There’s a very sweet woman who cleans our bathroom at work. She’s a couple of years older than I am, I imagine, with large eyes and shiny brown hair that grows past her shoulders. She’s fit but curvy, so she looks pretty smokin’ in the white shirtdress that serves as her uniform.
For some reason, we always end up in the bathroom at the same time in the mornings. She rolls a little cart full of toilet paper, seat covers, and paper towels in and goes about refilling each stall. I always say hello to her, and she always smiles and says hello back with a bit of a European accent. I always think about how she was probably a teacher or a surgeon back home, but I’d never talked to her enough to ask her.
I was waiting for the elevator with two other women from the floor at noon yesterday, though, and when the doors opened, she was standing inside in a colorful striped shirt and dress pants. I said, “Done already?”, and she said, “Oh, no, just going for lunch. I change clothes, though, because I hate my uniform.” She paused and added, “I hate my job.”
I said, “I love your uniform! It’s really adorable, actually.” She said thanks, and then, out of nowhere, she said, “This is the only job I can get. In my country, I got a degree to be a physician’s assistant, but it doesn’t matter here.” I asked where she’s from, and she said Albania. I said, “You hear that a lot here. People who speak multiple languages and are obviously intelligent had jobs they loved overseas but can’t get work here.” One of the girls with me said, “I’ve met more doctor cab drivers . . .”
We all bid each other good day as we began to part ways in the lobby, and I wanted to say something like, “Umm . . . you’re really great at your job, if that helps.” But then I remembered that this is the girl who has to put a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom stall I’ve just pooped in, and nothing I can say is going to comfort her.