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Life as a Scot in California

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Archive for August, 2012

Is there a woman who ‘does?’

Posted by berkeleyscot on August 24, 2012

I was in my office upstairs when I heard the crash in the bathroom downstairs. I knew something had been dropped on the hard slate floor and was broken but I waited for one of the two cleaning ladies to come to tell me what had happened.  One cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms, while the other did the rest of the house.

But after the crash, all I heard was whispering and then they got back to work.

I had to go and investigate.  Had the bathroom sink or floor been damaged?

The ladies presented me with a ceramic liquid soap dispenser that was in fragments, but they were trying to hold it together, even though the soap was oozing over their hands and dripping onto the floor.

“Accidents will happen,” said the boss girl.  “Yes, I know, but you rush all the time and I’ve asked you so many times to slow down. It isn’t necessary to do all the rooms every time you come.  And, the soap dispenser can’t be replaced. I’ve had it for 20 years. It’s French and part of a set. The trouble is that you come with a set routine and that just doesn’t meet my needs.  If I ask you to do something different, it’s as if I’m imposing on you to do something extra.”

The ladies seemed relieved when I told I wouldn’t need them to come back. Was I being too demanding?

I don’t need to pay someone to break my stuff. I can break it myself for nothing.

But I do need help in the house. I have cerebral palsy and arthritis, but I have high standards and I’m willing to pay a lot for quality housecleaning.

My first experience was with Catholic Charities which acted as an agent for women from El Salvador and Guatemala (Other countries as well, probably) to find cleaning jobs.  I expected the ladies they sent would have had some kind of training, but they didn’t and because I didn’t speak Spanish, they didn’t understand what I wanted. One lady broke all the venetian blinds by clumsily yanking them up so they caught on the window latch and snapped. Another broke ornaments as she dusted carelessly round them, instead of picking them up. Then there was the one I thought was good. She worked quickly and efficiently, but she took a pile of ‘Dry Clean’ only clothes that I was going to take to the cleaners and washed them on the hot cycle and tumbled them on high heat.  She didn’t check with me first.  I had never asked her to do my laundry, nor did I want her to.

I wasn’t in control of my household and it was my own fault.

I was thinking in a different culture and we were at variance from the beginning.  I have relatives in Scotland who had been cleaning ladies to local families.  They were not strangers to each other, they spoke the same language and so had a more familiar relationship from the start.

Before they started work, they’d take cup of tea with their employer and talk about what was to be done that day.  My ladies arrived, barely greeted me and started work straight away, not giving me a chance to explain what I wanted them to do. I remember one cleaned with one hand while holding her cell phone to her ear the whole time she was in the house.

I found the other lady cleaning my toilet with window cleaner and when I asked why, she said she wanted to my toilet ‘shiny.’ “What about disinfectant?”   She shrugged at that question and so I called her company and cancelled future appointments.

Yes, “If you want a job done properly, do it yourself,” you say. I wish I could!


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