Monday, October 31, 2005

When the Ayi Strikes Back

Before I arrived in Shanghai Phil had a great cleaning lady. The day I arrived her body was taken over by sulking, clumsy aliens.
Or so it seems.
The cleaner, or 'Ayi', resented me being here for any one of the following reasons:

  • She did not like the social status of being a cleaner, and so before I arrived she could pretend that she was more of a mother figure to Phil, looking after him. After I arrived it was obvious that he didn't need her like that, and that, yes, she was just a cleaner.
  • She was madly in love with Phil, though she is married with a child, and was hoping for the Cinderella happy ending that lies in the hearts of almost every Shanghai girl: marrying a foreigner and being richer than they could imagine. (Of course being a foreigner equates with being rich, regardless of the reality).
  • By me being here she thought that her workload had doubled, in spite of the fact that I did a lot of the cleaning myself. It may just be me, but I think if you are paying someone to come twice a week to clean your one bedroom apartment, you shouldn’t find yourself standing in the shower scrubbing black mould off the tiles with a toothbrush.
Whatever the reason, upon my arrival she started sulking like a child. When that had no affect she began breaking things. First she broke the doorbell. Then she cracked the wardrobe mirror clean in half, and dented the plaster in the wall in the process. Next she snapped the flush handle from the toilet right off. Finally she chipped the glass shelf above the bathroom sink. Previous to all of this she had been extremely diligent with the clothes washing, separating colours and hand-washing anything suspect. But in the campaign of destruction she began throwing dark sweaters in the wash with white woolen socks, shrinking the sweaters and covering them with fluff in the process. She also coloured many a white shirt blue.
When we tried to change the time she came from Wednesday and Saturday mornings to Tuesday and Fridays, she point blank refused. Then turned up at 5.30am Friday morning. Noisily.
I came to Shanghai excited about the prospect of having a cleaner for the first time in my life. I was expecting something like this:

I was not expecting this:

A friend who has been in China for a while pointed out that she was probably trying to get fired. She would lose less face if she could blame the whole thing on us (and by "us" I mean me).
In any case, the woman was a liability, and so we fired her (and by "we" I mean Phil).
And although we'll probably not get back the bond/deposit on this apartment because of everything she has broken, she had the nerve to ask for 3 months severance pay.
Oh, how we laughed.
So if you know a good Ayi, we are in the market.

1 comment:

maria said...

Oh my goodness, I almost pissed my skirt when I read this entry; the images were perfect! sooo funny!!!!