Pin It
Favorite

'The empty apartment looked as if wild animals had squatted in the house' 

Worst Jobs 2015

click to enlarge JIM CAMPBELL ILLUSTRATION
  • Jim Campbell illustration

They mailed me a key to a storage locker, where the overhead light flickered like something out of a terrorist interrogation room. I picked up a bucket of cleaning supplies and a solitary razor to clean newly vacated apartments on Washington State University's campus. It was my first and only day on the job, but I can still remember the way the cleaner stung my hands.

Through college, I had professionally cleaned for a family. Paired with a purple boom box on Wednesday nights, I ruddied my knees scrubbing the kitchen floor and scraping remnants of what could only be spaghetti off a child's high chair.

This was different.

The empty apartment looked as if wild animals had squatted and vanished in the night. I started cleaning in the kitchen. The once stark-white cabinets were caked in ash-gray thumbprints and ooze that created tributary-like pathways down to the linoleum. Armed with a cleaning checklist, I was to use a razor to remove film from the glass cabinets and mold from the windowsills.

The task seemed possible until I smelled something vile lingering in the bathroom. I imagined a hairball the size of Texas clogging the shower drain. I pictured bloodied Band-Aids and a toilet seat camouflaged by pubic hair and whatever unspeakable horrors awaited me and my bucket.

But I never made it past the kitchen. I barely finished the cabinets before abandoning my bucket in the middle of the checkered floor. I couldn't return to that depressing storage closet, and yet overwhelming guilt passed over me as I deemed myself too good to clean this place. Too proud to carry on the profession my grandmother did graciously for 25 years as head maid at Benny's Panorama Hotel — a hotel, under a different moniker, that still stands in Colville, Washington.

As those stark cabinets closed in around me, I discovered that dirty work is not itself dehumanizing. It's only when I devalue my worth and my work that I should feel ashamed. That night, I left sweaty and terrified of lurking student loans and the prospects of finding a job as a journalist. Seven years later I'm still terrified, but I'm proud that I left that night. ♦

  • Pin It

Speaking of Worst Jobs

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • The Newcomers
  • The Newcomers

    Gonzaga has hit gold in the transfer market this season
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Earthly Delights
  • Earthly Delights

    A new local business brings indoor gardening and the terrarium trend to Spokane
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • BOOK | <i>HOP KING</i>
  • BOOK | HOP KING

    One tasty bit of Washington history
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Disgraced

Disgraced @ Stage Left Theater

Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 29

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Jordy Byrd

  • Halloween City
  • Halloween City

    Marijuana-inspired costumes for stoners
    • Oct 22, 2015
  • Farm to Pipe
  • Farm to Pipe

    Locals Canna House opens in Spokane Valley
    • Oct 1, 2015
  • Social High
  • Social High

    A Spokane company launches a new cannabis-focused social media platform
    • Sep 24, 2015
  • More »

Most Commented On

Readers also liked…

  • Blind Faith
  • Blind Faith

    In a vacant lot by the railroad tracks, an unlikely friendship is found
    • Jan 7, 2016
  • REMEMBRANCE | Gunther's Greatness
  • REMEMBRANCE | Gunther's Greatness

    Fond memories of a vital part of Spokane's classical community
    • Jun 24, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation