Friday, September 19, 2008

Mysteries of Life

What a week this has been! The happenings in the economy seem unprecedented, and to an extent they are, but I told one of my colleagues at work about a month ago that I would not be surprised to see another RTC-type organization formed. And that is exactly where we are headed.

But I am going to depart from all of these goings-on and write today about what I consider one of the great mysteries of life -- housekeepers.

Anyone who reads my stuff here knows that my wife is an amazing woman, a person I hold in extremely high esteem. She is a wonderful homemaker, an extraordinary hostess, a gourmet cook, is well read, plays Bridge (and has tried with little success to teach me) and owns a business. That's for starters.

But she knows, as we all do, that there is a limit to what one human being can do. So a couple of years ago, Wife and I agreed that it would help both of us if we engaged the assistance of a housekeeper. I am very egalitarian when it comes to the roles of husband and wife and have always tried to help with all of the household duties. But I'm no superhuman either so I wholeheartedly endorsed getting some assistance at the house.

Now when I was growing up in South Arkansas, this was commonly referred to as "help," as in, "I have help XXX days a week." And I am sad to say that "help" in those days in the South often meant an African-American lady who would either (a) ride public transportation from her residence to yours or (b) be brought to and from her residence by one of your parents in the backseat of the car.

We had "help" occasionally when I was growing up. Some of our neighbors had regular maids who were part of their families. I grew up in a small town without any public transportion that I knew of, so they were brought to their homes by one of the moms or dads. I never knew of one who had her own car.

Today, thankfully, that has all changed. Domestic help is big business and there are even companies who contract it out.

We have a couple of ladies who come to our house every two weeks. They are sisters and they bring their own vacuum cleaners and cleaning solutions. I am usually not at home when they come but I have met them a couple of times and they are nice ladies. They do a great job too.

But there is something about this whole arrangement I find intriguing. The night before they are to come, we have to clean the house. It starts with Wife doing a frantic run through the house picking up clutter, e.g. shoes out of place, yesterday's newspapers, etc. Then she sweeps the floor, scrubs the kitchen counters and loads the dishwasher. I feel bad for her so, being the equality-of-the-sexes proponent I am, I tell whatever of our offspring who happen to be at home to get off his/her rear-end and start picking up.

Is there irony here? Did we not hire these people to do what we are doing?

Not at all, says Wife. She is not about to have someone coming into her house and give them the impression they are cleaning up after slobs. And the more we do, the more they can do. I have not quite figured what the "more" is that they do but I am keeping quiet.

So when the housekeepers arrive at our house every other Thursday, they come into a sparkling-clean house. And it should not surprise you to learn that it does not take them very long to accomplish their tasks, pick up their compensation and be on their way.

There is also another intriguing fact I learned about the day the housekeepers come -- you have to eat out that night because you can't mess up the kitchen that was just cleaned (twice).

So when I add up the cost of what we pay these nice ladies plus the cost of eating out the night after they come, I'm laying down a pretty good chunk of the budget to get the house cleaned.

BUT on some things you cannot put a price. One of those things is having housekeepers who do not think I am a slob. Another is having a kitchen that is clean for at least 24 hours.


Redlefty said...

Good to know I'm not the only one who has bewilderingly watched his wife clean frantically before the housecleaner comes.

Pam said...

OK, guys, let me explain. This cleaning before the cleaning people come thing is just what we females DO!

Did it for years back in the days I had 'help'. "No one can clean the way I do". "Don't want anyone to think I'm messy, etc..." This is the self-talk rationale we females have for the day-before-mass clean and the night-after-don't-touch little OCD quirks.

Don't analyze it. Just accept it. :)

Bob said...

Oh I accepted it a long time ago, Pam. Just still find it interesting. One of my next posts is about how you invite people over for dinner and you have all this nice space for visiting and mingling, yet they all congregate in the kitchen. Another mystery I can't explain. Thanks for your comment.

Kelly said...

There was a short time when my kids were small that I had 'help'. Yes, I would straighten things up before she came and often "helped" her clean while she was here! For some reason I always felt funny if I wasn't busy while she was here...even though I was paying her to do what she did.