Mr. Clean

My mother once gave her hairdresser strict orders that she was forbidden to die before Mom did. Mom was serious. There were fewer tragedies more earth shaking than to lose her hair salon gal. 

I’ll admit that I’ve never been to a beauty parlor in my life, but I’ve recently run into a similar problem. I’m a bachelor, I’m seldom at home, and so about thirty years ago I took up the habit of hiring a lady to come in and clean. I’ve had some really great housekeepers over the years and about a decade ago I latched onto one who was terrific. She knew exactly what parts of my dwelling could be touched and which regions were off limits. 

Even though I own a couple of computers my life still consist of various piles…one pile of research materials, a pile of music to be sorted, a pile of scripts, a closet full of wedding gowns. Maybe I’d best explain that last one. Since I often need costumes, folks have given me their wedding gowns over the years. Frankly, I’ve never used one, but what do I say? “Sorry, but you’ve got a really lousy wedding dress.” So I’ve taken them in. When I had a fire a few years ago and the cleaning company inventoried the clothing to be laundered I’m sure that they looked at the list of wedding gowns then looked at this retired bachelor and wondered what I did for fun on weekends.

Then tragedy struck. My cleaning gal had the nerve to move to Pennsylvania three weeks ago and although I’ve been given a couple of names to call I haven’t found the half day necessary to explain my house to a new lady.  The result: I’ve had to clean my own house. I’m really not lazy, but I found that I have no idea what all these cleaning products are for. I began by using stainless steel cleaner on my bathtub, oblivious to the fact that it’s porcelain. No wonder it did no good. I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I found a bottle marked “All purpose cleaner.”  In case you’re as stupid as me, this is a lie. “All purpose” doesn’t mean coffee tables. I need to get that smudge removed before the next cleaning lady appears. 

Having nearly ruined a nice piece of furniture I began reading the labels. Each manufacturer was nice enough to tell me not to swallow their product, but I really had no intention of sprinkling toilet bowl cleaner on my salad at lunch. In nearly every case it said, “for intended use only,” which made me afraid to take another step. How should I know for what use all these products were intended? Okay, something labeled “furniture polish” is pretty straightforward. I can figure that out and it would have saved my coffee table some abuse if I’d run into this can first. 

Then there’s the matter of rags. My former cleaning lady had collected an eclectic assembly of various rags made from my old tee shirts, wash clothes, ragged towels, and a couple of items that looked like Victoria’s secret was now out in the open. There was surely a reason that she had collected cloth of various weights and textures for specific jobs but I was clueless. I’d often come home to find that she’d stacked a small pile of cloths near the clothes washer to indicate that I shouldn’t be washing them with my delicates. Aside from the fact that I don’t wear anything that could be deemed delicate, it made me wonder if they were somehow radioactive, and if they were, should I be wearing gloves to dust my furniture? 

Bottom line: I was lost. I was a household idiot, a furniture fool. I briefly wondered how embarrassing it would be to call Pennsylvania just to find out what I should use to clean the shelves on my refrigerator. I looked for ten minutes to find the “on” switch for my vacuum. Heck, I didn’t even know where the electrical outlets were located. My house is old enough that there’s only one socket per room and they were all mysteriously filled with other cords. How did she do that?

I know that I’ve got to move quickly on finding a new cleaning lady. And yes, I’m being sexist. I want it to be a lady.  But how can I explain to her where things are found and how they work if I don’t know myself? I’ve considered simply laying out every bottle, can and spritzer in my possession along with the assorted rags and machinery and saying, “Okay, I have no idea what any of these things do, but I think they have something to do with cleaning the house. Good luck and I’ll see you next week.” 

I used to think Mom was being picky when she refused to have her hair done by anyone but her “hair lady.” In fact, when Mom died her hairdresser went to the funeral home for the final preparations.  I wonder who cleaned the funeral home? 

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About the author

Ken Bradbury is an adjunct instructor of theatre at LLLC after retiring from Triopia. He entertains on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat and is the author of over 300 published plays. Website:

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