They're going to power-wash and then paint the deck, which is fine, though Danette told me "Keep your sliding door locked, there's no way I'm letting them in through the apartments." Mindful of this, I also have the vertical blinds drawn as tightly as they can be. I tell myself it's because my apartment is a mess and I don't want anyone seeing in, but actually it's because strange men with access to my balcony, leering through the door at me, is another on my list of experiences to avoid.
I'm still reading Nickel and Dimed, which is a very good book and I'm enjoying it. It's serving dual purposes: 1) it reminds me that, though I am technically at poverty level and I don't think I'll have money to buy anyone Christmas presents this year, I still have friends and a mom and actually quite a bit of money, though it's all tied up at the moment, so I wouldn't actually have to resort to living in a car. And 2) I never want to work at Wal*Mart.
I wonder what sort of job I'll get when I move back to Valdez, and I tell myself that maybe I'll call The Star and ask if they need a proofreader (though I won't tell them what I really think, which is "You need a proofreader, hire me now.") The Star is, as far as I know, owned and staffed entirely by one old drunk named Pat, who resembles nothing so much as an egg in a tweed vest, but he was always a gentleman when he drank (his bar of choice was the one attached to the hotel where I had my 3-11pm clerk job) and, even staggering and slurring, he managed a "Hello, m'dear, how are you?" for me each evening. No leering involved, for which I was grateful. If there was anything I could have gone without while working there, it was the drunked leering of patrons returning from the bathroom. The way the lobby was set up, they rarely saw me behind the desk on their way to purge themselves of their liquid haven, but staggering back, ankles dragging their feet like limp noodles struggling to pull cinderblocks, they always always managed to look up just before stumbling back into the bar and see me. That's when the Casanovas came out to play, truly resembling a Loony Toons parody.
"*hic* Heyyyyy, darlin'. How come yer *hic* shooooooooooooo perty?" *leer*
That hotel job is the main reason I stopped wanting to be a bartender. Though no one ever hits on me when they're sober, get a few Jack and Cokes in them, particularily the 45-year-old balding ones, and suddenly I'm a poor man's Pamela Anderson. You'd think I had beer taps for nipples.
Anyway, I imagine I'll probably wind up as a grocery bagger, though I plan on at least applying as a sub.
Never again will I clean houses for a living, for, as Barbara Ehrenreich notes, as a maid you're invisible. People rarely see you, and the ones that do give you a profound sense of thankfulness that at least they're not pretending you don't exist. She also notes that Upper-Middle-Class Americans are losing their pubic hair at an alarming rate, which is something I noticed as well. Do they just pull it out by the handful? Is that why little clumps litter bathroom floors, tubs, toilet seats, and (yes it's true) sinks? WHY? I'm picturing a caged bird, yanking out its own feathers through sheer boredom.
My favorite part of cleaning other people's houses were the pets. Cats weren't named in the service reports, but dogs were. "Dog's name is Patsy, will bark but is friendly," and sure enough, Patsy barked like crazy when we opened the door, but then in true doggy fashion immediately became the maid's best friend, drooling and lolling all over my khakis, leaving hairs everywhere. At least they weren't pubic hairs. Of course, with pets, the hair gets on EVERYTHING, including stoves, so there is a tradeoff.
One of the houses I did twice, the first time in and the second cleaning, had a lovely black lab, two sweet-as-can-be cats, and a very tired gerbil. The pets were wonderful, but the owners had the ability to see and complain about absolutely nothing. It's one thing I won't miss at all. The maid is at the utter mercy of the customer. If the customer says the maid broke something, she did. If the customer says the maid missed cleaning something, she did. Sometimes these complaints were legit, but sometimes not. You would be surprised at how many home owners would get down on their hands and knees to examine a corner for any sign of dirt.
One thing I will miss, of course, is the companionship. Most of the girls I worked with are lovely people, though our interests don't overlap much. While I spent an entire weekend doing nothing but reading the new Harry Potter, the other girls partied or shoe-shopped or whatever, and gave me utterly blank looks when I mentioned what I'd been doing on Saturday night.
But I will never forget Katie's "wild beaver" impression.
One day a few weeks ago:
Katie: Omg, we were at the Smith house today and I got attacked by a wild beaver! *'wild beaver' was said in the same tones one might say 'rabid wolverine'*
Me: Attacked? By a beaver? ...surely not.
Katie: It's true! I was outside cleaning the patio door, when I glanced to my left, you know...where the river is? And there was this beaver, doing this...*here insert a small blond woman making a galloping motion with her entire upper body, doing what some might term an impression of a raging buffalo* ...and it was coming right at me, so I screamed and ran inside, and I noticed its tail and it was flat and going WHUMPWHUMPWHUMP behind it, and I thought "That's a beaver!"
I learned that, though most of these girls had grown up in the area, around cows and horses and pigs, they were rather ignorant of their local wild fauna. Leaving one house, Amanda and I meandered in her car back down the sun-dappled, forest-lined drive toward the road, and suddenly a red canid shape bounded across in front of us and into the trees.
"Ooh," I said. "Fox!"
Amanda, reacting in a surprising way (to me), slammed on her brakes and said, panicky, "A fox??"
Me: ...Yes. Haven't you seen a fox before?
Amanda: *now sounding sort of awed* No...*inching the car forward to peer into the brush where the fox had gone* I've never seen one!
A few weeks later, we returned to the house. As we turned into the driveway, she suddenly rolled up her window and exclaimed, "This is where that fox was!" Though I assured her it was highly unlikely that a wild fox would leap through her window and ravage her face, she didn't feel safe until we got inside.
Another time, I was cleaning a house with Terri, a perky 19-year-old, and I pointed out a hummingbird feeder outside the window. The feeder was populated with a clump of bees at one sip-hole, and a hummingbird at another.
Fascinated, Terri inched her face closer to the glass and said, "That's a hummingbird?"
"Yes," I replied, surprised. "Haven't you seen a hummingbird before?"
"No. I thought they were bigger. Like this." *holding her hands about a foot apart*
I didn't chuckle because I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but the idea of a chicken-sized hummingbird was amusing to me. Then I wondered if I'm really that priveliged, to have seen things like hummingbirds before, and foxes, and porcupines. Is it strange that I know how small hummingbirds are, and how dangerous moose are? Granted, moose are not that common along the highways here (never heard of a moose sighting in Racine County, Wisconsin), but I've seen enough raccoons and deer and fox lying dead alongside the road since I've been here.