When I was 13 years old my family lived in a trailer in what was the poorest, trashiest, and ugliest trailer courts in the city. It wasn’t the worst trailer you’ve ever seen, and my parents did a lot to make it better, but it was tiny and only half finished all the same. My mom had a broken back and was taking (increasingly too much) Oxycontin, my brother was very sick a lot of the time, my dad and I were both depressed and crazy. Things weren’t great! But my parents were hard workers, and were really trying to better our family despite the various rough situations we were all in. Towards this end, my dad started up DanJac Cleaning Services. We had several commercial contracts and he would take on carpet/upholstery cleaning jobs to supplement that, along with the occasional home cleaning gig.
This one time, a family hired us to clean their house because they’d sold it and they wanted it nicely done up for the family who was moving in. As it happened, I knew both of the girls in each family – Mika in the first family had been in my Grade 7 class in the french school I’d gone to – a place frought! FROUGHT! with classism to begin with. I was pretty unhappy about having to clean this particular house to begin with – Mika had never been kind to me. Denise – whose family was moving in – was a “friend” of mine that year in Porter Creek Highschool.
This house was beautiful, it was like a mansion to me – vaulted ceilings, two floors, lots of bedrooms and bathrooms, big windows, slick lighting, new kitchen, a huge lot in the woods out of town, nice carpet, perfect floors… I had never lived in a place like that, don’t think I”d ever been IN a house like that before. And man, we worked really hard to clean that house that we could only dream of living in. My dad drove me up the wall checking up on me, tell ya what. I understand now, absolutely – never mind that this was his reputation… my dad just hates doing things half assedly and he wasn’t going to let ME do it that way either. All through the day he checked on us – he even bugged my mother about it. There were fights! Things were tense! When we were done, he went back around the house and made *sure* everything was done, that we hadn’t left anything behind or messy or even left a door open where it had been closed.
After we cleaned this house my parents heard from the people moving in that we hadn’t done a good job. That we’d missed some things that were in the contract. We went back to do them – or rather my parents did because I think my bro and I were in school. We knew that we hadn’t been contracted to do what they wanted done – that is to say, very clearly, that we’d neither been ASKED to do it, and we hadn’t been PAID to do it. Regardless, what happened was that I went to school and sat down to lunch with Denise and some other girls and Denise started in on the way that we hadn’t cleaned the cupboards properly. My parents never shied away from sharing details of the company contracts with me, so I knew what the contract had been drawn up for – what we had to do. I said she was right – that we hadn’t cleaned them at all – because the option hadn’t been ticked off on our contract forms. To me, this was just talk between us – the business was between our parents. But no. No, in her estimation we had cheated her parents, and she didn’t even want to discuss it – obviously I wasn’t going to tell the truth because I was protecting my parents and all we wanted was money for nothing from people who actually had REAL JOBS. Then she sniffed, and ate her lunch without looking at me again.
I was watching an Eddie Murphy skit yesterday – back when he was funny, remember that? And he was talking about the ice cream truck and how there was always one kid off to the side who didn’t get any and how the other kids just *don’t get it* and taunt the kid about not having any money for ice cream coz his family is on welfare. And it’s funny coz it’s true! Haha kids are dicks, right? And I guess that is what brought Miss Denise to mind today. We weren’t friends for long, and I started wondering about why and when it was we stopped talking – and boom, it hit me – the goddamn cupboards, that was the reason. And now that I really turn it over in my mind… wow. WOW, you know? How can anyone go to school and berate their friend for not cleaning their house properly? I don’t even understand that world.
I hated cleaning other people’s homes. I wasn’t ashamed for myself and my parents – work is work. We made decent money cleaning, and we worked for ourselves. But I resented the fuck outta the fact that they had to clean up after people who were rich enough to hire janitors. I guess, looking back, I was ashamed of *myself* for being just the janitor`s kid. In a town the size of Whitehorse it was inevitable that I`d end up cleaning up after kids I went to school with, but that didn`t make it easier when it happened. I couldn’t really articulate all of this to myself at the time so I just got sullen, and lazy, and rude.
I don’t think I could ever hire a cleaning company like that. All I’d be able to think about was how resentful I was of folks and their big houses – and how I’d spend the whole time just envying everything. Never mind that they paid us, that calls from people like that kept us in business and allowed US to buy a nice house eventually. That didn’t matter to me – which admittedly was part of my own childish ignorance, but I wonder if it would be much different now.
THAT”S ALL FOLKS. Nothing really positive to say today. Everything is fine, really, but man I just wanted to get that off my chest.
But hey, Denise? You really were a class act.