Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The
I could never see myself in a little French maid's outfit, except on weekends while doing my household chores, and I don't suppose I'll ever wear one because: (a) I probably couldn't find something like that in my size and (b) I don't speak French.
But that didn't stop me from becoming a maid recently when I joined a team from The Maids, a national house cleaning service, and helped clean my own house.
I wasn't required to wear a little French maid's outfit -- a yellow Maids polo shirt and a pair of khakis composed the official attire -- but I did have to work hard to get all the dirt and dust off floors and out of corners so the house would be, as it often isn't after I am done with my chores, spotless.
I called The Maids (www.maids.com) because a husband's work is never done and, in nearly 35 years of marriage, I have improved my vacuuming, scrubbing and dusting skills to the point where I wondered if I were good enough to be a professional.
"We'll find out," said Ken Quenstedt, who owns The Maids franchise that serves northwestern Suffolk County.
Ken came over in a yellow Maids car with four team members: Maria, Mayra, Melanie and Ingris. They were soon joined by Jenny, the field supervisor.
My wife, Sue, who keeps a clean house despite my help, served as the domestic supervisor.
"Jerry didn't know how to work the washing machine until a few years ago," Sue told Ken. "But he's a lot better at chores than he used to be."
"I'm best at ironing," I bragged, "because I'm a member of the press."
"Vacuuming is my specialty," said Ken, like me an empty nester whose wife appreciates his (not always superlative) efforts around the house.
I thought I was pretty good at it, too, but neither Ken nor I had anything on Maria, who had a space-age vacuum cleaner strapped to her back. It looked like a scuba tank, from which extended a hose with an attachment that Maria expertly maneuvered over the carpeting, along the ceiling and around corners.
"May I try it?" I asked Maria, who graciously helped me strap on the vacuum and showed me how to operate it without getting entangled in the cord, which I did anyway.
"You're doing a good job," she said.
I did an even better job of dusting after watching Ingris, the team leader, deftly use her dust cloth on the bureaus and nightstands in the master bedroom.
"I usually dust around things," I confessed.
"You have to move them," said Ingris, who was impressed when I followed instructions and did the job right.
"Could I be part of the team?" I asked.
"Yes!" she answered.
Jenny was impressed with my toilet-cleaning prowess after showing me how to correctly use a brush in the porcelain convenience.
"Very good," she declared.
I was flush with excitement. It was my turn to be impressed after watching Melanie scrub down the tile in another bathroom until it was immaculate.
When I noticed that the team members were wearing shoe covers, Mayra explained, "We don't want to bring dirt into the house."
"My feet are so big," I said, "I should wear garbage bags."
Instead, the foursome used garbage bags for, yes, garbage, which they emptied out of wastebaskets.
After an hour and a half, they were finished.
"The house has never looked so clean!" Sue exclaimed.
I thanked the hardworking crew for a magnificent job and told Ken that they inspired me to be an even better house cleaner.
"Whenever you do chores," he suggested, "you can wear the yellow shirt."
"At least," I said with a sigh of relief, "I won't have to wear a little French maid's outfit."