Widgets Magazine

Oct 5, 2011

Work for a Song

Some random house
I was raised with an interesting philosophy…if you can make money, any amount of money by working, you should do it. When I was a teenager, I worked at Taco Time for a couple of years. When I finally quit that job, I needed to figure out a way to make a little money. I wanted to take some voice lessons and even at a discounted price they were $10 each.

Grandma got tired of hiring me to help out at her house, so she started talking around with a few of her cronies to see if anyone had any work I could do. I didn’t want a full-time job because I was already stretched to the breaking point trying to attend high school and college at the same time. I was a member of the choir, in the musical, on the Youth City Council…you get the idea.

So Grandma had a friend. She was an old spinster-type who lived alone in a big old house on Main Street. We rarely saw her even at church, although I knew who she was by sight. Anyway, she was looking for somebody to clean her house. Since Grandma had taught me to clean so well for money, we both thought this might be a good way to bring in a little cash.

Grandma arranged everything and all I had to do was show up on Saturday and work until it was done. The problem was that there is no way I could have cleaned this lady’s house in a month full of Saturdays! It was a total disaster!

I started with the kitchen. It looked like it nothing had been touched for at least a week. The sink and counters were piled with dishes, many of them still containing spoiled food. Some pots and pans had fallen to the floor and no one had bothered to pick them up, their contents spilling onto the faded linoleum. There were boxes and packages and wrappers here, there and everywhere. Some empty, some not.

Not our house

It took me about 4 hours just to clean up the kitchen. She didn’t have a dishwasher, so everything had to be washed by hand. Because of all the rotten food, I had to keep changing the water. By the time I was finally finished and had mopped the floor, my fingers were shriveled up like little prunes.

I moved on to the living room (and of course found more dirty dishes) although it wasn’t quite as bad as the kitchen. It only took me about an hour and a half before I was able to vacuum. By that time, I was extremely tired and ready to go home. Unfortunately, my commitment was for 8 hours and I wasn’t there yet.

I walked passed the bathroom without even opening the door and headed for her bedroom. In hindsight, that was probably a bad choice. The room was rather dark, with heavy curtains covering the windows. The TV blared in the corner and the room was mostly filled with a large bed…and she was in it! I switched on the light and she glared at me although she didn’t say anything, just harumphed and rolled over.

I don’t remember the type of flooring in the room, but it wasn’t carpeted, unless you count the garbage that lay all over it. I headed back to the kitchen and started looking for a trash bag. I finally found one and stomped my way back to the bedroom. I was getting angrier by the moment. This was not what I had bargained for!
picture credit
Thankfully, almost everything on the bedroom floor went straight into the garbage bag. I will spare you the details, but the worst thing I pulled out was halfway under the bed…a half-eaten pie, moldy, with a fork still stuck in it. As the minutes ticked away, I swept the remaining crumbs (and there were a lot of them!) into the dustpan. I was finally finished. As I turned to go, she demanded that I take care of a few more random items and then mumbled something about getting the money to Grandma. I washed my hands in hot water right before I headed out the door. I was so glad to be rid of that place!

A couple of days later, Grandma brought me an envelope with my pay. I opened it up and out dropped a ten-dollar bill. “She wants to know if you can come back next week,” Grandma smiled. I turned the bill over in my hands, hoping that it was stuck to another bill somehow. Just enough for one voice lesson. “My days as a maid are over!” I vowed. Yeah, right.


Anonymous said...

oh my gosh thats horrible! What an experience!

GrumpyJaxMomOf3 said...

That does not sound very fun :(

M-Cat said...

UGH - I can picture the inside of the home of one of the widows in our ward. Sounds much to be the same and while she has begged for someone to help her clean it up, and ward has dony MANY times and MANY projects to help her get it under control, she makes no effort to help herself. Fine line between service and being taken advantage of. And for 10 bucks?!?! You were smart to end that gig!

Tracie said...


Amanda said...

no way... i was waiting for something... didn't Grandma ask what you did over there? If $10 was worth your time... even whatever year this was $10 for an 8 hour day is miserable!

Anonymous said...

I cleaned in high school, rich peoples homes, everything had to be done they wanted, but they paid big big time, one saturday while my friends got to sleep in I was cleaning an oven, mopping a floor and vacuuming, also baking a big Ham the lady of the house showed me how to do it, I was thinking of quitting, no I did not, she paid me $50.00 this was 1965 mind you, I set out her table for the dinner she was having! gussied up the flower arrangement all silk roses..I never complained, I was starving by the time I got done which to me the time just flew, she handed me the $50.00 bill and also cut the Ham in half for serving and the au gratin spuds in a nice disposable container and some rather lovely parker house rolls also a big pie for just me and my family...I nearly fainted, she drove me home and asked if I could come once a month for $75.00 a pop, you bet I did! When I graduated in 1966 to leave for San Diego, california to college and my grandmother's tiny apt. I had saved up nearly $1,000 from that housekeeping job, she attended my graduation, mind you many in my family did not..She gave me a card and $100.00 bill inside..and told me if I needed a reference for any job to put her name and address down she would make sure I got any job I wanted..wow whee, 45 almost 46 years later I have always thought this lady helped me to get a real job in the real world by simply showing up, doing the work the way she wanted, never complained at all, and cleaned her home happily, it is all how you are treated for $10.00 what you did was a ridiculously low amount she paid you for working like crazy, too bad some people don't have any manners or courtesy whatsoever!!!!!!!!!!!

Lori: Teacher Turned Mommy said...

bet you learned to negotiate the price ahead of time the next time! that is not fun, but at the same time you did a good deed

Emma Frances said...

Ah! I would die! I can't even imagine a house so disgusting. I wouldn't have even made it through cleaning the kitchen! Haha.

LeAnn said...

Oh my gosh; what an experience. However, right at this time I have a friend that I love dearly; but her house is just like the pictures. I keep hoping to know when it is the right time to ask her if I can help her clean her house. She offended when someone else offered one time.
I don't look forward to the work; but would love to help her. She has poor health so she can't really do a lot. It's very sad.

Julie Harward said...

My first job was at Taco Time too...and it sounds like great job training..to know that you don't want to be a maid! I am sure you do enough of that now!!! ;D

Shell said...

$10 for that???? Oh, ewwwwww!!!!

bichonpawz said...

Oh dear! I think you should have made a whole lot more than just ten dollars! My husband and I were just discussing this topic the other day. It seems kids today don't want to work like we did. We pretty much would have done anything for a few bucks!!

Arkansas Patti said...

All that for ten bucks? I'd have been tempted to take the trash bags back and dump them on the floor.
It is really sad that some people can sink to such nastyness in their homes.


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