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.