Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A life lesson from a maid with Down Syndrome & Sharkady's New Blog

I almost exclusively write about poker.  This blog ties in, but takes place outside of the casino for a change.  Where I got a much needed reality check from someone in a world of hustlers and cons.

My roommate and I decided we wanted a housekeeper.  This may sound vain and excessive, considering we're both two able bodied twenty something (Okay, thirty something in my case.. Shut your mouth), women with no children to keep up with. Let me explain.  We both work 40 some odd hours a week, in professional fields and have active social lives.  We're both also home no more than three days a week, each, sometimes less. I work over an hour away, and more often than not just stay in one of the casino hotels, and she's part-time living with a male type, doing the domestic-y thing. Better her than me, I say.

Not an actual representation of our experience. I would never have so many florals in my home!

I only keep an apartment at all for two reasons. One, I found the most glorious place, at an unbeatable amount of rent, in a district that is impossible to get into. Two, I have two cats that I made a pledge to care for until the day they die, and they've been with me the better part of 10 years. So really, I maintain a place to house my cats. When they pass on to wherever cats go when they die, I will probably live in hotels exclusively.  I'm a sucker for room service, laundry service, turn down service.. pretty much anything that ends in "service". I hate cleaning. Hate. Hate. Hate it.

While I was writing this Blog, CatCat decided to silently oppose my declaration of his age, by showing his dexterity. Don't judge him. If you could manage these self-grooming positions, you would too.

So the very last thing I want to do on my two days a week at home, is to clean. And yet, even without humans here, the place manages to get messy. So our quest began here. We figure.. a hundred bucks a month each or less, to have someone dust, mop and tidy things up is a bargain.

I called a few people from Craigslist.  Most sounded like serial killers or grossly over valued their worth. I called a few professional services who promised low introductory rates and then read me the riot act on what they wouldn't do under any circumstances. I live in the world of casinos. Where everything is tip based. I also live in a relatively idiotic mind frame that you should be willing to do whatever it takes to please me, and in return, I will be expected to compensate you handsomely. Graciously, even. Customer service, like chivalry, is almost a fairytale now days.

I love our men and women in uniform. But THIS is funny.
On a lark, I spoke to the building owner and he suggested the woman who lives down stairs with Down Syndrome.  He said she's trustworthy, works hard and needs the money.  She also cleans for several other tenants.  I was skeptical.  She's always talking to herself, picking up trash off the sidewalk, and wearing stained mismatched clothing. She's sweet enough, but I once saw her taking post on the street trying to sell a dog leash for $4. She did this for several days. I almost bought the leash, despite lacking a dog, just because I figured she needed the money.

I asked around a bit and found out she lives on disability, and the landlord basically gives her the apartment at some sort of a hookup because he's a kind (very wealthy) man and it doesn't hurt him to do so.  This lady is probably in her 60's, appears to be entirely alone in the world aside from a 60 pound chihuahua named Babydog. Babydog is only about 6 inches tall at the shoulders, so you can imagine what sort of a weight issue we're dealing with here.

After the second prospective maid cancelled on me, in the last few hours of my last day off before heading to Tunica for a week.. before Mallory takes off for Alaska for two weeks.. I was desperate.  I knocked on her door and asked if she'd be available at 2 pm for a trial run.  No more than 2 hours, just sweeping, mopping two rooms and carting off a few bags of trash. Maybe a handful of dishes.  I asked her what her rate was and she said to just pay her whatever I could afford. I live in a "cultural" district. Which means the tenants range from starving artistic geniuses to owners of swanky pubs. The income is varied.  I asked what "most" people could afford and she said "$10?" a little nervously.

I immediately wanted to punch whoever is paying her $10 to clean their house in the nose. Not f'in cool, guys. If it's only worth it to you to pay the handicap lady $10, you can do it your damn self. 

Taking advantage of people on disability. Not cool.

But I also didn't know what I was getting into, or what her skill set included.  I made her an offer no less than 4 times her standard "rate", and explained that I would cover cost for all materials and tip well if the job was up to my expectations. She started crying and said she had never "had so much money from one job".  Now, I really want to punch my neighbors.

I expected it wouldn't take more than 1.5 hours, maybe 2 at the very most to clean the two rooms I was asking her to and $20 an hour plus tip and expenses was fair.

She showed up on time with a mop and broom in tow. I explained that some of the bags of trash I'd set aside were too heavy for her and for her to leave them behind and I'd remove them.  She assured me that she was stronger than she looked and to let her be the judge of what she could carry. I had about five loads of laundry I'd set aside to do this evening, and she asked if she could do them. I said I'd pay her extra, but that it wasn't necessary.

Here is where she won my heart:

I left a roll of quarters behind to do the laundry.  Our complex has an on site laundry room, where the cost is $1 per load to wash and dry your clothes. I estimated the entire roll would be needed as several of the pieces were bulky blankets that had to be washed individually.

Mallory (my roommate) went to nap, and I took off to do some shopping and grab some Sushi/Starbucks. I came home to gleaming hardwood floors and fresh, folded towels. I was happy, she was happy, I tipped her well and sent her on her way promising to call her next week.

Just now, I went into the living room to collect my towels to get ready for work, and I found the remaining quarters..$2 worth, resting in the basket.

This is a woman, who I would be VERY surprised, if she'd had $100 to her name prior to helping me out today. And she left behind the $2 in quarters I had remaining after she did my laundry?

Maybe I've become jaded working in the casino industry. Maybe I'm just jaded in general.  I don't trust people when it comes to money, but I don't really DISTRUST them either.  I expect people to do whatever they can for a $1.  It's the nature of gamblers, of poker players.. of people.  That isn't to say that my poker friends aren't some of the most generous in the world.  But everyone, deep down inside, is a hustler in my world and nothing surprises me anymore. When you're running good, everyone benefits.  When you're running bad, it's every man for himself. Or herself.

Shankin' people over White Chips since '99.

She didn't tell me I had change, to put me in the position to tell her to keep it (I would have).  She just did the honest thing.  Something I wouldn't have noticed, if she hadn't. I never would have thought about that $2 again, to be honest. 

She didn't do the best cleaning job I've ever seen.  I'm pretty sure there is still a bug that died behind the toilet, that neither Mallory nor I are willing to touch (And one of the primary motivations for hiring help). But I feel good, that my money went to her, and that she might be able to buy herself something extra with the tip.

She's got herself a permanent gig with me, and I'll be lucky to have her help.

I'm going to try to be LESS jaded.  I'll also bookmark this post, so that in approximately 7 hours when I'm knee deep in poker-world again and watching people slit throats over white chips, I can be reminded that customer service and honesty can still be found in small sects.  Maybe there is hope for chivalry, too!

P.S. I will be devoting an entire post to plugging her in the near future, but in the meantime, my girl Christina Sharkady has started blogging!  You can read her debut piece here.  It's salacious too, marching head on into the poker rumor mill. Check it out.


  1. wow that is an awesome story jenn. that makes me feel good.

  2. I came across this page while looking for something else that had a keyword "chivalry" in it. Up popped this page and I started reading in my bored, zoned out way. Before I knew it, the story was over and I was feeling less than bored.

    I LOVE that this happened to you and I'm very happy you happened to your neighbor.

    I hope things have continued on a great path and your, at that time, new housekeeper is still keeping house for you. I also hope the bug is gone too. Thanks for sharing a good read I'd have mostly likely never come across under any other circumstances. I've lived in Reno and being in Casino's, other than to catch a show, has never been of any interest to me. Live well and healthful! Peace!