|QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat|
Monday, October 12, 2009
(Note to the reader. Today's post was constructed inbetween projects and tasks readying our house to go on the market. As the writer is OCD and anal retentive [can I - I mean one- be both?] about completing tasks/projects she has begun, the writer would like lots of pats on the back for pausing from her house-cleaning-out frenzy to write about Latka. Thanks.)
We found the perfect carpet cleaner way back when we first moved into our house 11 years ago. Okay...well the carpets weren't dirty yet when we first moved in. So we probably found him 10 years ago to help purge the stains and regular traffic dirt from the carpets caused by 1 and 3 year old boys. I still remember the first day he came. From Bulgaria, he introduced himself with a thick accent and arrived at our front door, politely toting a massive notebook. He liked to talk. A lot. With his thick Bulgarian accent. He was proud. Very proud.
We invited him in to show him the areas where our babies had spit up orange carrots and green peas (different blog), where juice cups had spilled notwithstanding our steadfast keep-it-in-the-kitchen rule, and where we had tracked in dirt with our shoes.
"It is not a problem!" he proudly declared. To show us just how not a problem it was, he opened his prodigious notebook, which proved to be a repository for all nice things ever said about him and his carpet cleaning business. Just seeing the dauntingly large notebook was enough to convince us; he had us at "it is not a problem." It was not enough for him, though. He showed us, despite the resistance which surely showed on our faces, every page of his accolades. Every before and after picture. Every word of praise for his miraculous cleansing of carpets. It took a long time. Each displayed picture was accompanied by a thickly Bulgarian-accented description of the people who owned the carpets photographed. He was fond of his clients, and they of him, ostensibly.
When he finally began the actual carpet cleaning, the husband and I huddled out of his hearing range in a different room.
"Oh my God," the husband mused. "He looks and sounds exactly like Latka from Taxi!"
"Oh my God," I agreed. "He totally does!"
When Latka left, he gave us pointers on how to preserve the carpet's cleanliness.
"You are not wearing of the shoes on the carpet," he lectured. "Most of the dirt of the carpet comes when wearing of the shoes on it." We nodded vigorously, not about to argue with the accent.
From then on, we have always referred to him fondly as Latka, so much so that I sometimes forget his real name. When our carpets are in need of their annual cleaning, we say: "time to call Latka."
Throughout the years when Latka has come to purge our carpets of their stains and dirt, he always brings the notebook. It seems he must convince us every year that he is worthy.
Last week was no exception. Latka entered my house. I put out my hand to shake his. He lurched toward me and gave me a bear hug. "How you are doing?!" he asked excitedly. "You are not wearing of the shoes on the carpet, yes?"
I swore I was not, but that the boys didn't always listen.
He proceeded to my kitchen and put down his heavy notebook. I rolled my eyes to myself.
"Oh, I know how good you are," I said as convincingly as I could muster, "I have seen your miracles with my own eyes."
"Oh," he laughed, "no. no. This is new here. Come look at the papers. You listen of the Angie's list?"
"Oh - yes!" I lied. I have never heard of Angie's list.
"See all of the people who recommend of me to the Angie's list? Look! They talk good things on me. You see the stars the people give to me?"
"Oh wow," I replied. "I am not surprised at all. You do a fabulous job."
He stopped, smiled a very proud smile, and put his chin in the air.
I thought perhaps that did it. I was wrong. He continued to turn the pages of his notebook.
"It is funny," he shared with me. "I do not know the people who write these stars. The name of the people are not here."
After awhile, Latka finally went to get started. He did the 11-year-old's room and came downstairs to talk to me.
"I finished from the one room," he announced. He narrowed his eyes and looked at me with a frown. "You see the stain on the carpet that was there to the door?"
"Oh," I reacted. "You couldn't get it, huh?"
He burst into an ebulliant grin. "It is gone," he told me. "The spot to the window?"
"Ah," I played along. "Too tough to get it out?"
"It is not here," he assured me.
With that, he went outside for his first of 10 "coffee" breaks, during each of which he spoke on his cell phone and smoked a cigarette.
When the husband arrived home from work, Latka was still there. We were in the home stretch. I was hoping he could finish so we could leave for an appointment, so I didn't want to start any new conversations.
The husband greeted him: "Hey there! Good to see you! How are you?"
Latka put his chin up and grinned. "I am fine," he answered.
"Great!" said the husband. "And how is your daughter doing?"
"Oh. You are nice so to ask. She is to ABC school and she is artist. She is so good from the drawings!"
"Wow; that's great," we said.
"Wait. You wait here. I go to see I have of a picture."
I shot the husband the look of death. He shrugged helplessly.
Latka bounced back, returning with a Christmas card whose cover was adorned with a pencil drawing of the virgin Mary and baby Jesus. It was pretty good.
"She win of the contest for the picture to Christmas," he boasted.
"Wow," I said. "It's terrific. Does she draw animals? I'd love to have a sketch of Sophie."
Latka didn't hesitate. He pulled out his cell phone, dialed his daughter, and gave the cell phone to me to talk to her. After an uncomfortable conversation, I returned Latka's phone to him as he finished the last room.
As he was leaving, he admonished us: "No wear of the shoes on the carpet!"
"Oh," the husband chuckled. "We don't; it's the kids!"
"Yes," said Latka, "that is the thing the people they all say."
And with that, he was gone.