April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The cleaning lady came in today. We don’t actually have a cleaning lady, so it’s a little weird.

Okay, it’s not so weird. We’re making a bar mitzvah, and someone suggested we get help. She even lent us her cleaning lady, because that’s something you can do with human beings. Lend them.

We’ve never really had a cleaning lady. As the one who works at home, I generally do most of the cleaning in our house while I’m trying to psych myself up for writing. Then I sit down, amid the cleaning fumes, and see what I can come up with.

I’m not sure why people hire a cleaning lady in the first place. Is it because she knows how to clean things we don’t, or because she has time to scrub things because she’s getting paid? As far as I can tell, you mostly hire cleaning ladies so you can give them all the non-kosher foods you buy by accident.

I don’t even know what to do here. Should I clean before she comes?

I should clean before she comes!

And I did. I know that’s a cliché, because what’s the point, right? Well, she is a guest in our home. One that we’re paying to be here, by the hour. And I don’t need to pay her to sweep the dining room. I can do that. I pay her to scrub things that we haven’t scrubbed in months, like that area under the toaster oven where somebody apparently lost an entire piece of bread—buttered—and didn’t care.

Actually, my plan was to spend several hours cleaning before she got here, and then challenge her to find things I missed. Because as far as I can tell, one benefit of a cleaning lady—especially if she’s there only once—is that she’s a fresh pair of eyes. When you live somewhere, you kind of get used to some things that are technically considered a mess, and it looks normal to you. But then the cleaning lady comes in and says, “What’s this pile?”

“I don’t know. There’s just always a pile there now. Should I push it more to the side?”

When you clean the house, you sweep around the pile.

Not that I was in a rush for her to be here, because the first thing I realized, once she walked into my house, was that I don’t even know how to have a cleaning lady. Do I have to stand over her and point to what I want her to clean? That definitely feels like slavery. Should I just sit around while she cleans? Maybe get some work done? Thanks to my mother, I have this guilt when someone’s cleaning my messes and I’m just sitting there, and I can’t concentrate on what I’m doing.

I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t I just give her a list? After all, my wife made me one. But it turns out that this woman didn’t speak a word of English. Which is weird, because my wife’s friend doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. I’m not actually sure how they started this relationship in the first place. How do you mime to someone that you want them to clean your house on a regular basis?

It’s possible she doesn’t even know she’s a cleaning lady. Maybe she’s just trying to be helpful while she’s here. Maybe she thinks she’s a security guard.

So I may as well clean while she’s cleaning. It’s not like I’m going to get any work done anyway, because I have to keep an eye on her so she doesn’t helpfully treif up my kitchen.

We never officially made introductions, so she called me, “Hello.” I didn’t correct her. She said “Hello?” and I came running. I like to think it’s because when I opened the door, I said, “Hello,” and she thought I was introducing myself.

I called her, “Hola.”

So for example, at some point, Hola held up an old mop that she’d found and said, “Hello?” And I said, “Yes,” and she said, “No trabajo.” I knew what “no” meant, but I didn’t know what “trabajo” was, so I thought it meant “mop.” So I was like, “Oh, okay; here’s a trabajo.”

For the most part, I kept myself busy cleaning things I didn’t want to ask her to do. For example, I replaced the water in my son’s fish bowl. Though that was the week that a notice went out around town that there was lead in the tap water, so I wasn’t sure what to replace it with. I decided to use filtered water, because we’re fancy people who can afford a cleaning lady. Anyway, turns out that filtered water is horrible for fish. They were all dead before she left the house. And I didn’t want her to see, so I lined up all the cleaning products in front of the fish bowl. Then it occurred to me that she’d think that I’d poured the cleaning products into the fish bowl.

But now I think I know why people hire mostly Spanish speakers. This person goes into the most embarrassing corners of your house, but who’s she gonna tell? Nobody you know.

“So I worked for a guy named Hello, and he killed his fish. Why didn’t he have me clean the bowl? I was like ‘Hello? You have a cleaning lady!’”

And it works both ways. Maybe the purpose of the cleaning lady is for sholom bayis. That way, if something gets moved, or dies, you can just blame the cleaning lady, and she can’t say otherwise because of the language barrier. Especially since she’s not coming back.

By Mordechai Schmutter


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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