02 May 2007

A Stinky Dilemma

I've received a lot of unsolicited advice on the PU lately but tonight I am compelled to solicit some. The reason couldn't be more insignificant but I'm at a loss here.

I love our cleaning person Leticia; she cleans the undercarriage of our toaster oven and thinks it's funny when Vito tries to hump her vacuum cleaner. Not to mention, her Monday morning visits have kept us from living in utter squalor. She and her Brazilian cohorts have been cleaning our house since one of Caroline's chocolate Munchkins rolled into a tumbleweed of dog hair two years ago.

While she doesn’t speak a shred of English, we've developed an unspoken rapport; she waves, I wave, it's cordial. A few weeks ago, she started bringing her husband along to help her out. This way, she can work faster and perhaps squeeze in a few more cleaning jobs while she’s at it. (I guess. Again, we don't speak.)

Since I work mornings, I usually flee the premises on cleaning days while my sitter/magician brings the kids to the park. Also, Paulie is frightened of the vacuum. Last week, I ran back into the house because I’d forgotten my sunglasses -- and for some reason, it was steamier than a power yoga studio in there. Leticia's husband, who’d just started vacuuming Caroline’s room, was already drenched in sweat. He waved, I waved. Then I headed off to Panera for a few hours.

When I returned home, the house didn’t smell like lemons and vinegar. There was something offensive, almost menacing wafting about and it only got stronger as I walked upstairs. Ground Zero was definitely Caroline’s room, the scene of the sweaty vacuuming. Also, it was still burning hot. I checked the thermostat and found that the heat had been turned up to 90 degrees ( I later learned that cleaning folk often do this to help the floors dry faster).

Here, we were dealing with straight-up, unadulterated BO and man, it was pungent. An entire bottle of Febreze and some PetFresh carpet cleaner were no match. I opened the windows a crack to get some fresh air flowing – the usual repertoire. We’re no strangers to larger-than-life stench here. Caroline used to hide her soiled Pull-Ups in desk drawers and elsewhere around the house. But in those situations, you just follow your nose, remove the offending diaper and thus the stink. This was an entirely different animal, it was neither contained nor concrete; it was suffusive.

Hours later, it finally dissipated.

This week, I played charades with Leticia upstairs, turning the thermostat down while fanning myself with a tissue letting her know it was too hot. She got it. I waved, she waved and I thought: problem solved. Nope. This week, it was actually worse. How do you communicate this? Six years of French and Latin are completely useless. I only know how to swear in Portugese: “Caralho!” the Brazilian’s equivalent of “Balls!” (literally translated: cock. Two different things, whole nutha blog).

There is no diplomatic way to inform someone you like that their husband is stinking up your house. At least for me. I’d rather die. The guilt would chip away at me (the nuns got to me early). I know Jimmy would have no problem dismissing them without explanation but I’d feel like a giant bag of dirt for far longer than I’d care to admit. Damn you, Sister Jeremiah.


MLXC said...

I got nuthin'

It's a tough call. I, like you, would never be able to fire someone because they stank.

I am such a coward that if I were in your situation, and the stink was that bad, I would probably make up some excuse (i.e. my husband lost his job or we now preferred to live in squalor) for why we didn't need cleaning people anymore while secretly searching for another team.

EPB said...

KJ- You should have no problem letting this cleaning service go. This is where it is okay to tell a 'white lie'. Let her know that you have decided to save some money and were going to go about the cleaning yourselves. This way you shouldn't feel bad at all. I once had to talk to a girl who reported to me that her flatulance was causing a disturbance within our group. Now that was embarassing!

KJ said...

OMG, What did you say to her!? I'd die.

My only concern with the white lie is that the Brazilian cleaning community on the South Shore is a tight-knit incestuous group. The moment we hired someone else, she'd probably know. And again, the guilt. THE GUILT.

sb said...

KJ - that's a tough one. I have a suggestion but it's useless with the language barrier.

Why just Caroline's room though? Does this guy only clean one room and then leaves?

KJ said...

I don't know for sure, BG, but I've got my theories. Her room is the only one with wall-to-wall carpeting, thus the only one that needs vacuuming upstairs. Maybe vacuuming is the more strenuous of cleaning activities. Also it's gets MUCH hotter upstairs than downstairs. Heat rises, etc. I just don't know...

It's a domestic mystery. I can't believe I've devoted as much time to it as I have.

EPB said...

Have we ruled Vito out as the culprit?

KJ said...

Vito has had his room-clearing moments, but they're always just that -- moments. This was an extended period of stank lasting several hours. I don't think that little meatball could've pulled it off.

jal said...

Perhaps you could provide Leticia with a container of deodorant/antiperspirant next time she comes over.

It may be a legitimate physical probelm too. I have a friend who is allergic to the aluminum in most underarm products so she has a hard time finding something that will work in lieu of the usual drugstore items.

This is indeed a tough one KJ.

wmd said...


This one's a layup. Not tough at all. While I agree with you that you don't have to go the Jamie route of simply firing with no explanation, I think you can get your message accross and everyone has a little fun in the process.

All you need to do (and the kids can help because it involves drawing and coloring) is construct one of those picture puzzles like the game-show "Concentration". The clues in the puzzle should translate into "Your husband smells like a goat's nuts. Get him out of my house. p.s. Happy Carnival". I think it will work.

Boa Sorte!

Anonymous said...

Here’s a revelation...clean your own house and stop enabling illegal immigration.

are you sure there's only 'vacuuming' going on up there in your absence...george did it on his desk...with the cleaning lady. ("was that wrong?")

have a nice day :-)