One of my faithful Xanga readers, Anumati, has solved the mystery of the wall-facing toaster for me:

Pick up toaster. Wipe side of toaster. Turn toaster around. Wipe other side of toaster. Set toaster down.

That makes good enough sense to me.  Even if it isn’t true, I am officially un-befuddled.  Maybe next week if I’m feeling scientific and/or cheeky, I will set the toaster facing the wall before the housekeepers come and see if it ends up facing out the right way afterward. But probably I will forget.  At any rate, when I see the toaster facing the wall, I will just think about how I am no longer confused, and that will make me feel good.  At least, I will no longer be confused about that one thing.

You know, I don’t like to seem like I’m complaining about anything my housekeepers do, even when they do stuff that’s wrong.  Well, the housekeepers themselves never do anything wrong (yes, they are perfect saints, as far as I’m concerned).  The housekeeping service sometimes does wrong things, but they employ my housekeepers, so I don’t like complaining about them, either.  Complaining about having housekeepers is stupid and annoying to others.

Of course, only other people who have ever had housekeepers know what it’s like to have housekeepers.  People who have never had housekeepers think it’s like that scene in Corinna, Corinna where the long-suffering maid played by Whoopi Goldberg walks into these rich people’s home the morning after a wild party and the place is just a wreck with food and records and all manner of debris all over the floor and furniture overturned and couch cushions gone astray, and Whoopi Goldberg just sighs and gets to work because this is her job and that’s white people for you.  Unfortunately, that’s just a movie.

In real life, my housekeepers would laugh me to scorn if I left my house in a wreck like that and expected them to clean it.  Well, probably they would not laugh.  Probably they would glance around and get this look on their faces like “OMG, can you believe her” and then sigh and call their supervisor.  Then I would get a call on my cell phone at the McDonald’s. where I’m eating lunch with my kids because that’s what we do on housekeeper day, and it would be the housekeeping supervisor explaining to me that they are a housekeeping service, not a bulldozing service, and she’s afraid they will not be able to clean my house in its current condition and would I like to reschedule for another time?  And I would say, “Are you #*$(&* kidding me with this?  You should have seen the place before I tidied!” and she would repeat the thing about the bulldozer and we’d go back and forth until the conversation finally ended with me apologizing.  That’s real life.

People who have never had housekeepers are appalled at what I pay to have housekeepers.  One of those people is Gertrude, my babysitter, whom I would never, ever, ever have told what I pay to have housekeepers, except that she’s nosy and can’t stop asking questions and therefore she knows.  I won’t tell you the exact dollar amount because that won’t mean anything to you; depending on where you live and how big your house is and whether or not you have pets or smokers in your house, my dollar amount may seem like a rip-off, a really good deal, or just about right.  Suffice it to say that the housekeeping service makes more than four times what Gertrude does per hour.  I have no idea how much the actual housekeepers get paid; I pay for a service so I don’t have to figure that stuff out.  I know there are individuals who will contract with you to clean your house for far less than what a cleaning service company will charge you, but reliable housekeepers of that ilk are harder to find than housekeeping services, which are in the phone book.  I don’t move in the social circles where ladies have housekeepers named Consuela who get paid $50 under the table to clean their 3,500-sq. ft. house, including windows.  (I don’t have a 3,500 sq. ft. house, but ladies with housekeepers named Consuela do.)  I do have a phone book.  Well, I did have a phone book, back when I hired the housekeeping service.  And I called every housekeeping service in the area, and I chose the one that quoted me the lowest price, which was in fact much lower than all the others, but much greater than what we paid the housekeeper who cleaned the house where we dogsat in the summer of 2002.  That woman was hired by the owners of the house (and dogs), who did move in the aforementioned social circles.

Her name wasn’t Consuela.  I think it was Cathy, and she smoked while she was cleaning house, but you could never tell because the place smelled so much like Pine Sol afterward.  I love the smell of Pine Sol.  Do you know why?  Because it isn’t dog.  But then, I like the smell of cigarettes better than I like the smell of dog.

So yes, Gertrude knows that I pay the housekeeping service more than what I pay her to take care of my four children.  I suppose that’s a sad commentary, but that’s what the market will bear.  If Gertrude charged four times what I currently pay her, she would only work for me about three to four hours a month (like the housekeepers) instead of twenty to thirty.  Actually, she would probably not work for me at all, and I would be like those people who take the kids everywhere and only go out by themselves when relatives are in town and can watch the children for free.

Speaking of relatives, my mother-in-law was also appalled at what I pay the housekeeping service, considering that (from her perspective) I’m required to do most of the work of cleaning the house before they even get there.  By “most of the work of cleaning,” I’m referring to tidying and decluttering–which is, in my opinion, the most tedious and irksome part of housekeeping.  Not coincidentally, it is the part that you can’t pay professionals to do.  Unless they are played by Whoopi Goldberg.

Or if they are smokers named Cathy.  Cathy was pretty good about dealing with a little untidiness now and then.  (A little untidiness–we were only there for four months and didn’t have time to build up a hefty supply of crap that could vomit itself onto flat surfaces in the blink of an eye.)

So yeah, I try not to even tell that many people that I have housekeepers because most of the people I know think that puts me in a class of people they don’t want to know.  Especially if I’m telling them, “The reason I’m so stressed out right now is that the housekeepers are coming tomorrow and I have to get the house ready”–because if they’ve never had housekeepers, they don’t understand how having your house cleaned by someone else could ever be stressful and also they don’t understand what there is to get ready because they’ve never given the subject any thought past “Must be nice to have a housekeeper.”

Which it is, you know.  Nice, I mean, to have a housekeeper.  It’s great because every two weeks I am absolutely forced to deal with my own crap.  Theoretically, it would be cheaper for me to hire Gertrude to take the kids out for x number of hours, while I stayed home and cleaned my own house.  But then I wouldn’t get any McNuggets.  Also, if I were cleaning my own house, I would always be putting off tidying and decluttering to the point where I truly would need a bulldozer (or, alternatively, a house fire–I can’t tell you how much easier it was to tidy after we had the fire), and the house would only get cleaned every three to six to nine months, and never all at once.  It’s great to have all of your house clean all at one time, even if it doesn’t last very long.  It’s better than having part of your house clean and then going to clean the next part while everybody dirties up the part you just cleaned.  There’s just something very satisfying about it.  Also, I don’t have to clean the toilets.  That’s awesome.

Actually, it isn’t the toilets I mind so much.  It’s the bathtub and the shower.  I hate hate hate cleaning bathtubs and showers.  Not because they’re dirtier than toilets but because they’re big and awkward.  Also, I hate mopping floors.  (In my house, the floors are almost dirtier than the toilets–because the toilets get cleaned between housekeeper visits, but the floors don’t.  Fortunately, people don’t usually poop on my floors.)

P.S.  If you think it’s weird to clean for your house cleaners, you should meet my friend who cleaned with her house cleaner.  That’s weird.

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