I was at work until midnight last night. It was actually one of the later nights I’ve ever had at work, despite working in an industry known for late hours (I’ve been known to get e-mails from co-workers that are time-stamped at 1:30am).
Working this late, I finally saw my company’s cleaning ladies in action for the first time. Many times, I had seen them preparing for their all-night gig as I would be leaving. But around 11:00, as I was trying to put the finishing touches on my work, they brought out the vacuums. In my state of insanity, I asked with a sarcastic smile, “do you think you could do the other floors first? I heard the 7 1/2th floor needs a good vacuuming.”
No reaction. They looked at each other, and then continued their vacuuming. Either they took my comment seriously, or they didn’t get the obscure Being John Malkovich reference. Or, maybe they didn’t speak the language. Being a cleaning lady is not a very glamourous job, nor is it often taken by American-born native English speakers with good taste in movies, especially in a city rife with immigrants.
I used to exchange a few words in Spanish with our cleaning crew at my last job in New York, but these cleaning ladies were definitely not speaking Spanish. To be honest, I can’t even tell what language my cleaning ladies speak. I do know that they all speak the same one. At first I thought it was Portugese, but I know some Portugese. Then I realized it might be something Eastern European… which makes me feel like a moron for somehow confusing Portugese with, say, Hungarian or something equally obscure.
When I moved to Vermont and was first burning the midnight oil in the office, one of the members of the cleaning crew came into my office to empty the trash.
“Hey man, how’s it going,” he asked.
“That good, eh?”
I was in complete shock. Not only did the cleaning crew here have a firm grasp of English, they actually tried to strike up conversation with employees who were staying late. While I’m sure they were nice people, when I’m stuck at work at 9pm and just want to get the hell out of there, I don’t really want to spend time in conversation with the people who clean my office – or anyone, really.
I’m glad to be back in the city where the cleaning people leave you alone – even when you’re trying to talk to them.