‘Now please, stop talking and listen to me!’ I can hardly believe this is me talking. To my cleaning lady! But I have reached a limit. The paintings are still very dusty, she didn’t take the hair out of the shower drain, the windows haven’t been cleaned properly, there is still a huge stain on the small table and she forgot again to clean the lamp stand. She hardly lets me talk, keeps pointing out things she did clean: ‘Look, the book shelves are clean! Look, I did the chairs! Look, there is no dust here!’ ‘Doesn’t matter’, I say. ‘You forgot many things. And I want you to come back tomorrow and fix it.’
I’ve never been the cleanest, tidiest woman in the world, to say the least. That’s of course exactly why I hire somebody to do the cleaning for me. Fatma is in her fifties, she really needs the money, and she’s very flexible: whenever I need her, she comes. Practical, since my days never look the same. I’ve been happy with her, but my happiness is decreasing. She doesn’t clean properly. Not anymore.
My own fault of course. I have been too nice. Several Turks told me not to be too nice to her but to behave like a boss. Order her around, criticize her when she doesn’t do things the way they should be done, don’t be friendly. I didn’t listen. I thought: if I am just nice and patient to her, she will appreciate that and work well. But now it seems it has turned out exactly as my Turkish friends predicted: she doesn’t take me very seriously and makes a mess of her work. I don’t know if it’s deliberate or not, but frankly, that’s besides the point. I pay her, and she needs to do the job.
So I’ve changed my attitude. With an angry face I point out to her what is still dirty. When she makes stupid excuses (‘I couldn’t do the windows properly because it’s cold outside’, or ‘You didn’t get new Cif’) I tell her to stop talking and listen to what I am saying. And I refuse to pay her until she finishes the whole job properly. Boss Fréderike has to take back control, and there seems to be only one way to do it. I got the cleaner I deserved. Now Fatma gets the boss she asked for.