“Me puedes dar las
llaves del siete hache, por favor?”
Translation: “May I
please have the keys to apartment 7-H?”
Doormen hear these
words, or something like them, coming from the hundreds of cleaning ladies who
visit city buildings every day, ready to earn $60 and up, depending on the
chores or the size of an apartment.
Just a few hours in
each place, maybe two, even three apartments in one day. Off-the-books pay. I
guess it makes for a decent living.
Of course, the job
consists of inhaling all kinds of chemicals, dusting, mopping, sweeping and
scrubbing someone else’s toilet. That’s stuff I have to do at home. So, I’ll
In most doorman
buildings, the cleaning lady routine starts with a woman walking in with
flyers. She asks if she can leave a few at the desk or somewhere else where
they will be found.
come across these flyers: “Looking for a housecleaner? References furnished on
request.” At the bottom are 10 ripped paper strips with telephone numbers and
names like Rosa, Maria or Juliana.
If they’ve been
working for someone for many years, then you may see these ladies on a regular
basis. They are familiar faces to the staff, stopping by the desk area or lobby
to talk with the fellas.
A little gossip
might ensue, or rather "chisme,” between the woman and her favorites at
the door. That’s another way for doormen to know our residents’ personal
business: We see and hear things, but personal is as personal as it gets when
you personally wash someone else’s underwear.
Once the women go
upstairs, it’s a quick change of sorts. Hair pulled up in a bun or ponytail,
sweat pants pulled on with a tank top and flip-flops. It’s a far different look
from the one when they entered the building and asked the doorman for the keys.
First off, they
might whiz down into the basement with tons of dirty laundry, if it happens to
be washday. They’ll try to load up as much as they can before anyone else comes
down to do the same.
As I have said
before, this is where we doormen get stuck in the middle of everyone
complaining about the machines being hogged, or someone removing another
apartment’s clothing from a dryer.
Now, maybe the
cleaning lady sits on a bench or chair waiting, a piece of fruit in one hand
while she reads an article from a magazine that’s part of a bundle waiting to
be recycled by the porter or handyman. Porters are infuriated if this magazine
is from a bundle that was already tied up. Doormen are put on the spot by a
cleaning lady coming across something like a laundry basket, a lamp or a
television that’s being thrown out and asking us to hold on to it until she
returns later that day, which sometimes means the following week.
handymen? They may not complain as much. Hell, some cleaning ladies can be
downright flirtatious. I’ve been told stories about staff guys trying to work
in an apartment and being distracted by that tank top being worn with nothing
else underneath. The apartment is cold, because the window is open during
Winter; you get the picture.
This behavior has
lead to other stories about a lot more happening in someone’s apartment than
just cleaning. My attitude? “Buyer
beware.” That $60 may pay for only an hour of work, with cleaning ladies going
up to an apartment and then back down.
But doormen, we
don’t know nuttin’. So, don’t ask, “Do you know what time my cleaning lady
arrived and left?" That’s when we do a little cleaning of our own, by
brushing certain things under the rug.