Teaser 339: Cleaning Day
I had been considering it for months, maybe longer. Serena had employed her cleaning person to regularly arrive at Serena's half of the house in Jalandhar and I had no objection when Magdalena suggested the same arrangement and we had our cleaning person arrive regularly. I considered both arrangements helpful, perhaps necessary, to the surrounding community. We were active employers of those in and around Jalandhar and thus providing a benefit to the community as a whole. What I had been considering was there were a large number of members of my family who may be considering such work beneath them, as in cleaning people were nothing more than servants, since the members of my family should be served in such a manner. You can imagine this idea didn't sit well with me.
In the big study on the second floor of our half I called a meeting of all family members, Jacob, Heinz, Lance, Carla, all of them, even Brenda, Kaela, and the German pilots. I started by asking a question. “How many of you are content in your immediate surroundings, that you consider your immediate surroundings to be reasonably safe and secure, that you are not enduring some distress, and that you consider yourself to be under no physical, mental or emotional threat?” There was a large amount of laughter and chuckling, but I asked each and every one by name and received no concern.
“Serena and I both employ those who arrive regularly to perform cleaning duties, housekeeping and such, and Serena has had this type of arrangement for years, but they perform specific duties and never perform them thoroughly, unless we demand it specifically. I never demand it specifically because I consider it outside their scope of duty. I consider it within the scope of all those who enjoy and appreciate what is provided, and I mean, all. What I am going to demand from all those who enjoy and appreciate my half of this house is to engage once a month in cleaning the entire half and I mean every nook, cranny, corner, shelf, all of it.” You can imagine the responses, reactions, and reluctance. “Since this is my demand, I shall tackle every month the worst job of them all, for I will thoroughly clean every toilet in my half, and then tackle each bathroom. I will assign to all of you other tasks which I know you can perform. In that context, for example, I will not have Sofia wiping shelves above her. Instead, I will assign this task to one or both of our pilots, because you're going to perform this work once a month, so when you return to Germany you can advise your superiors you cannot fly with me any more and tell them exactly why, so every pilot in your country will know exactly what I expect from them, once a month in my care and under my responsibility.”
Since the reaction from most was disbelief and with it a humorous response, I focused on Jacob. “You have never considered your employment to include cleaning, yet within days after I hired you, you were in another couple's kitchen cutting melon. You do recall, do you not, Jacob?”
Jacob knew instinctively I was not kidding. “What do you want me to do, Al-Barrak?”
I smiled widely. “I'll have tasks for everyone. Heinz?”
“I'm not arguing,” Heinz stated emphatically. “You have provided for me, for my family, what I could never provide myself. Tell me what you want me to do.”
I smiled widely again all around the room. “Thank you, Heinz.” He nodded to me. “This will include everyone from Serena's half who regularly enjoy our hospitality, our acceptance. If you choose not to help us clean it thoroughly once a month, you're no longer welcome. These are the terms to abide by in my household. Refuse them, you are no longer welcome, and it goes for you, too, Serena. Additionally, should you decide to clean your half thoroughly once a month all of us will help you and accept your assignments. I suggest you assign me your toilets and bathrooms. I will do so willingly, but you only need to inspect what I accomplish here the first time. You are demanding, Serena. If you accept this arrangement, I want you to be satisfied.”
“Where do you come up with these ideas, Al-Barrak? Sometimes, I don't know who I married!”
“I will never assign you a task you cannot perform, Serena, and with all of us performing it together, it will be accomplished in short order. What I demand from those who enjoy my lifestyle and what I can provide is that you never consider yourself above hard, physically hard, work. It must be done and you all can do it. What you will soon come to realize is when you stand and look at the gleaming, glowing presence all around you, which you helped accomplish, you will appreciate your surroundings even more. You will appreciate what you can experience versus those who can never experience it, and you did it through your own efforts. You will never consider yourselves above anyone else, because you will know you got there through your own efforts, not because you were lucky and somehow deserved it. No one deserves anything in life. If you are fortunate to enjoy many unique and distinct privileges in life, it's only because you worked for it, and each and every one of you, Jacob, Heinz, Lance, Carla, Brenda, Kaela, our flying colleagues from Germany, you all worked hard to get where you're at now, and there is no end to the work which needs to be performed. Once you pass on, your work is over. No one will ever ask you to contribute again, especially when they know you never stopped contributing until you were no longer able.” I gazed around all in the big study, noting the lack of reluctance, in many cases the huge smiles of anticipation. “On my side, I suggest the fifteenth of every month.” I engaged Serena, still wearing an expression of disbelief and reluctance. “For your side, the end of the month or the first of the month. Pick one.” Serena smiled and shook her head. “This means we'll start on my side within a few days. I encourage all to think about what you would prefer taking on and tell me. I'll try to assign the task to you. Cleaning a house thoroughly should be done regularly. A house which one regularly resides and which one enjoys residing should not be one which also regularly accumulates filth. Who can argue against such sentiment?”
Lena remarked, “We will need many cleaning items, solutions, cloths, tools.”
“So, let's assemble a list and keep it next to the cooking board in the kitchen. I would prefer the most environmentally friendly solutions we can find without too much effort, cloths, wipes and those items should be recycled, meaning those which can be cleaned and reused, not discarded in some growing landfill, check what we have and gather any tools and such we'll need. We'll check the list a week or so before cleaning day, compare it with what's missing, stock up and get started. We'll empty the middle closet on the first floor, where we'll store everything for cleaning day other than what the housekeeping staff regularly needs access to.” I glanced all around at faces of wide-eyed exuberance. “Setting our cleaning day on the fifteenth means, of course, I will be scrubbing toilets on my birthday.” I waited for the laughter to diminish before I added, “Perhaps, I'll have to adjust my lifestyle so I'm never in India in March.” There were appropriate groans. “Believe that you don't know me very well. I won't mind scrubbing toilets on my birthday, considering I'll probably receive kisses and hugs frequently. All of it will help.”
Lena did the research for our needs and all the procurement, most of which we found in Jalandhar, other than a few deliveries from Amritsar. We started at six in the morning, everyone, including Sofia, Carla, Lance and Serena. Serena, Sofia and Jinpa took the bedrooms, including stripping everything from each bed and cleaning all of it. We used both laundry rooms and both of us had added a much larger second washer and dryer, commercial-sized, which we had to purchase from a commercial laundry vendor. There weren't any big enough in the retail establishments, but we had all eight running most of the day. They moved all the beds and cleaned under each one, except the big bed in the master bedroom, which was constructed and couldn't be moved unless it was torn down. However, we built storage units under the platform which were emptied and cleaned, also.
The pilots wiped all the shelves in every room, starting on the first floor, and we had several sturdy, tall step ladders. When they completed all the shelves, they cleaned all the ceilings in every room, using a long-handled item with a cloth attached to the end. The two of them, with Lance and Jacob, laughed often because it reminded them of their days of boot camp, their first few weeks and months in their respective armed forces detachments.
Everyone was greatly amused when Sofia ran down to me while I was working on the small toilet in the hall on the first floor holding a filthy, caked cloth, and exclaimed, “Papi! Did you see this?” I stepped out to meet her in the hall and she showed me the cloth. “That's from one of the pilots cleaning the ceiling in a bedroom for a couple minutes! Yuck!”
I smiled widely, but shook my head. “Wait until we clean the ceiling in your bedroom on your cleaning day. That's what you've been sleeping under every night!”
“Yuck!” she exclaimed again while I heard laughter from nearly everywhere in the house.
Jacob, Lance and Heinz tackled every wall and every surface of furniture in every room. Lena and Carla swept, mopped and finished every floor, with the men helping move furniture to get under them, and cleaned every inside pane of window before moving to the next room. I advised to vacuum rugs in all rooms, while taking rugs from certain rooms to string up outside and spray them with a hose and let them dry before returning, and we'd do the other rooms systematically during each cleaning day. We had many rugs, some quite expensive, but there was not one speck of carpeting in any of our rooms. Every room featured high quality wood flooring and only rugs lay on these floors.
Kaela and Brenda cleaned every item and surface of every cabinet, drawer, sink and counter in the kitchens. The housekeeper arrived at her usual time and cooked breakfast and lunch for everyone, with help from Kaela and Brenda, along with some of her regular duties. Esperanza called Lena during the day to ask how it was going. We all took a break with the phone on speaker so we could hear Esperanza exclaim, “Well, I know where I won't be on the fifteenth of every month. It won't be India!”
Serena yelled back, “But we won't have anyone to clean the bathtubs and showers! That's the professor's job, you know.”
It went well into the night. Everyone took appropriate breaks for rest and all were treated to their own pizza favorites, delivered right to the door for supper, but we cleaned our half of the house, top to bottom, before bedtime, with each bed containing clean bedding, all made up nice and neat. We all gathered in the living room when I declared it complete. I asked, “Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?”
Serena threw a dirty cloth at me. “I was not looking forward to this, Al-Barrak, and I don't really want to do it again, but that dirty cloth is just one of a countless number, and I know my half is just as dirty.” She smiled deviously. “You did very well on the toilets, my beloved, so I expect the same excellent result when you clean mine!”
I smiled just as deviously. “It will be my pleasure, my beloved, and now that you've had the time to examine the results of cleaning day, I pose this one, simple question: Which bedroom would you prefer to sleep tonight, yours or mine?”
Serena frowned with the corners of her mouth turned up, while the reactions of everyone else was monumental laughter. It turned out everyone slept in one of my bedrooms that night.
The next morning Sofia declared to Carla, “We're cleaning our bedroom today. I'm not waiting for our cleaning day!” Sofia then stared defiantly at her mother and added, “And what about your bedroom? You don't seriously expect me to step foot in that filthy room, do you, Mother?”
Before Serena could reply, I remarked, “Ah! Youthful exuberance. Ya gotta love it!”
Serena turned to me and glared with some real spite. “I cannot express to you, Al-Barrak, how much I hate you right now!”
I laughed with everyone else. “I'm sure you do.” I glanced around to all. “If no one has any objection, we'll all help you clean those two rooms today and we'll tackle the rest on your cleaning day. How's that?”
Serena smiled thinly. “Thank you. Now I hate you a little less.”
- Just Desserts, Segment Forty-Three “Fatalities” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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