Ripped to shreds by an alcoholic malignant narcissist.

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I think I know one of the reasons why I’ve been hating my job more than usual lately.  Two people–a customer and a coworker, both malignant narcissists,  have targeted me, deciding I’d make a particularly tasty meal.

Malignant narcissists have a certain look about them. They seem to all have beady, penetrating eyes. They seem to be able to see right inside your soul, but there is no warmth there. If their eyes are dark, they look black and bead-like. You can’t see their irises. If their eyes are blue, they are cold and steely, sometimes with constricted pupils. I don’t know if others are able to see this, or if it’s just my imagination. I don’t think it is though. The problem is, I’m usually not paying attention to their eyes until after they’ve already decided to turn me into their prey.

They always seem to go after me. I’m an HSP and they seem to have an uncanny way of zeroing in on me and choosing me as their target. I feel so special! 🙄

I have a lovely job cleaning houses. I’m being sarcastic of course. Sometimes it’s okay, though. It’s a good job for a writer because you see just about everything and meet the strangest people you could ever hope to meet. I’ve done whole posts telling anecdotes about the people I meet on this job and the crazy things I see.

About half the time I work by myself. I prefer it that way. As an avoidant introvert, it’s exhausting and stressful to have to adapt my personality to someone new every day, but lately I’ve been being partnered with a random array of newer people, I suppose to “train” them. They never tell you that’s what you’re doing though. We don’t even get yearly evaluations. You get no feedback at all by management. The only “feedback” you get is through the customers, who sometimes call the office to complain or give compliments. But of course customer’s opinions are going to be biased more often than not so it’s not a fair way to evaluate employees.

Last week I was sent with a new girl to go do a “first time in” at the house of a former employee, who I will call Doris. I knew this woman; I never liked her much but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I didn’t like the way she looked at me with those beady black laser-like eyes, and I found her manner vaguely condescending. I remember how much Doris had hated her job. She complained constantly about the customers, and she was one of the laziest people I ever met. She skipped doing things because she wanted to go home. She was always complaining about how sick she was (probably hungover). She thought the customers weren’t paying enough (to be fair, some of them aren’t). She also had a serious drinking problem. Sometimes you could smell the alcohol on her breath in the morning.

I was surprised when I got my sheet with Doris’ name and address on it, listing the rooms she wanted cleaned. I thought to myself, she’s either going to take sympathy on us because she used to do this and hated it so much, or she’s going to be hell on wheels. Guess which one she was.

Doris’ house was a disaster. It hadn’t been cleaned in at least six months. Dog hair and dust were everywhere. Empty wine glasses sat on tables. Doris saw me and my partner and the first thing she did was hug me. It was like being hugged by a snake. Then she offered water. But the niceties didn’t last. We looked around her house and realized there was no way we could finish it all in the three hours she was paying for. I told Doris I thought it might take closer to 4 or 5 hours and asked her if that was alright. She would have to pay more though. I told her the office could work things out with her about the price.

She whirled around and stared daggers at me. I felt like a cornered animal.

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“I asked for four ladies, not two.” I looked at my partner, who was giving me that “uh oh” look. “Oh, but don’t worry,” Doris purred sweetly, dripping poison honey. “I know that’s not your fault. I’m sure you two can get this done in three hours.” Uh, right.

I called the office and was told they didn’t have enough people to send two more, so let the woman know this and apologized for the mix-up. The office is disorganized and has always been. “You remember how they are,” I said.

Apparently she didn’t. She was the customer now. It was as if she never worked there and her memory went AWOL. She showed no empathy for our plight at all.

I got busy dusting and vacuuming. My partner started on the bathrooms. For the first twenty minutes or so, Doris stayed out of our way. But soon she was back, breathing down our necks, especially mine. She glanced briefly at the bathroom my partner had cleaned and crowed on and on about how perfect it looked. Then she started dusting the bedroom, which I had just finished.

She proceeded to tell me all the spots I missed. Then she started telling me I was using the wrong equipment and should try doing it a different way. I felt myself bristle. I’ve been on this job for two years and I know how to do my job. I resented this nasty, drunk woman doing my job for me and saying I was doing it wrong.

For the next four and a half hours (which is how long it took to clean her filthy house), I had to put up with Doris breathing her alcohol-and-cigarette infused breath down my neck as she continued to get drunker and meaner. She made me do everything over at least twice. She obviously had it in for me, not my partner, who she left alone. For some reason, I had become her prey. I was to be her Cinderella for the day.

You are not allowed to be rude to a customer, even one who used to be an employee, so I bit my tongue the whole time. I put on my best fake-polite self and “yes-ma’am”ed this narcissistic bitch and smiled until I thought my face would crack. I inquired about Doris’ family, her dogs, her new job. I tried my best to be accomodating and friendly, but she was having none of it.

She had told us not to clean the kitchen, only to vacuum and mop it, because there wouldn’t be enough time. So AFTER I finished vacuuming her kitchen, this awful woman changed her mind and started scraping black crud off her stove and sweeping it onto the clean floor. Of course I had to go behind her and vacuum the kitchen again.

Our time was already up. But Doris chose that moment to stand in front of the foyer chandelier that had about 40 removable glass panels, actually tapping her foot and making tsk-ing noises. Cleaning that would take about an hour, and we had already agreed all I would do was dust it with the high duster, not actually remove the panels and wash them individually. But high-dusting them hadn’t removed the yellowish nicotine film from the panels (Doris is a chain smoker). She asked me why I had “skipped” dusting it. I explained that I had done what she asked, but that the panels would have to be washed but it would have to be on another day.

Doris’ mouth formed a thin white line and she hissed, “get the stepladder.” I did. She stood there watching me like a disapproving schoolteacher as I removed each panel one at a time and handed them to her while she rubbed them with a dirty rag and handed them back to me to re-hang. We were way past our time limit. Cleaning those panels took about another half hour and they looked no cleaner than they did when she was standing there tapping her foot and tsk-ing. I don’t know how I managed to hold onto my rage without exploding or walking out because by now I wanted to take a baseball bat to her damn chandelier and maybe Doris’ head too.

My partner had missed something in the half bathroom by the kitchen, and Doris KNEW my partner had cleaned that bathroom but she still started blaming me. “Lauren, you missed this spot on the side of the sink!” I couldn’t say, “it was my partner” without sounding petty and childish, so I just went and re-cleaned what she asked. I was shaking with rage by now.

A few minutes before we were about to leave, Doris told my partner how wonderful her cleaning was and that she hoped she’d come back. She said no such thing to me. Right in front of me, she handed my partner a $20 tip. I got nothing, of course.

As we were leaving, Doris stood in the doorway weaving, holding a wineglass with one hand and the other one clutching the side of the door for support.

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“Oh, I just want to say I’m really not very picky,” she slurred. “It’s my husband.  He was in the military and you know how they can be. He will be inspecting everything.”   Sure, right.  If her husband was so picky, why did he let her house get in that condition in the first place?  The bitch was lying and projecting onto her husband.

The next day, Doris called the office to complain about how I “missed everything” but fortunately they didn’t take her complaint seriously. They know I do my job well and that I don’t normally get complaints. It still bothered me though.

I found out today that my partner went back to Doris’ house again yesterday (who, by the way, hated Doris as much as I did) with the person I worked with today. Doris was drunk again, and spent the first ten minutes complaining loudly about what a horrible job I had done and that everything I’d cleaned would have to be done over. The woman who told me this said that it looked to her like the other girl had skipped a lot of things, and what I’d done looked fine. She said, “I think Doris just had it in for you.” They always have it in for me.

I was going to talk about the narcissistic coworker too (a covert narcissist), but I’m saving that for another post due to how long this one became, and also because in writing this I’ve re-triggered my anger and need to think about something else.

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Stories from the broom closet: adventures in housekeeping.

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I don’t write a whole lot about my job working as a part time housecleaner because of the stigma attached to a job like this. As a college educated person with a very high IQ, who used to make a living as an editor/columnist for a long-defunct medical journal and moonlight writer of book reviews for publications like Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, sometimes it’s hard to reconcile just how low I’ve fallen on the social status ladder. I’ll spare you the details of how that came to be, because it’s not very interesting and has a lot to do with self-sabotage and being trained to be a victim by my abusers (and has a lot to do with the economy and the geographic region I live in as well). I’ve written about all that before anyway.  This isn’t about that.

This isn’t supposed to be a depressing post though. Framed the right way, I actually have a very interesting and even fun job, albeit one that doesn’t pay much and fluctuates depending on time of year.

12 Reasons Why Cleaning Houses for a Living May Be Underrated. 

1. It sure beats sitting in a call center all day getting screamed at for things totally outside your control and where you are required to put up with and “handle” the abuse thrown at you. (I did that too and had enough after 4 years of it)

2. You’re constantly busy, and the scenery is ever-changing, so you never get bored. No interminably long afternoons spent watching a never-moving clock.

3. You’re constantly moving and it’s a great way to keep in shape. I was able to cancel my gym membership.

4. Sometimes you get tips, especially around the holidays. Some of the tips can be good.

5. You sometimes get really nice stuff other people want to get rid of: I’ve taken home small furniture, a crystal vase, books, an antique mirror, original paintings, clothing, leather bags, and shoes, various homemade baked goodies, and a homemade quilt (which got eaten by my dog, well I hope he enjoyed it).

6. I work alone most of the time, and as a socially awkward, introverted person who never could decipher office politics and the kiss-up games most offices require you to play to move ahead, this works well for me.

7. Once you start having your own clients who request you only, you begin to establish a kind of relationship with them. They look forward to seeing you and it feels good that your giving them a clean house (and sometimes providing them with company) makes them happy.

8. I’m not required to work evenings or weekends, and sometimes I’m off as early as 1 or 2 o’clock. Sure you don’t make as much on slow days like that, but it’s nice to be home early, as long as it doesn’t happen too often.

9. Although the novelty of this has worn off, it can be interesting seeing the types of homes people have and the way they have decorated them. Some of the houses are impressive indeed!

10. The work is mentally easy and I can let my mind wander while working. It is physically hard work though, and sometimes at the end of the day, I’m very sore! A hot bath with epsom salts usually helps though.

11. The pets are awesome, and are the best part of the job (even though they shed and make messes). I could write other stories just about the different pets I meet. Maybe I’ll do that sometime.

12.  It’s also a great job for an aspiring writer because you meet so many different kinds of people (they’re not all snobby rich people living in gated communities, though we have those too). You have a front row seat to a lot of family drama and eccentric types and other things sometimes that make you go hmmmm or WTF!   It’s a great opportunity to study and observe human nature and that hones your skills as a writer.  You also learn a lot about people.

Some of the things I hear and see make pretty good stories, so here are  five of them.

The humorist and memoir writer David Sedaris used to work as a housecleaner in New York City, and used some of the things he experienced during that stint as fodder for his uproariously funny essays.

1. The Lonely Lady and the Surprise Birthday Lunch.

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A well to do older lady living alone, whose husband died last year, seems to want company more than having her house cleaned. Although she talks way too much for my taste, she’s a sweet lady and last year threw me a surprise birthday party just for the two of us! She said she needed an extra hour and I thought, oh no, she’s going to want me to clean out her refrigerator or organize her closet or something (trust me, you do NOT want to see this woman’s closet–she’s almost a hoarder and never throws away anything).

When I arrived she asked me at one point to stop what I was doing and come into the sunroom. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and the table was set beautifully, with flowers and greens everywhere. She had prepared delicious chicken salad with vinaigrette and fresh tomatoes and basil, another tossed salad, sweet ice tea, and an amazing lemon cake with lemon buttercream from an expensive bakery (with NO cream cheese icing, thank God!) To top it off, she presented me with $50 in cash! That was a good day. And even better, she didn’t ask how old I was. I really think the woman is just lonely and felt like having company and I got the honor.

2. Schizo Santa Claus and the Cup of Hair.

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It’s not coffee in that mug, but the words say it all.

There’s another guy, a Vietnam veteran who looks like Santa Claus who probably suffers severe PTSD or even schizophrenia. The man is very strange and his house is a disaster and it stinks too. He always wants to go back to sleep after you clean his bedroom. He collects beautiful, antique chessboards and has them all over his house. He seems to be somewhat of a hoarder too and it’s hard to move around in the tight, cluttered rooms.

The man sheds; his wiry gray hair is all over everything. The first time I went there I thought he must have a pet, maybe a wirehaired terrier, but no, the hair belongs to him.

He keeps a mug of his sheddings on the bathroom vanity. You cannot touch it, you are not allowed to throw it away. The first time I went there I didn’t know so I threw it away and he started to panic. I had to dig through the trash to find the hair and with a pair of plastic gloves, retrieved it to its rightful place in the mug on the bathroom sink. I have no idea why he needs this, and I don’t want to know either. Maybe he’s knitting himself a wig or a sweater. Who knows.

3. Contact High and the Stoner House.

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The other day I went to clean a one-time house (not a regular client). The door was answered by a guy in his early 20s or maybe late teens, who was obviously stoned. He told me his mother was up in Maine having chemotherapy treatments but would be returning the next day. He showed me around the house and told me not to worry about cleaning his room, he would do it himself.

Two of his stoner buddies were there with him, and they all sat in the living room smoking out a bong and watching some anime movie.
Soon he came upstairs and told me he had spoken to his mother on the phone and she told him I had to clean his room after all (I know he had not been on the phone; obviously he decided he didn’t feel like cleaning it).

His room reeked of pot smoke and there were bongs and pipes on almost every surface and little piles of weed.   I got a contact high just from being in there.  Later I overheard a telephone conversation where his mother told him his two friends had to be gone when she arrived home the next day. I guess that was the last time he could party!

I got a $25 tip from him when I was leaving. He said the house looked great. I hope his mom agrees.

4. The Elderly Couple Who Refused to Move Downstairs.

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At another one-time job, the middle aged son from New Jersey had come to try to talk his elderly parents, one who was wheelchair bound, the other with advanced Alzheimers, into moving into a downstairs bedroom. He wanted to close off the stairs because of the danger of falling, but the father, the ambulatory one with Alzheimer’s, wouldn’t have it. The old man walked around in nothing but a diaper, and his bowed legs looked like toothpicks but he scampered up and down the stairs like a first grader jacked up on Red Bull.  He kept insisting he didn’t mind carrying his wife  (who weighed at least twice what he did!) up the stairs. Yikes!  This feisty codger had to be watched closely!

The son told us that since he was unable to move in with them (because his job and family were back in New Jersey) and they had bought and paid off the house and refused to move or go into a nursing home, that he would have to hire a full-time nurse and cook to take care of them both in their house. His concern and love for his disabled and elderly parents was touching and so was the old couple’s abiding love for each other. They were actually the kind of old people you’d call cute. In fact, I’d call them them freaking adorable.

5. The Malignant Sociopathic Bible Thumping Narcissistic Bitch from Hell.

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There was one customer that couldn’t keep a regular cleaner, because of what a horrible and mean person she was. In the short time I cleaned her house, I didn’t see one redeeming quality. First of all, the lady was a control freak. She was told on a number of occasions to have the sheets ready when we got there, but she wasn’t having any of that. She’d deliberately wait until we were about to leave before taking he sheets out of the dryer. When called out on this once, she demanded to have the name of the person in the office who said that, even though she had been told again and again to have the sheets ready. Basically she was calling us liars.

She’d keep you in her house as long she could (knowing full well we had other assignments that day),  standing over you watching everything you did and making you do things over and over even when there was no need. Her washer and dryer happened to be in the master bathroom so she’d wait until you had just mopped the floor in there before retrieving the sheets for the beds, leaving her shoe marks all over the mopped floor so you’d have to mop it again. She’d also push into you on purpose on her way to the dryer, and then in a sarcasatic-sweet voice, coo “I am SO sorry!”

One time someone else cleaned her house because I was sick that day.  She said this woman waited until the moment she came in to clean the kitchen and suddenly decided she just had to start rearranging her kitchen cabinets at that moment!

I finally had enough of this nasty character the day she blamed me for her vicious dog growling at me. She had a golden retriever, and usually they are very sweet dogs, but this one was anything but. I was coming up the front porch stairs and the dog was there, not tethered to anything, growling and baring its teeth at me. The woman came out and stared at me with black malevolent reptilian eyes.
“What did you do to my Ginger? She NEVER growls at anyone! You must have done something to upset her.”
That was the last straw. I told the office I would no longer clean this woman’s house. Shortly after that, she canceled service.

Did I forget to mention the woman’s house was filled with Bibles and plaques of Christian sayings and Bible verses and ceramic angels? Oh, and her husband called her “Mom” and seemed terrified of her. Also her grown children never visited. I wonder why!

If you like these stories, there are others. I can post them in a later article, if there’s enough interest.

My insane narcissistic coworker.

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In my part of the country, good jobs are scarce, and it’s very difficult to find decent work, especially in the field of writing or publishing. So, to make ends meet (barely) I clean houses. Yes, I’m definitely underemployed (who isn’t these days?), but I’m really not ashamed of what I do — it’s actually not as bad a job as you might think. In fact, most of the time I rather enjoy it (though it’s certainly not what I had in mind as a career for myself and never will be). It’s physical, keeps my weight down, and most of the time I don’t have to interact with people much, which I like. I also get to see some beautiful homes and some customers tip.

When I work alone (which I prefer), I can zone out and let my mind wander as I clean. I barely have to talk to anyone at all. I hate office politics and having to socialize as part of my job. With this job I just let myself into a house, do what I need to do, and leave. I don’t have to sit in a stuffy office all day dealing with people I would never spend time with if I didn’t have to.

But I don’t always get to work by myself, and from one day to the next, I don’t know if I’ll be working alone, or with a partner, or if I have to work with a partner, who I’ll be working with. Aspies like me hate that sort of unpredictability. Sometimes I get to work with someone I get along with, but things don’t always work out that way.

Today I got stuck working with the company narcissist. Everyone hates working with this young woman, but they won’t put her by herself because she sucks and can’t be trusted. She also can’t drive. No one will ride in a car with her, because she can’t focus on the road at all. She texts while she drives, gets distracted, and almost wrecked several times. She also wastes time, and snoops through people’s drawers, closets and personal belongings (she hasn’t been caught stealing though). I heard an incredible story that in one customer’s house, she found a gun in a drawer and started waving it around in the air, saying “Hey, look at this.” She was reported for that by her partner that day but incredibly, she wasn’t fired. She also talks to customers about inappropriate things, but for some stupid reason, the company will not fire her. I have no idea why. She’s a ticking time bomb, a liability, and everyone hates working with her.

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Here’s how my day went today. Initially I was to clean two houses by myself, and was packed up and ready to go. Then at the last minute, I was told I’d be working with a partner. My heart sank when I heard it would be this woman, who I’ll call Karen.

I told Karen straight out I would drive. She doesn’t like my driving so she took her own car (she doesn’t like anyone’s driving). That was fine with me because I didn’t want to have to spend time riding with her.

We got to the first house, one I’m very familiar with. She had never been in it before. She told me she would do the “dry” work (vacuuming and dusting) because she couldn’t bend over. I said that would be fine; I didn’t really care. I just wanted the day to be over with. I listened to Karen brag about how much all the customers loved her and how she never gets complaints.

I cleaned the bathrooms and kitchen. As I was cleaning the master bathroom, Karen loudly asked me who normally does the dusting and then complained that the person who was doing it wasn’t doing it right. I came over to look. There was a thin coating of baby powder on top of a dresser. I told her it was that way every week; the customers use a lot of baby powder. Karen argued with me, saying no, that couldn’t be it, the person who had been cleaning it wasn’t doing their job right. I informed Karen the person who was doing it was a supervisor and knew what she was doing. Karen still kept arguing with me, saying that supervisor needed to learn how to do her job right. I ignored her after that, and Karen started talking to the customer, who was working in his garage. As Karen always does, she started yammering to the customer about personal issues with her husband; I wanted to sink through the floor in embarrassment, but I said nothing.

narcissist_punishment

We had no further altercations until after I finished cleaning the kitchen. Karen hadn’t even started vacuuming the downstairs yet. As always she was wasting time on bullshit, like spending 20 minutes arranging the tote of cleaning chemicals (she is very OCD too) and yapping to the customer who was obviously busy and just being polite. Instead of doing her job, she came into the kitchen and started cleaning it again.

I told Karen I had already cleaned it, and she said, “well if, you did your job right, blah blah blah…you missed, this, this and this.”
Whenever I had to clean this house (which I knew well) with anyone else, no one in a supervisory position over me ever had a problem with my work. I told her I resented her telling me how to do my job, especially because she hadn’t finished doing her own work yet and we had already been in the house far longer than we should have been. Karen’s response was, “Well, when you work with me, I’m your team captain and I’m supposed to check your work for quality.”

I found it hard to believe this incompetent, time wasting, snooping, yapping troublemaker would have been put in charge of anything. Besides, a team captain isn’t supposed to do their partner’s work over, just check it. But Karen was cleaning the entire kitchen which I had just finished a second time. I was livid. We had been in this house almost 2 1/2 hours; we should have been done an hour earlier. It never takes that long to clean.

Of course I started feeling victimized, wondering why the office would think Karen was a better worker than I was and putting her in charge, when no one else had ever complained about my work and no customers ever complained either. And although I’m not very fast (due to being older), I’m efficient and could have cleaned this entire house by myself in the amount of time we’d already been there.

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I told her I didn’t believe her and was going to ask management if she was really put in charge of me that day. She shut up after that, and didn’t say another word to me, other than to tell me her back hurt and asked me to do her vacuuming for her. I conceded, while she sat in the car texting people and smoking cigarettes. I wound up doing about 75% of the work in that house, and we were there three hours when it should have taken less than two. To make matters worse, I would have to be sharing my commission with her instead of getting to keep it myself.

We finally made it to our second house but she was late, so I let myself in and started to clean it. I hoped she wouldn’t show up but she finally did. The customer wasn’t home, so Karen started looking at the designer shoes in the huge walk-in closet. I said nothing but made a mental note to tell management about that. Karen didn’t boss me around this time, but once again I wound up doing most of the work because she was complaining she didn’t feel well and had to keep sitting down. She left before the house was finished, leaving me to finish it by myself. I was actually glad to be rid of her. She was worse then useless.

I was still upset when I got back to the office and spoke to the manager. When I told her Karen had re-cleaned my kitchen and then justified that by saying she was my team captain, the manager cracked up laughing. She said, “Karen’s a troublemaker. I would never put her in charge of anyone.” I knew she had been lying, which was why she shut up after I told her I didn’t believe her and pretended to be sick after that.

I don’t know why they won’t fire Karen, but at least I know I won’t have to work with her again. My boss even said, “I knew I should have just let you work by yourself, so I’ll go ahead and pay you as if you did since it sounds like you did all the work anyway.” That was a big win, and I left work feeling much better.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted though, and when I got home fell asleep and didn’t wake up for hours.
That’s how narcissists can suck the life out of you.

Note: There seems to be a glitch in this post, with the large ad appearing at the top of the article. I don’t know how to fix that. I apologize if it looks tacky. It’s supposed to be at the bottom.