Musings & Thoughts,  Other

642 Things – The Cleaning Lady

“The cleaning lady”

cleaning lady with vacuum in office building

     Every day you pass her in the hall. Every day she wears the same uniform, the blue apron, so practical and nondescript. Every day she empties the bins, vacuums the floors, cleans the bathrooms and wipes down the surfaces. Every day she smiles and nods to you, and everyone else as they pass by. Every day she follows the same routine, never shirking her duties or bemoaning their repetitiveness. And every day you walk by her, without giving her a second thought.

     But what if you did? She is another human being, just like you, trying to lead her life. Why shouldn’t you take an interest in her one day?

     What if each night she changes out the uniform and into something small and sexy, in attempt to win back her drifting husband? What if she snoops through your personal notes as she empties the bins, scans through your files as she vacuums, eavesdrops on gossip and phone calls as she cleans the bathrooms and surfaces? What if behind the smile and nod lies dark and twisted thoughts about your demise? What if the routine only exists inside this building, and beyond it lies a life of untold drama and adventure?

     She could be a charity worker, a stripper, a mother, a serial killer, a counsellor, a psychopath, a hospital volunteer, a former convict. She could have lost loved ones, travelled the world, suffer from cancer, once been mere inches from fame. Her history and her life outside these walls could involve anything and everything; if only you stopped to ask her.

     But you don’t. You wonder for a few minutes from time to time, before you mind is distracted by the more pressing issues in your own life; that parents’ evening tomorrow, visiting your in-laws next week, the heating bill, the stack of papers awaiting you on your desk. And, in your mind at least, she remains the cleaning lady. Every day, doing the same chores and cleaning up your messes, no gratitude or praise expected. Every day, the same mundane routine, in a life that has no implication on your own.

    Or so you think…

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  • Emily

    It's interesting how you mention things that this hypothetical cleaning lady could have been, like a psychopath, serial killer, former convict, etc.–all with negative connotations. I just think it's interesting that we often view the job of housekeeping/custodial services as a choice made due to unfortunate previous circumstances. It might not be often that someone chooses that career path because they want to do it, but maybe nothing out of the ordinary happened that led to their job as a cleaning person. I totally agree with you though, there is something about that job that makes you wonder about that person's story. Interesting post!

    -Emily, from It's Really Rosie

    • Charlotte

      Thanks for sharing your opinion! It's interesting that you picked up on the negative ideas, when I tried to balance them with positive ones (mother, counsellor, volunteer) to highlight how her life is so unknown we don't know whether it's good or bad. However hearing what different people take from fiction and how they interpret it is one of the reasons I find literature so interesting, so thank again!