On Saturday, my maid of one month will be given her freedom – not because she is a lazy cow with absolutely no appreciation of cleanliness, orderliness, good taste and the nice things in life. Those are the standard qualifications of most of the maids I have come across in the last twenty or so years.
Her sudden availability for re-employment is due to a stubborn resistance to chemical anti-perspirants, and my general discomfort at the amount of time I have spent thinking about her armpits in the month that she has worked for me.
It is disturbing to me that no female body part has been on my mind as much as the armpits of this wretched woman from somewhere in Mukono.
I could have stood her sullen demeanour, her sour-faced mutterings and even her total disregard for the need for the occasional dusting-without-being-asked until the end of the month, but I will not go another day with that smell on my mind.
Bodily odours come in different weights – quite like boxers. Hers would have been the child of Mike Tyson and that big Ukranian guy who’s all the current rage.
The first day she showed up I thought a small neighbourhood animal had died, and held my breath for a couple of minutes as soon as the smell hit me. This was about half a kilometre before I turned down the road to the garage. And my car windows were up.
The tradition, apparently, is for the new maid to open the garage doors in order to buy favour with the boss (yours truly), and she had been duly briefed by the nanny, so this damn woman was at the garage entrance when I opened the car door and stepped out. Paint a mental picture: smelly woman at the garage entrance, me inside the garage, 1800hrs with a slight breeze.
I almost died.
She probably didn’t understand why I had scrambled back into the car and refused to leave for about ten minutes, so she went to consult the nanny on procedure. This was my chance to flee, and I used the front entrance in order not to follow in her backflow.
This woman, may she drown in a strong perfume, is probably the re-incarnation of a KCC garbage truck that broke down and died at the city abattoir on a very hot day.
The next day, I ordered for her to be bought a deodorant and given a lengthy lecture on the use of the roll-on.
She beat the roll-on in the very first round, and we brought on an anti-perspirant spray.
She absorbed both and re-defined the word pungent.
Within a week, I realised that she was holding us hostage because everyone got into the habit of huddling together in the farthest room from the one she had occupied. We even changed our domestic programme round so that she had Saturdays practically off. We had her out of the house as often as possible and the compound (read garden if you’re British) became as pristine as it will ever be, just because it was the only place we could have her operate without bringing on asthma attacks.
The dog, poor girl, also learnt how to hold her breath every time this woman was in view. Till she one day got fed up and snapped at the damn woman.
The kids started dipping their hands in soapy water and spending the day sniffing.
Then the nanny quit.
I couldn’t blame the young lady – I was close to quitting myself, yet I didn’t have to share a room with this human stink bomb.
So she’s leaving. And quite honestly, she’s cost me way too much in deodorants and other elements of chemical warfare.
No more maids from Mukono.