When I arrived home last Friday evening, I found everything in my apartment to be out of order.
The lights were on; several pieces of furniture had been moved; and all my bathroom towels were missing.
I should also mention that the bed had been made, the tub had been scrubbed and the trash was taken out.
So what happened? Oh nothing. My housecleaning service just got a little carried away.
In hindsight, I should have expected that Angel, the professional the agency assigned to my booking, would clean it with the same unbridled enthusiasm and incoherence that he used to confirm my appointment via text the night before.
Thirty minutes later, just as I was about to give up on him, he resurfaced with two excuses that no reasonable person would challenge: his father died four days ago and he was, at that very moment, taking a state paramedic exam.
I wasn’t convinced that either part was true, but I decided to let him come the next day anyway. If I’m being honest, I didn’t feel like calling customer service to rebook the appointment. That and after reading The New York Times’s recent expose on the deplorable treatment of manicurists, I promised myself that I will never be the spoiled customer who gets someone fired for doing the equivalency of splashing a designer flip flop with nail polish remover.
So I gave Angel a second chance and felt pretty good about it… until he showed up obnoxiously early in an EMT uniform and a pair of Aqua Socks.
“Well you look ready,” I said, as diplomatically as I could manage.
“Oh, I am!” he said. “I like to wear these shoes when I clean so that I can get right into the tub.”
And then he squatted in my hallway, as if to demonstrate how to properly clean a bathtub, which considering the current state of mine, wasn’t entirely unreasonable on his part.
“Just one thing,” I said, placing a hand on the single piece of real furniture I own – a brass console table in my entryway. “This table is –“
“UNSTEADY?!?!?” he finished and attempted to rock the table back and forth.
“No,” I said. “It’s brass. You can’t use cleaning supplies on it. Just a dry cloth.”
Had I been paying closer attention, I would have realized that what I just witnessed was a subtle clue that this man was about to move any piece of furniture in my apartment that weighed less than 50 pounds – which is to say, he was about to move just about all of it.
And he didn’t stop there.
I don’t know what he was thinking when he used an elastic hairband to gather my cloth shower curtain in the style of a fancy French window treatment… or when he placed a vintage birdcage on top of a curio cabinet. Perhaps he wanted to add some sophistication to my bathroom – and allow my imaginary pet bird to roost in the highest point in the room. I really can’t be sure.
I also can’t be sure about why he disassembled my French press and hung my bathrobe and day-old pajamas in my bedroom closet amongst my cocktail dresses. I can only assume that he made himself a cup of coffee and decided to try on a few things. For the record, I told him he could do one of those things.
But I do know what he was going for when he took each of my piles of horizontally stacked books – which I had sorted by author and genre – and replaced them as one neat row of vertically lined volumes. He was thinking, “Lady, haven’t you ever been to a library? Books go up and down.”
When I came home to this scene, I wasted no time contacting the cleaning service and unleashing a tirade that I now admit was perfectly warranted, but totally misplaced. The operator handled it as I expected he would – which is to say that he answered the call with the mild disinterest of a person who learned some time ago that his company employs complete lunatics..
“Please cancel all future bookings,” I said. “I think I’ll stick to cleaning my own apartment. It might be a pain, but at least I know what’s going to happen when I do.”
The operator assured me that my appointments had all been deleted – though when I logged into my online account today they were still very much on the schedule.
Rather than call customer service again, I decided to given them a second-second chance. Not for Angel – but for the company itself.
After all, you never know what The New York Times is working on.