Thursday, October 24, 2013

Maid Service

You probably didn’t know this, but this past summer I was a part-time housemaid for Riverside Lodge. What is this lodge, you ask? It’s mostly my parents’ vacation home that I never get to vacation in, on account of how it is rented out to people all summer long. It is so booked up that my mother (head housemaid) had to enlist my help for cleaning, because there is not enough time for her to do all the scrubbing and washing and sanitizing in between people checking out and people checking in. My mom also hired my 14 year old cousin, Morgan, as a housemaid.

You know how people might come to your house for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and your mom has you clean every nook and cranny, and the whole process takes about two days, because you want your relatives to think you are a clean and organized person, when in reality you actually have an entire room devoted to junk and don’t vacuum that often? Cleaning Riverside Lodge is like that, times three.

We have to vacuum under all the beds (who does that every week?), change the sheets on six beds, clean three bathrooms, vacuum all the floors, mop, clean the windows, dust everywhere, re-fill everything, count the DVDs to make sure nobody stole any, and the list goes on. I won’t bore you with more of it.

Cleaning Riverside Lodge is a lot like cleaning my childhood home. This is because at least 40% of the items in the lodge used to be at my old house. My grandma’s clock. The picture my great-grandma painted. The woven coaster set from 1989. The dining room table I used to eat at every night. The decorative birdcage and knickknacks my mother used to keep in the living room. The kitchen is the only place that is foreign to me. It has all brand new utensils, appliances, and dishes, and most of them are either red or black. I grew up with macaroni cheese yellow linoleum floors and a bright blue counter top, so the red and black make me feel like I am in somebody else’s kitchen.

Cleaning up after complete strangers is quite interesting. As a detective, I like to imagine what kind of people stayed in the rooms. One time when I was making the bunk beds, I discovered boogers on the blanket.  Snot-nosed children, no doubt.  On one occasion, the guests left so much toothpaste in the sink, you’d think a dentist had held a teeth brushing instructional workshop in there. Another time, I discovered that the last occupants had the major munchies. On the blankets I found evidence of Life cereal and Dorito chips. The orange cheese stain on the quilt just about threw my mother over the edge.
“Tell me, DO YOU eat chips in bed when you are staying at a stranger’s house?” my mom asked.
“No,” I replied. “But I might if I was in a hotel. In fact, I am certain I have gotten a chocolate bar melted into my sheets before. But I would never do that at someone’s house.”  

An interesting experience was the time we cleaned up after a family of Chinese guests. The first thing I discovered was 14 empty shoe boxes sitting on the front porch.  There was also an empty cardboard case that had claimed to hold two bottles of expensive sounding champagne. I deduced that the family must have purchased many athletic shoes at the Nike and Adidas outlets because they had children who were training for Olympic gold, and then they decided to celebrate a successful shopping trip in America with a few bottles of the bubbly. Besides the shoe boxes, I found some packaging with Chinese characters on it. Morgan and I inspected it as though we could gain a cultural experience from reading the label of a foreign medicine bottle.

While cleaning the kitchen, I had the most horrifying experience. I opened the microwave to wipe it out and discovered a bowl of cold, pink, smelly fish sitting inside. I immediately slammed the door shut and screamed. It had to have been in there for at least two days. Morgan came to my rescue. She bravely opened the door and removed the bowl.  She inspected it as if trying to figure out what the sauce recipe was made of. “Don’t just stare at it!” I yelled. The smell was wafting. “Throw it away!” I held the trash can up to her and she emptied the bowl into it. While she set out to rinse the bowl and wash it, I sprayed the microwave with disinfectant and tried not to perish from the toxic odor that filled my nostrils. Our best guess is that someone had started to make a meal and just plain forgot about it. Unless it is some sort of Chinese insult, leaving dead fish in someone’s microwave for them to find days later.

While there is the occasional horrifying experience, there are some good things about cleaning up after perfect strangers. For example, I always check the freezer for treats after I’ve finished the job. Two out of three times, the guests leave ice cream in there. I consider it my tip. Another time, Morgan and I went grocery shopping in the pantry. The last guests had stayed for a week, and they left a lot of food behind since they were from Hawaii and couldn’t take it with them on the plane. I scored two boxes of cereal, a half-full box of Cheese Nips, those really delicious Mauna Loa chocolate macadamia treats that people bring you after visiting Hawaii, and a package of Oreo cookies. They also left soda and wine. I don’t drink soda so I didn’t take any, but my mother took the wine. You may think I’m taking my chances by consuming a half-full box of Cheese Nips that strangers left behind, but you need to know that during the summer I was only earning ¼  my usual income, due to my main job ending. I took anything that was free.

My mom, Morgan, and I have to get all the cleaning done by 3:45 since check in is at four, but Morgan and I have motivation to get done earlier so that we can go in the river. I have been washing windows or scrubbing the barbecue grill or sweeping the deck when I’ve seen kayakers and rafters go down the river, and it just about kills me.  One day in the beginning of August it was really hot outside and I was washing the windows. I wanted to just sneak down the hill away from my supervisor and throw myself into the river to cool off. But then one time Morgan and I enjoyed an exciting ten minute float down the river and later spent at least an hour fighting our way back up stream, cutting our feet on the rocks and wandering through the brush like we were on an episode of Survivor. That’s a whole other story in itself.  

Cleaning Riverside Lodge so thoroughly inspired me to go home and vacuum the cushions on my couch  and do extreme cleaning to the Nth degree, but of course by the time I got home I was always so wiped that all I did was lounge on my back patio and sip a cold glass of water. Maybe I’ll clean before Thanksgiving.
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