Bleary eyed, I twisted the handle on the shower and in an instant cold water sprayed in my face. It took approximately three seconds before I fully understood what was going on, and by that time my shirt was soaked. I turned off the shower, enraged.
“You stupid bitch Lulu!” I hollered, but it wasn’t her I was yelling at, it was me. She was nowhere to be seen, of course; it was just the dog and I alone in the house. But this had to end, and soon, before I strangled this lady.
What had just happened had already played itself out two times previously: while cleaning the guest bathroom Lulu strategically aimed the adjustable showerhead to be facing to the side instead of forward, like it should be. Thus, if someone (invariably me) turned on the shower without looking, they would get sprayed in the face with cold water. Why this continued to occur was because I didn’t live at this particular residence, I was merely the pet-sitter. Therefore I couldn’t remember from one month to the next that she was lying in wait ready to sabotage me as such. This wasn’t the only passive aggressive trick she employed, no, it was one of many. And why would the cleaning lady be doing this to me? you might ask. Well…
It all started in 2011 when I first started pet sitting at this house. They were a retired couple that enjoyed traveling but also had a five-year-old dog that needed caring for while they were away. Like the majority of my clients, the reason they chose to hire a pet-sitter instead of having their dog kenneled was a matter of the dog’s demeanor. He was prone to panic attacks when locked in a cage for many hours at a time and wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t sleep and would chew himself silly (bloody) in the meantime. He was a very good dog but he simply did not like being locked up. Who would, right?
So I was tasked with his care, and we got on famously. I’d been running my pet-sitting business for several years by that juncture (a job that allowed me ample time to work on my novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World), and pretty much knew the ins and outs of what to expect from house to house. Yet one thing I always ‘forgot’ to factor in was the contingency plan for the other help. The gardeners, the cleaning lady’s, the pool cleaners and so on. The outdoor help didn’t require I be around for their visits because usually they didn’t need access to the house, but the cleaning ladies did. Some had keys, some did not. Here is where Lulu comes in.
She did not have a key to the house and the dog did not like her. Therefore, whenever she was scheduled to clean while I was at the house I had to let her in and stay with the dog in another room or put him in the backyard while she cleaned. No big deal, right? Wrong. I kept a very busy schedule of regular clients, dogs that needed walks, cats that needed feeding, medication, playtime etc. I needed her to arrive at a specific time so that I could let her in, take care of the dog and then tend to my other clients. Lulu, simply put, could never show up on time. No matter what time we’d agreed to, she’d never be there at the appointed time, sometimes not even close. I would call her on her cell and she would make up some excuse, say she was on her way, and then arrive two hours later. I’d then complain to the owner and she would sympathize but somehow no reprimands were ever made. Because of this lackadaisical attitude on both their parts (clearly a lack of respect) I’d simply leave when I had to and if the house didn’t get cleaned, so be it. After doing this twice Lulu complained to the owner and the owner decided to talk to me about it! The nerve! I suggested that Lulu not clean while I was staying there, or maybe she be given a key, but the owner said she talked to her and it would not be an issue anymore. So, to be fair, I allowed that we could try it again.
Yeah, Lulu blew it. She was over an hour late. The most infuriating thing was she never did this when the owners were home (a trend I’d come to recognize at almost every house I stayed at; cleaners, gardeners, maintenance workers etc simply came and went as they pleased because the owner was gone). So I lost it. I rescheduled the dogwalk and waited for her, and when she arrived I was ready to pounce. I really laid it on (without resorting to profanity, I might add) and by the time I was done she could not look me in the eye. She went about her chores and left without saying goodbye. After that, whenever I took care of that house, she was never scheduled to clean. She’d talked to the owners and told them she refused to come if I was there. I though that was just fine.
But Lulu’s presence was made known even in her absence, as I’ve already said. I’d been soaked by the showerhead three times, got a rash from the sheets on the guest bed once, stabbed in the big toe by a large needle hidden in the shag rug of the guestroom and, most horribly, drank what I suspected was urine in a bottle of lemon/lime Gatorade from the guestroom refrigerator. And did I report these shenanigans to my employers? No, I did not. But one of these days I’ll think of some way to get her back. You hear me Lulu? I’ll think of something, trust me on that one…