Yesterday at lunch, I scooped all of this reheated lamb-shoulder pile, with its tahini sauce & pine nuts & olives + pickles onto a crusty roll for Mari. He often says of [this or that] how he would have never known without marrying me & I usually demur, yk, Qui sait?
When yesterday he said, "I would never know about these tiny pickles if I hadn't married you," I allowed that might be real, indeed.
Here is a real thing which happened, and kept happening more.
Beata went back to Poland in September. She told me this in August & then there was a long, long talk she & I had which I did not follow at all. Not a whit. It started out good -- she was going back for her son's (new husband's son's?) wedding and she would be back in October. So far, so good.
Already, we are at the point where Mari will interject drily, as always he does when I start telling a story which begins with Beata told me/said by saying, "Honey, Beata doesn't speak English." It is fun-making & heckling, also annoying, a little, because he surely knows better by now.
Years ago, we were in our new backyard of our new home with our new-ish baby, newly toddling, and a guy appeared, suddenly, at the waist-high gate. He was about 30 feet from us, and he called out, "Mr & Mrs Sloane?!"
We turned, at once, and together said, "Who wants to know?"
Seriously, this guy, my man. True love.
The guy at the gate didn't miss a beat & took out a shield case & flipped it open. "FBI."
We shrugged, satisfied, and allowed that we were the couple he sought. G-men love the chance to dazzle people by flashing their credentials, so he was fine, too.
Anyhow, I digress, a little. The agent was there because Mari's clearance paperwork & to do our collective interview. The whole point of this visit is to determine that you are who you say you are. I mean, it was in 2000, anyway.
One of the things the agent had with him was a floor plan of the apartment building at our most-recent former address. He asked us to confirm who lived in which apartment. Mari called me in at that point, because even though he walked home for lunch every day I was home all the time & also, I think there is a lot of security in being able to know who your neighbors are -- what if someone is lurking to burglarize? What if someone is really ill & lives alone? What if a lady's spinster sister dies at dinner while she is visiting from overseas & then she & her husband decide to fake her death for the insurance money and then he decides to sneak into the hotel where she is laying low so he can kill her & keep it all? Well?
So I knew everyone living on his drawing. First names, last names, occupations, at least. Then he got to the two elderly women who lived on our floor. Did I know them?
"Oh, yes! Tatiana and Galina!"
The agent asked, again, for me to describe the relationship I had with the neighbor-in-question. Prior to this, it had been, "Parking space next to ours, eats a lot at McDonald's" or "Sometimes saw her going to the bakery when I was parading the stroller around. Nice." or "Home on disability, kind of a hypochondriac, leaves wet laundry in the basement too long." Typical & also, far-reaching in the way of a person who wants a good grade.
Before this relationship narrative, I lit up. I remember to this day, the lighting up & scooting forward to the edge of my seat, a little.
"Wellll ... they are elderly, and they don't drive. So, sometimes I would pick things up from the store for them or take them along ... there is a Russian grocery store by the baby store in Rockville and so sometimes I would ask them if they wanted to go ... "
I told him about how Tatiana had been hit by a car and broke her leg & we three visited the hospital with flowers & also I took her some Russian-language magazines to her to read & a couple of times I drove Galina to visit her and waited around with the baby in the hospital garden until she was ready to leave.
He asked a few more questions, like did they have family here, etc. I answered him fully, full of the deets & then he asked me a question I didn't know the answer to. I think it was why did they come to the US, but I can't recall. It was a question that I guess most people would know the answer to, like it would have come up in car-pool-y, mitvot, small-talking conversation, but I didn't know the answer.
The agent was surprised, flummoxed, even, and I offered helpfully, sweetly, "It's just that they don't speak English. I don't speak any Russian. I mean, spasiba, but that's it."
This did not actually unconfuse him, but I had nothing else to say, so I just shrugged, politely.
The agent looked at Mari, with a law-enforcement face I recognized. It said, "Is this broad pulling my leg?"
As he is from a family of civilians, I'm not sure what Mari took his face to mean, but he shrugged, apologetically, and said, "Now you've met my wife."
The point is, after a long day with Beata in the house, I can tell a lot of stories about what she told me. And we do ok. I have a Polish-English dictionary and I can draw. So, I will pick disembodied words I can't pronounce from the dictionary & they probably have the wrong nuance, but then I also draw what I mean and wham-bam, we are good to go.
But this time, in August, I did not know what she was trying to tell me. I kept trying to call Zosia, saying, "Let's call Zosia!" and she was adamant that I not call Zosia. I kept listening, wearing out my listeners, and having to say, "Nie ruzumiem, prosze."
In the middle of the night that night, I was waiting to fall asleep again after a trip to the bathroom & it hit me. In the morning I told Mari.
"Beata wants to stop working with Zosia. She wants me to hire her directly."
Then I worried, aloud, about the potential for awkwardness & weirdness & what was I going to do, and O, anxiety! Mari turned off worry's power supply.
"Honey, you don't speak Polish. Just live right there."
"But," I am always determined to be worried about interfacing with people.
"Honey, you don't speak Polish. You can pretend you don't know."
Oh, pretend! Yes, like gaslighting & equivocation! Well, why didn't you say so!
Omigod, and I know you had not realized I was actually this crazy. I'm sorry.
Then Beata was gone for the month of September. Zosia sent others to clean in her stead, and it was lovely. Rozafa is from Albania, very kind & thorough, and it's nice to have a fresh pair of eyes, plus she speaks with perfect English. This means I know about her mother's fall which happened in August while she was visiting home and so I have to ask after the mother's health, but I do & not just because I "have to," I guess. Zarya does not speak a word of English, but I still know how to say spasiba, & that is a super-important word for the person cleaning in your home, so it works out fine.
Everything was fine & I had quite forgotten about the trouble with Beata, in large part because Zarya and Rozafa are not so bossy & do not rearrange my furniture so much, and anyhow, one morning the doorbell rang, quite early, and Fifille called up to me, confused, "It's Beata. And a man."
Oh, of course. Because Beata earlier this year married a Polish man with American citizenship who she has told me speaks English. While I was still pulling on a sweater & looking for my right flip-flop, Fifille kind of announced the harbinger of doom from the hallway which was that he kept repeating things to Fille in English as if she maybe did not speak English. Uh-oh. I mean, that is bad. That is hollering-at-foreigners bad, as far as a forecast of productive communication. Hm.
I received them, welcomed them in, and then got all over him to tell me the deets from the wedding. Whose wedding, exactly? Was it lovely? Oh, what did anyone wear? The food? Wonderful! (Stalling for time to find my footing.) Also, either Stan didn't want to talk to me, or his wife hadn't told him this could be a social call, since, yk, English. But not too-too much English. After he waded through my nuptial interview questions, also the international-travelogue series, he wasn't very able to speak usefully.
After I got some tea on the table, with a culturally-relevant & to them v surprising jar of preserves on the tray, we got down to business.
Are you happy with Beata's cleaning?
Would you like to have her continue to clean here at your house?
No, wait, we're not done.
First of all, I wanted to know why this break in relations. I couldn't get a clear answer bc too-too nuanced, but the story was either that Zosia was putting Beata out to pasture or that Beata felt too old to keep up with Zosia's roster of clientele, so wanted to narrow her scope plus keep all the money. Sure.
Complicating was that Beata was proposing not only she clean my house, which meant I would have to terminate the service of Zosia's firm, but she wanted me to get out there in the street with my English & broker a mutiny with my next-door neighbor & across the street neighbor, who also use Zosia's services. Because, yk, one day your phone rings & your sweet neighbor demands to know how much you pay & can she come & inspect with a white glove & also: what is the number?
Very normal, sure, but that will be weird, if the whole block drops out of the schedule at once. And, look, I'm from Chicago -- I know that I can be sly, but no way am I up to double-crossing Eastern Europe. No way.
The second thing is that I wasn't able to really navigate what it meant to me -- besides wordlessly rearranged furniture -- if I hired Beata directly. Is she a business? What is my obligation as I contract her, for taxes & all of those things? Does she have insurance? I mean, she doesn't even drive! And Beata is not a young woman. She is in her 60s (but her husband is totally in his 50s & omg so foxy, too, omg, go, girl) and what if she gets ill? Sad, yes, but who will clean my house? And if I double-cross Zosia? Hate to think. I'll never get my house cleaned in this town again!
I mean, sure, I can always call some Merry Maids filthy slatterns, employees who spray Fantastik around & wipe it off with paper towels, but ugh! The reason my house stays so clean is because I give it a Mop & Glo lick and a promise every day. I hired Zosia's company come twice a month to fill a bucket with sudsy water, wield a scrubbing brush, and mean it. It is hard to find a company who will clean windows or clean the fridge when you need it, or do whatever needs to be done in its time, let along for God's sake vacuuming under the furniture.
Our people in DC, capable th0ugh they are, would for the first year not even do the dishes. Sal leaves drained coffee cups & half-glasses of water lining every room in the house by the time they (or until I) arrive, and the ladies would gather them all up & leave them in the sink. I had to go ten rounds with the guy in the office to get them to load the dishwasher with all that they found. One memorable exchange from the endless negotiation:
Well, they can not know what dishes are fine to put in the dishwasher & which are not.
Then maybe they can use the sponge and the dishwashing liquid before putting them to dry on the drainboard.
Seriously. I finally got through to him by expressing that it really took the wind from the sails of their hard work & diminished the lustre of the clean to have them leave a big sink of dishes, piled up. But that is just it -- clean means clean, but not to every service. Everyone Zosia sends is more than capable of cleaning until clean. I can do a half-assed job of cleaning my house for no extra money.
So, anyhow, being reliant only on Beata herself was one worry I had. At the same time, yk, American Dream and all, why not? I had to talk to Stan's daughter on the phone a little, to really get the details ironed out, but ok, sure. I wasn't enthusiastic, but I was trying to not be attached.
The day after Beata & her husband visited, Zosia was scheduled to send people already. As it was too late for me to cancel, and certainly much too late to cancel forever, I made an arrangement for Beata to start next week, on a different day, and alternate weeks thereafter. I had no plan for what to tell Zosia, but I had definitely contracted Beata. I would see her next Thursday; it was eight days away.
The very next week, Wednesday, the day before Beata was due to begin, Zosia was there to drop off a crew for an off-schedule, special-event cleaning of Kitty Cat Neighbor's home. Kitty Cat had come across the street that morning to see if I could keep her key for when Zosia arrived because Zosia changed the time the night before. Now, as a Kitty Cat aside, she seemed pissed off, like she wanted me to not be able to take the key or be home later to give it out, so she could HAVE IT OUT with Zosia about HER TIME AND ITS WORTHFULNESS. Like, she kept trying to talk me out of my availability & willingness. Ahahahaha, Kitty Cat! Hilarious! Try another day!
Anyhow, that was that first day that my dumb kid was a runaway. I invited Zosia in for tea and preserves & also to ask her to tell me something good. She is lovely & we had a really nice visit. Toward its end, she said something like, "Oh, Beata will come soon & ask you for a job."
Naturally, I started scanning our visit's landscape for a trap. At the same time, I pretended to know nothing & asked Zosia to lay it on me. Zosia said that she knew that Beata had been contacting clients to try to get them to go with her. I said, (thank God for my husband & the way he sees straight through), "But, Zosia, Beata doesn't speak English." Like, so crazy! Who can negotiate business with a diagram?
Oh, yes, no she does not speak English, Zosia agreed. Zosia chirped & chirruped some more about how there is the nominally English-speaking husband and also an Englisk-speaking cousin of Beata. She did not seem like she was really concerned about the poaching. She told me the story of how she found out & what happened when she subsequently checked in with clients, as she was kind of doing with me.
Evidently, girls the age of my kids were home, strictly-instructed to open the door for no one, and Beata came by to sell her services. The girls called their mother at the office ("Mom, Beata is here") and the mother called Zosia ("Why is Beata at my house?")
It was then that I started to really think about the soundness of Beata's business venture & consider how it would affect me. Then, Zosia told me something which could be pure calumny, ok, but spoke right into the heart of my major misgiving about having the ronin cleaner Beata in our home.
Zosia said that Beata once mentioned that her retirement plan (or her husband's, I couldn't tell because sometimes pronouns & I think in Polish the gender might be implicit in the other words bc pronouns, often) was an accident and an insurance payout. Oh, gosh, no! Never you mind! In this house, with all these stairs? No way!
When Beata arrived the next morning, I thanked her, presented her with 3 $50 bills & firmly-yet-somehow-graciously denied her entrance and wished her the best of luck. Goodbye! With severance for a job you never worked! Do widzenia! And then her driver husband, OMG! He didn't see me give her the money, but Beata was pleased to leave with something in her purse, with her sweet, pleasant countenance, so we were doing our usual talking/not-talking lady-chatter. When he finally walked up & we were finishing, I thanked him, and I said, to him, "Thank you, good luck with everything!
"Jak sie movi good luck po polsku?" I asked him. AND HE IGNORED ME. HE WATCHED ME SPEAK DIRECTLY TO HIM & DID NOT ANSWER ME. I ASKED THREE TIMES. I SAID PROSZE, TWICE, although I think the supplication is in the conjugation. OMIGOD, IT IS TRUE YOU PLANNED TO PUSH YOUR WIFE DOWN MY STAIRS. GOOD BYE FOREVER.
This stuff! Is always happening to me! And every time I make a clean getaway! Remember the time my old boyfriend came to town & the Nazis kept stealing me & my stuff! Well, look what happened to those guys! And the whole time, I kept my eyes closed and my ears open! God is so good, let's kiss. je vous adore, so much! xoxoxox