces was now imbedded into the carpet. But what could she do? She didn’t have time to clean and Craig wouldn’t help her. Beverly set the bowels of water and food down and picked up the soiled newspaper that sat was now the same brown color as her carpet. She knew better than to have the cleaning ladies walk into this part of the house. The rest of it was bad enough, but this room might have made them walk out on the job altogether.

“Momma will be back later,” she whispered again, backing out of the door and locking it.

The air no longer held that pleasant floral scent, but now rather carried the familiar stench of failure, neglect, decay and broken dreams. In time she would ask the cleaning ladies to come back. They had given her a glimmer of hope…a sensation that had become far too foreign to her.