Monday, September 13, 2010

On switching gears yet again

So, I was a little bit stir crazy that first week of school. I'd been watching our savings account slowly dwindle over the summer. And I had been looking at jobs online for weeks; I'd been noticing a disturbing trend among the so-called "writing" jobs.

Writing does not require any real training or skill these days—did you know? Any opinionated fool with an internet connection can share his or her lunacy, however poorly worded or ineffectively expressed, for the entire world to consume like soda pop and salty chips.

I knew it was coming to this, I did. I foresaw it with texting, and responses on YouTube, and comments on every online article (even the news), and even in the rapidly growing number of blogs. I could easily predict that the value of the word would plummet as words became more and more common and available. And indeed, that has happened.

The turning point was a writing job advertised on craigslist, which specified that no writing experience was necessary. I followed that one by clicking on a cleaning job that paid better anyway. You can probably guess what happened: I called about the cleaning job. And got it.

I don't know how long I'll last. I've only been at it for a week, and part-time at that. I've been in some unbelievably swank, sumptuous homes—the kind of homes I did not believe existed except among celebs and sports heroes. In fact, I've been in a celebrity home of sorts, a name you'd recognize (no, not a sports hero, so get your skivvies untangled). It's been eye-opening to say the least. If this is the world of home-cleaning during a recession, then HOLY COW, people, I don't think I'd be able to take it when the economy's good. I might end up at Gatsby's house, and then who knows what could happen...

I've learned that I'm actually not such a good cleaner. All this time, I've been known as a neatnik. Some people (including me) actually thought I had OCD tendencies; not so. Actually, I am only bothered by clutter. For all these years, I've been absentmindedly avoiding the real scum in my home. Well, I can't do that any more—my blissful, if smudgy, ignorance has been wiped unforgivingly clear. Happily, I've also begun to learn some of the tricks of the trade.

I've suddenly become mindful of how a single hair left on porcelain can undo an hour's worth of scrubbing in the eyes of a client.

I've learned that even rich people's kids make messes with toothpaste, and sometimes miss the toilet.

I've learned, too, that I never want to own stainless steel appliances.

I've learned how one industry is taking advantage of the two income, work-or-run-constantly lifestyle, and making it profitable. More power to them; these people earn every penny. I never dreamed this was such grueling work. I thought I was in pretty good physical shape, and knew how to get a house in order. Wrong. I will never again take for granted a shiny hotel shower, a perfectly vacuumed carpet or spotless tiles. Those cleaning people, carrying a giant bucket of supplies, toting a mop or broom? Never again will those people go unnoticed by me. They are slaving, doing an honest day's work. They deserve my recognition.

I've learned there are far worse jobs than this one. While I'm scrubbing, or dusting, or whatever, my mind is focused on the job at hand. When I'm done, I'm weary, sometimes sore...but not in a bad way. I don't have to feel guilt about what I've done. I haven't talked an older person into an unnecessary home improvement. I haven't sold a gadget that doesn't work. I haven't contributed to someone's poor health by creating an unhealthy food item, or selling cigarettes or trans-fatty donuts. I haven't even been forced to make yet another round of pointless, expensive changes to a client's advertisement, newsletter, or catalog.

Still. This is hard. And humbling. And I don't know how long I'll last. It's money, it gets me out of the house, and it's probably good for me. Is it ultimately what I'm supposed to be doing? I don't know. Is it using my best God-given talents? Doubtful. And might I be fired because I stink at it? Perhaps. I've left every job by my choice, in my time, except for one: the first I'd ever had, where I was let the local supermarket. It seems I do not excel at the menial stuff. Hmmmm. Go figure.

I'll keep you posted. Until then, say hello to the next cleaning person you see. And if it's me? Try not to snicker.


Facie said...

I think I posted about this before, the proofreading job downtown for 8 lousy bucks an hour. After I paid for parking and childcare in the summer and with taxes taken out, I would be in the hole if I took that job. When I checked back a few months later, I noticed (what I assumed was) the same job for 9 bucks and then maybe a few weeks later it was up to 10. I was a really good proofreader (still am). Worth so much more than that lousy pay.

You make some good points about the advantages of cleaning over other jobs. "Pointless changes" was a key phrase for me. :-)

Good luck.

chris h. said...

I have friends and family who have worked cleaning houses at various times -- hard work, yes, but I think satisfying. You at least get to see the results of your effort in a meaningful way. And you can truly leave it at the door at the end of the day. I can't say that happens much in my job (as you know firsthand).

Facie said...

I have to add that I just saw a "job" in craigslist to write 450-word articles for 5 BUCKS PER ARTICLE.

I don't know about you, but it takes me anywhere from 25 to 60 minutes to write my reg blog posts, and those are things that interest me, and I tend to go back and proof my work. Unless one could bang out an article in 10 or 15 minutes, it is practically a crime. I made more money when I worked in the dining hall in college in the mid 90s.

Joyce's Art Stores said...

Thanks Mel, for your nice comments left on my blog! Good to hear from you again! Glad it brought me back to your blog too.....couldn't stop reading and ended up sitting at my computer longer than I intended to, first thing this morning! Love your writing. I realized as I read this blog entry that I too am a neatnik who hates clutter but probably isn't so good with the detailed spic and span cleaning.....even though, like you, I've always thought I was! I've also wondered if I have a bit of borderline OCD with my penchant for wanting everything ordered and tidy and "lined up".....while being able to live with not-so-clean windows at the same time.

Mel said...

Yes, yes, what people want to pay for writing is atrocious. and chris, I had a little bit of that feeling of seeing results... but not enough to make up for the rest.

Joyce, thanks for stopping! And for your kind comments. I'm pretty sure now that I am not a neatnik, just someone who likes things put away in their places. But I did learn a bit about better cleaning techniques, so hopefully I'll use them at home. ; ) (P.S. My windows right now??? Just awful. Where's my Windex?)