Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cleaning Up Appearances

I know I'm not the only one who does this, so I'm sharing my story in solidarity with the rest of you.

I've already told you that we have a gardener who comes once a week to take care of the plants around our balconies. He's an incredibly nice guy, and I forget almost every single week that he's coming until about half an hour before the fact. Last week, I forgot him entirely. I didn't tell him we were going to be out of town, so I can imagine when he stood at our door in the early morning, ringing the bell, he was wondering if we were all dead inside.

The stakes were high this morning. I woke up a full hour before he was supposed to arrive, which is a pretty impressive feat. I looked around our apartment and saw it was in bad shape. Phil had mentioned this a few days ago; "Every surface in this house is being used for something. I have nowhere to put anything," but he's my spouse, so he's stuck with it. I couldn't bear to look like an inept housekeeper in front of this gardener, though. This is irrational for several reasons:

1) He doesn't give a crap.
2) Even if he did give a crap, he only spends about fifteen seconds in the house, walking from the door to the balconies.
3) He saw the place during my first trimester.

And still I felt compelled to clean. I do not understand this instinct. A similar thing happened when we lived in temporary housing for a few months, with the services of a weekly housekeeper. Without fail, an hour before she'd arrive, I'd be running through the kitchen with a rag, trying to wipe everything down so it wouldn't be dirty. This makes no sense, but I know that at least a quarter of you do the same thing.

By the time I actually got around to cleaning, I had very little time before he was going to come. I had to triage.

He always goes to the living room balcony, so I started there.
"Look how orderly I keep my house all the time," she lied.

I got the living room squared away in record time, and was beginning to tackle the kitchen when he arrived. He was hauling in new dirt today for the gardens, so he was pretty occupied, and I was able to furiously clean the kitchen for a half hour.


This is what I encountered this morning.

I don't really know what to say about it.

I have no secrets from you; this was not a thorough cleaning job. It's like the kind of cleaning job where you throw the stuff in a laundry basket and shove it in a closet. I still worked really hard, and even postponed eating just to try to get it done before he saw.

This is how it always looks.

I left a little clutter for realism.

After all of that effort and starvation, he didn't even go to the kitchen.

The best part happened right before he left. He told me he wanted to show me something, and walked me over to the window he'd used to access one of the weirder gardens around our living room. Pointing to a dirty shoe print on the windowsill, he told me, "I wanted you to know, that's not mine. I didn't leave that dirt there. I cleaned off my shoes, so that was there before I came." I very solemnly said, "I'm glad you told me," and showed him out.


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