Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The housekeeping chronicles - Need and evasion

Not Oeuf and Eigh - but still a memorable couple
 As related earlier, [The Man I Love] and I are busy people who are fortunate to have found housecleaning help that fits our budget. We are particularly fortunate, since we are both incapable of consistently keeping a clean and well-maintained house.

Now that we have settled into our relationship with Oeuf and Eigh, our housecleaners for the past year, it has been a pleasure to come home to a clean house once a week, to count on minor repairs being done, and  - heavenly - to find even our laundry clean and folded neatly for us.

Really, it is a marvel, to find two people who are so willing to do so much for us, for such minimal cost.

If duration has value, they certainly do a lot. Our previous cleaner, Rita, took no more than two hours - sometimes less - to clean our house. Oeuf and Eigh spend the entire day there.

Of the two, Eigh in particular thrives on positive feedback - let's even say he craves it. He inquires whether we noticed last week's project - if we don't he herds us to view it - and relates in detail the various steps he took to accomplish it.

Each Monday they arrive - it used to be quite early, at 8:00. Initially this was a time to touch base and talk about any chores we might have in mind before we left for work.

But it turned out even on holidays - Labor Day, Memorial Day, President's Day, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday - there they were, on our doorstep at 8:00 am, while we were hoping for a leisurely morning in bed.

So we asked them not to arrive until 9:00 am in the future. It has had some effect. Now Oeuf and Eigh still arrive early, but park up on the street and wait until 9:00 am to come down to our door.On Monday workdays, we gaily wave at them as we pull our cars out of the driveway to go to work - and stop for a streetside conference with Eigh as he quizzes us on our opinion of last week's special project.

Even with the 9:00 am arrival time, holidays can be grueling, because with us in residence, Oeuf and Eigh really go out of their way to show us what domestic treasures they are.
It's really Eigh, I should say - or at least that's how it appears when I'm around to observe them. While Ouef putters around swiping at things indolently with a dishrag, Eigh is the one who seems to do most of the work. He lurches briskly about, in his metallic gothico Euro-trash t-shirt, black socks and sandals, pushing the vacuum cleaner, lugging laundry hampers up and down stairs the next, cleaning barbecue grills and rearranging bookcases. The energy he exhibits is remarkable.

Sitting at our desks, or at the table with a cup of coffee, we are captive audiences to Eigh's demonstrations of his skills. Sometimes he consults [The Man I Love] in his office requesting advice about his business - should he incorporate? Start a maid service franchise? What does [The Man I Love] think about their website? And will we write a review to Angie's list?

Several months ago, we discovered that they were bringing food to prepare their lunch in our kitchen while they worked. I have no problem with that - but on days when [The Man I Love] or Our Son were at home, or on holidays, they began cooking lunch for us, too. It wasn't bad - usually a prepared frozen meal from Trader Joes - curry with rice, or pasta with sauce.

But that's not what I usually eat for lunch, and the portions were huge - and Eigh expected us to clean our plates. I had to promise to save my remainders for lunch at work the following day.

We began lying. We invented appointments on holidays, and left the house for hours at a time midday, just to get away from them. On regular Mondays, we both found reasons we had to be in the office quite early - often [The Man I Love] actually beat me out the door.

When I first got sick, in early April, in a way it was fortunate that it was a stomach ailment - it made it easy to fend off the rich lunches. It was harder to avoid Eigh's neediness - with me captive in a wicker chair on the deck, he brought me trophies to admire - a polished sauce-pan, our cutting board, freshly anointed with mineral oil, a pillowcase with a freshly darned patch. He seemed intent on courting my good opinion for his work.

In desperation, I thought up a couple of repairs to keep Eigh. One - our mailbox had been broken long ago, and although we'd bought a replacement, we'd never installed it. It was also in the wrong place - it was sometimes blocked by parked cars. So I showed Eigh the new mailbox and exactly where we wanted it. I specifically pointed out the position. The second task built on his tailoring skills - I had a long Indian gauze skirt that needed shortening.

The Monday after my surgery was Memorial Day. We were both home - me on pain medications, with a tender incision. Eigh was delighted to see me looking so well. "I have brought curry for lunch!" he said, holding up a huge freezer bag.

Although my doctors had approved a regular diet for me, we lied and told Oeuf and Eigh I was still on clear liquids, and that I had a doctor's appointment. Then we hopped in the car, headed to Santa Monica, and had a seafood lunch with the first glass of wine I'd had in a month!

Perhaps Eigh had his revenge on me. The next Monday I went to work to avoid having to spend the day with Oeuf and Eigh.

But I overestimated my strength. I only lasted till 2:30 pm - my boss noted the pain on my face and told me to go home. I drove home, looking forward to a pain pill and a nap in bed.

But as I pulled in front of our house, Oeuf and Eigh's huge Chrysler Magnum was still parked on the road.

Do you know how craven I was? I actually drove past the house, went around the loop, and back down to the village, thinking maybe I'd stop at the cafe for a drink and wait them out an hour or so. But then I chided myself for being a coward. Also, the cafe was closed.

So I drove back up the hill, and pulled into the driveway. The first thing I noticed was that the mailbox had been installed, and it was exactly the opposite of what I'd specified. I parked and went into the house.

"Oh!" said Oeuf. "You've come home!" She was surprised.

"Yes," I said, "I came home from work, I need to go lie down."

"I'm so glad you're here!" said Eigh. "I must show you the skirt, I was so worried about it!" He dashed into the bedroom, and re-emerged, brandishing the hanger. "See here," and he related how it was necessary to hem it two inches higher than I'd asked, because of a flaw in the fabric. "I could not decide what to do," he said, "But then I realized I had no choice. I hope you are not angry."

No, no, of course I wasn't angry. Yes, yes, this was fine. It was done beautifully.I was very pleased. He had made the right choice, of course!

"Did you see the mailbox?" asked Eigh.

I thought for a moment of letting it go, but he'd really installed it exactly the wrong way.  I took a vicodin. Then I said, "Let's go up and take a look at it."

A long conversation ensued, where I pointed out which edge I'd specified be set flush to which part of the post. He protested that he'd thought I meant the other edge. I stood firm. He bargained - what if he just moved it as far as the brace allowed? I really thought about agreeing to that, but then I stopped. "No, I'm sorry. I think you need to cut the brace shorter and move it where it's flush with this edge."

As I walked back to the house, I watched him saw so vigorously at the brace the saw flipped out of his hands onto the concrete. "Oops," he said.

Final approval of the mailbox required another trip up the stairs to view the final work. Then, I settled into the wicker chair on the deck in the afternoon light while Oeuf ran the vacuum around the living room, and Eigh ironed bed linens and [The Man I Love]'s trousers, as he does.

They left our house at 5:30 pm. Upon parting, all smiles, Eigh reminded me that I would have to give Jack an afternoon walk - he hadn't had the time "because I had to re-do the mail box."

As soon as their Chrysler drove away, I walked Jack up onto the street. The mailbox was perfect. When I went back into the house, I poured myself a glass of wine and lay down in bed. The sheets were freshly laundered, the pillows and comforter fluffed high and soft.

The next Monday, I left for work at 8:30 before they arrived, and stayed there till 6:00 pm..

Good help is hard to find.


Anonymous said...

This is a delightful story. I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to come home to a clean, perfectly maintained house. But now I see that there are trade-offs to be had if one wants your housekeepers.

What a hoot that you avoid them. It's always something, isn't it?

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Eigh really sounds like a character, as well as being a renaissance man- is there any way you can convince an agent to give the man a T.V. show?

Fussy housekeeper in Goth/Metal tee and sandals with socks- PURE GOLD! I'd even consider buying a T.V. just to watch it.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Back when I had a cleaning lady I just not could be home when she was there--I would feel terribly lazy and had to take on projects so I could work alongside her!

Kathy Rogers said...

I hide from the domestic helper-ettes, too. Their day is my errand and appointment day. Unlike your O & E, I'm pretty sure they prefer me being out as well.

Karen S. said...

Funny story...I once had a very brief conversation with Frank Sinatra! Truly, okay it was from an upstairs landing (ladies restrooms) at the Caesar Palace when I spotted Frank walking down the wide staircase within a group of body men from an upstairs gambling (private) suite area...of course I screamed across the way..Hello Frank Sinatra...and yes he said hello how are you back! It was a very cool moment....even if most my friends thought..really...are you serious...Thanks for such a funny story!

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

I don't suppose they would come to San Diego one day a week?


I'm glad you're feeling better.