Maintenance Folks

When it became obvious we were going to be trapped in our houses for a while, I decided to do a “deep” clean of my house. I started out with such enthusiasm- moving furniture, polishing wood, scrubbing floors on my hands and knees. It was a rough morning for me and I quickly moved on to puzzle making and failing at sourdough starting. I’ve never been much of a housekeeper and I tell myself it’s ok because I’m so good at so many other things (yes, I really do tell myself this, and I tell others, too). Truth be told, I’ve never understood people who love to clean, who get a kick out of the smell of bleach- I’m talking to you TA. Don’t get me wrong, I love a clean house, I just don’t want to be the one to clean it. So, you can imaging my admiration for the men and women who were tasked with cleaning a frat house!

Now, these sweet people (and one very not sweet , I’ll get to her later) were really only supposed to clean the kitchen, bathrooms, hallways, main areas. They were not supposed to clean up after the hideous messes these often drunken lunatics would make, but some of them did. In all my time at the frat house, I can honestly say the only times I ever had a problem with the boys was over a mess. Mess isn’t really an adequate description. For some reason, these bright young men, accepted into a fine university, could never manage to find a garbage can, resulting in piles of garbage being left on every surface. During pledging it got exponentially worse, huge messes were often intentionally made – I can only imagine your shock at this, but it’s true- for the express purpose of having someone else clean it. Entire cabinets of condiments would be flung around the kitchen and dining area, cartons of eggs would be broken against walls–but I digress, that’s for another time, another title, perhaps “inside pledging and nibdome”? Back to the cleaning people, here is a list of those I remember and why.

The first cleaning person that was at KA when I got there was Angel, and he was just that- an angel. I really didn’t know how bad the house could get for a little while, because he would have it immaculate before I got there in the morning. Alas, Angel broke is arm and was never seen again.

The fellow in the picture above is Pasquale. Oh, sweet, sweet Pasquale. I cannot begin to list all the days Pasquale saved the day, but I remember vividly a few. Hard as this is to believe, many of my pots, pans and tools would disappear overnight. In the morning, I would desperately put out the call for a particular pan, spoon, knife, that I really needed. I’d get pretty racheted up pretty fast, hitting the twitter and white board with all kinds of threats that never materialized. On many of these occasions, Pasquale would wander into the kitchen, ask me what was missing and go on a search. I remember one day needing my can opener and being on the verge of tears, when after about 45 minutes, he emerged back in the kitchen with the filthy can opener and said “back yard”. A true hero. I spent the morning of my 50th birthday with Pasquale in my kitchen drinking champagne and tequila. Alas, poor Pasquale stepped on broken glass, got an infection that lead to hospitalization, came back, fell down the stairs and was never seen again.

We had a lovely young girl named Jess for a brief while, she never spoke, not a single word it seemed, to anyone but me. And she wore a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up no matter how hot it was. She was a doll, and I felt sorry for her every single day. She always looked so overwhelmed. I saw her recently, and she looked like a totally different person, happy and vivacious, and well put together. I guess she found a place to work that brought out the best in her.

My absolute least favorite cleaning person (I’m saving the best for last, like my sweet Irish grandma told me to do) was Martina. When I met Martina at the beginning of the school year, I was filled with hope. It soon turned to despair. She informed me she would be running a tight ship, making sure the boys threw out their garbage, put things back in the fridge, etc. etc. My eyes lit up with the possibility of having a cleaning ally. Turns out, she wasn’t about to clean a damn thing herself. And to top it off, she insulted me almost every day. She’d say things like “Look at me, I look great, I’m going to look great at Christmas this year. What are you going to look like, Joanne, you better get working on that” True . “Maybe you shouldn’t eat that”. True. She also like to dress – half dress- in a crop top and way too small bike shorts. And she would say “Can you believe I weigh 185 pounds?” yes, Martina, I could believe it. I had her transferred to a 4 story house up the hill, where she apparently hated it, and wound up getting fired and suing Lehigh for wrongful termination. You can’t make this shit up.

I’ve saved the best for last – Jaqueline. Jackie was the cleaning lady at KA during one of the most difficult times of my life, just after I lost my mother. She was just under 5 feet tall, and as I would say about myself sometimes, shaped like a meatball. She was a living doll. She was pleasant and happy all the time and never complained, even when I wanted her to. To say that she went above and beyond is an understatement. I gave Jackie a lot of my mom’s clothing after she passed, and even though my mom was about 20 or so pounds lighter than Jackie, she wore the stuff all the time. I’m sure that’s why I have such dear memories of her, when she walked into the kitchen in those clothes it was like a slightly shorter, slightly chubbier Hispanic version of my mom was right there. That alone wold have been enough for me to love her forever, but what she did for me sealed it. Jackie announced much to the dismay of myself and everyone in the house that she was moving to Florida!! We were all so upset, knowing we would never have it so good again. She said she wanted to do something nice for me, so she picked a Friday and gave me the day off- “Go do something for yourself” she said. Then she showed up in that kitchen with her sister and best friend and cooked about 15 things for lunch! I returned to the house just in time for what was no doubt the finest lunch KA had ever seen. Now, dinner was always full at KA, everyone showed up at the same time and ate as a family, one of my very favorite and really special things about the place. But lunch was often hit or miss, people had classes, were still asleep, etc. Not this day, there was not an empty seat in that dining room, and for good reason. It was one of the kindest things that anyone ever did for me at that house, and I think about it, and that delicious lunch, often.

I’m still cleaning my own house these days, if you can call it that. My grandmother used to say to my mother, who then said it to me “Thanksa (Italian accent there) God you have so much company, at least your house getsa cleaned then”. Of course, my mom didn’t say it in broken English, but the sentiment was the same. Hilarious, too, as my grandmother was not known for her cleaning skills, either. Since having a lot of company is off the table, the incentive to clean is as well. Don’t get me wrong, my house is always clean, but considering I’ve basically been in it for more than 6 months, it should be Jackie or Pasquale clean.

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