Monday, November 19, 2012

The housekeeper in my building

This is the day the housekeeper at the building you work in asks for a piece of paper and a pencil and you give it to her without even raising your eyes from your computer screen or saying good morning.

She's been working in the building longer than you have, and that's a long time.  She's 70 years old and you have to say everything twice to her, 'cause she can't hear very well.  She doesn't really clean very well, 'cause she's 70 years old and can't really see the dirt anymore.  She shuffles when she walks down the hallway, so you always know she's coming.  She steals the last cup of coffee out of your coffee maker and never makes a fresh pot.  She tells you too many things about her personal life and you find it's easier to act as if you're too busy to listen than to respond with any interest.  She's the housekeeper.  She's always around.  She's kinda like the furniture.  She's always there, but easy to ignore.

She's lower in the pecking order than you are.  So, sometimes, when the workday is particularly stressful, it's easier to get frustrated with her than to be kind.  Every Christmas the building takes up a collection to give her a "Christmas bonus" and you, reluctantly, toss in $5 bucks.  After all, you don't get paid much more than she does and nobody is giving you anything.

You listen to her complain about her granddaughter and how kids these days have no ambition.  You forget she's as old as your mom and her granddaughter is the same age as your son and you forget she's probably the only one in the household with a steady job.  You forget that your lifestyle doesn't depend on the money you make at this job.  You come in every day and you always know, in the back of your mind, that if they treat you poorly today, or they don't give you the respect you feel you deserve, or if your boss gives you a look you don't appreciate, you can leave.  You can take that college degree and eleven years of administrative assistant experience and walk out.  You aren't trapped in this job.  She's been here a long time.  You don't even know how long.  She's got nowhere else to go.  In fact, now that you think about it, you've heard her say she has a second job she goes to when she get's off work here.  She cleans another office building after she cleans this building.  She's 70 years old.  She's the same age as your mom.  She's on her feet all day.  You sit at a computer screen and type and sit in a chair.  When you get home, you're exhausted.  And the 70 year old housekeeper goes to a second job.

She never does her hair.  She gets herself a new wig about every six months.  She wears it like a hat.  Sometimes, when you are feeling a little "less than" about yourself, you laugh at it.  Sometimes she talks to you about cleaning the bathrooms here, and she's gives a little more detail than you'd like to know.  But, maybe, she just wanted to talk to somebody, but you don't want it to be you, so you say "I'm busy now" and she goes away.  She's WAY TOO dramatic when she tells you there is a mouse in the other office or that she saw a snake outside the building or there is a bee in the building.  But, maybe she just wants to talk to somebody.

So, today the housekeeper in the building you work in asks for a piece of paper and a pencil and you give it to her without even raising your eyes from your computer screen or saying good morning.  And then you see an ambulance and police cars pull into the parking lot in front of your building.  And you find out they have pulled a housekeeper out of the river.  At first you don't know who it is, but then you find out it is the housekeeper from your building.  It's awful.  You can't imagine how she came to be in the water.  Everyone is wondering what happened.  While everyone is talking and wondering and speculating, you remember that she asked you for a piece of paper and a pencil.  You hope it doesn't mean what you are afraid it means.

And then they tell you, she left a note.

686.  I just heard that she is breathing on her own
687.  Knowing that some of my readers will pray for her to get well and recover completely
688.  Knowing that God is in this deep dark place, too
689.  Comfort from co-workers 
690.  Being able to give comfort to co-workers


  1. Ummmmm holy moly.  I don't know what else to say.

  2. Wow! I have to echo Amber... I don't know what to say except for Wow. and Grace be with you!

  3. SouthernGalThoughtsNovember 19, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Praying for her right now.  

  4. dang....brutal....ugh...

    last night we had our third student die in 5 hits you hard...and you reliaze just how precious each one of them are...

  5. I can't find the right words. Not at all. Just sitting here staring at the screen, and praying... Yes, praying? Will you let us know how she's doing. ... I'm so sorry.

  6. I don't even know what to say.  Praying.  Please let us know how she is.  Sending you a hug, I know this has to be so hard.

  7. I cannot even imagine having 3 students die in the span of 5 days.  We are a fragile lot.  We should be more tender with each other.

  8. WOW. What a eye opener. We never know what the other person is going through. Be Kind to all.


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