Smile while you're scrubbing your toilet this weekend; you could have paid Pam Mahonchak's housekeeper to do it for you.
"She really was a wonderful girl," insists Mahonchak, of Denver, who then proceeded to recount the tale of finding her housekeeper passed out drunk in the bathtub, letting her sleep it off in her bed, then paying a cab driver $75 to take her home since she was in no condition to drive. And she hasn't seen the woman since.Pray you never hire the women Kelly Busch had cleaning her house. They accidentally pressed the "record" button while dusting Busch's answering machine, and filled up a 90-minute tape insulting the Littleton, Colo., woman, her children, her dogs, her in-laws, her house . . . "Not only that, but I had taped evidence that they'd spent an hour and a half (talking and cleaning) in the family room, which isn't that big!" she says.
Then there's the experience of Diane, who asked that her last name not be used because her housekeeper was so crazy she hopes the woman doesn't remember her.
"My regular housekeeper was out of town, so the agency sent over a temp," says Diane. "She spent most of the morning throwing up in my bathroom. The rest of the time she spent following my daughter and me around the house.
"We went out on the porch, thinking she'd leave us alone, but she went out on the porch with us. I said, `Don't you have some work to do?' She said `Oh, yes.' So she went in the house, got a load of my towels and put them in her car! I had no idea what she was doing!
"I confronted her, and she acted very confused. I took the towels back and ordered her out of my house. Only then did I discover the empty bottle of vodka."
Hiring a housekeeper can be every bit as treacherous as navigating rush-hour traffic. Lunatics are everywhere. And the lunacy goes both ways.
Consider the experience of housekeeper Sara Shepard, who once had a client go nuts because she left the fringe on his rug pointing the wrong way. "He wanted it to the left, and I put it to the right," she says.
"People can be so weird," says Shepard, who has cleaned houses for 15 years. "I've been asked to wallpaper, to refinish floors. Once, someone offered to sleep with me in trade for housekeeping, like I'd take that in payment."
Housekeepers, like therapists, know your deepest secrets. They are privy to your privacy as are few other people in your life.
"I always know where the men's porno stashes are and the women's candy stashes," Shepard says.
Barb Johnson, a cleaning services manager, says one of her best clients was a domestic nudist. "He required that when he had a housecleaning, he be allowed to walk around in the buff. We had to match him with a very special house-keeper," Johnson says.
Linda Greene, manager of another maid service, just sighs when she recalls the time she went to estimate the cost to clean a woman's house.
"She had an entire carpeted room covered with cat litter," Greene says. "No litter box . . . she just poured cat litter all over the carpet - and the cats had been using it. She expected us to be able to take care of it. I told her that was beyond what our ladies could do and she'd have to find someone else."
Stories of housecleaners whose definition of "clean" offers room for disagreement are numerous. Seems just about every-one who's ever paid to have someone else do the housework can recount at least one instance of dust bunnies, unvacuumed carpet, unmade beds and dirty kitchens left behind.
That's why people who find good housekeepers report they're willing to put up with a lot.
"We had a cleaning lady when our children were growing up, and she was a neigh-borhood cleaning lady, so I knew the people she cleaned for. The very first day, she made the statement that this person and that person had dirty bathrooms," says Mary Grossart of Lakewood, Colo. "I immediately knew I didn't want to be a victim of this, so I cleaned my bathrooms before she came. Later I realized she prob-ably just didn't want to do the bathrooms, and this was her ploy.
"She was a very meticulous cleaner," Grossart says. "Around noon, she'd clean the refrigerator - and eat up all my leftovers. So I had a very clean refrigerator, although an empty one. I got to where if I had anything in there I wanted to keep, I'd take it over to my neighbor's house so I'd have it for the evening."
In fairness to housekeepers, even Hazel couldn't live up to the expectations of some clients.
Susie Aikman, of Denver, is out of the housecleaning business now. But she shudders at the memory of one woman who wanted to have her son's one-bathroom apartment cleaned for his birthday. Aikman and her partner offered to clean the apartment for $50.
"A one-bath apartment should have taken us two or three hours," she says. "Well, it seems this guy had lived there a year and had never, never cleaned anything. The toilet, the tub, the oven, the sink, the carpet - the guy was an absolute pig!
"And his mother was a slave driver. She brought a carpet cleaning machine with her, and for $50 we spent 12 hours under her yoke without a break. We didn't eat. We did nothing but clean for 12 hours for $50.
"We learned to give estimates after that."