Springtime in Princeton NJ. Warm days, cool nights. Finally the snow I've been shoveling all winter is melting. Birds chirping, flowers blooming and trees turning green again. And all 400 of those hospital windows have to be washed. Guess who has to do it? I really hate this time of year. The front of the building isn't so bad. Getting access is just a matter of scaffolding.
It's the backside that twists my shorts in a knot. Either you risk killing yourself climbing ladders up to all those balconies or you've got to go through all the offices of all those doctors and administrators to get there. I'll take the ladders, thank you. Then there's Doc House. He won't let me climb up onto 'his' balcony. I have to make an appointment to enter through his office. Then he watches me like a hawk until I'm done. What he finds so fascinating about window-washing is beyond me. He never says anything, just watches. Like it was me doing brain surgery or something. That man is spooky, let me tell you. None of my crew will do his windows, not on a bet.
Last year, he did the darnedest thing. Just as I was leaving his office after cleaning those windows (inside and out, thank you very much!) he asked me if I played poker. "I've been playing poker since I was eight years old, doc." I told him. He smiled and handed me his card with his home address on it. "Thursday," he says, then turns around like I wasn't in the room anymore. I won $47 that first night. He didn't like that at all, I could tell.
Funny thing about Doc House, most folks don't like him much. To be fair, he is an odd duck. With most people here, me and my crew are invisible. He's the only one besides the nurses who knows my name. It's Janitor-guy, by the way. Nice to meet you.
You know, being invisible and all, I get to see and hear a lot of things on this job that others miss. Take yesterday for example. Fourth time this year I've had to clean Doc's blood and spittle off the wall after being punched out by a patient's family. That man can take a beating better than anyone I ever saw. Not really sure what sets people off on him, but whatever it is, it hurts. He just gets right back up, like he knew it was coming. Well, I did say he was an odd duck.
But then there are those times when he doesn't think anybody's looking. That's when I get to do the watching. Let me tell you, it's a real show. You can tell when he's about to do something evil. He gets this quirky look on his face and a different kind of glint in his eye. Him and that Doc Wilson must go way back by the looks of things. Greasing door handles and gluing shut doors, just like we used to do back in school. You just have to laugh at him. 'Course, I'm the one who has to clean it all up in the end. But, honest, it's worth it.
Let me tell you this one story, though. You may not ever believe me, but I swear on my
grandmother's grave it's true.
I stuck my head out the door of the men's room to see what all the hubbub was about again. Second time this week and it was only Wednesday. Here he comes, rounding that corner like hell's biting at his behind. I got the mop bucket out of the way as fast as I could, cause I knew where he was going. The only place he could hide from her, at least for a few minutes.
"Thanks, didn't want to have to try hurdles so early in the morning."
"What'd you do this time, Doc?" I shook my head and smiled.
He took his time at the urinal. "Me? I didn't do anything."
Nodding, I replied, "Well, that must be it, then."
He laughed. "Poker tonight? I've got a new pigeon."
"Sure, I need to win back that thirty bucks you stole from me last week. Wife nearly kicked me out over that."
"Well, you should have known she only married you for your money." After washing his hands, he asked me to check if the coast was clear.
"Sorry, Doc, they're camped out there waiting for you. Good luck, it was nice knowing you."
He made a sour face at me and walked out of the restroom. I couldn't make out all of it, but evidently he'd welshed on a few clinic hours and ticked off the one patient he had seen. Seems Dr. Cuddy wanted an explanation. Well, let me tell you, if anybody can spin a tale, it's ol' Doc House and he was laying it on thick. I ducked back into the restroom when they heard me snickering.
I finished up in the men's room and moved down the hall a little to start on the ladies'. Got to knock real loud and announce your attentions when you do… I learned that the hard way. A few seconds later, two of the administrative secretaries left the restroom.
"I'm just telling you what I heard!"
"He actually told the guy to check his wife's underwear drawer? That doesn't even make sense!"
"Brenda was right there and heard the whole thing!"
Wow, news gets around fast in this place. Now, I was more curious than ever about what Doc had done. After the ladies brushed past me like I was a piece of furniture, I propped open the door and put out the 'Closed for Cleaning' sign. Don't ever let anybody tell you that men are messier than women! It always takes me twice as long to clean the ladies' room than it does to clean the men's.
Coffee break time found me down in the cafeteria, chatting with the boys.
Bobby was whining again, as usual. "All I wanted to do was empty her trash can! Took me 20 minutes just to get in the room. She kept shooshing me out of her office, trying to talk to somebody on the phone. I don't know why they don't just fire the guy if he's that much of a pain in the you-know-what."
"What'd he do this time?" Larry managed a few words now and then between chunks of whatever sandwich his wife had made for him. His first of the day, that is. He didn't know it, but we had a pool going on the date of his first heart attack.
"Heck if I know, something about getting caught in some lady's underwear drawer or something." Bobby was twitching. He needed a cigarette bad.
Larry actually stopped in mid-chew and stared at Bobby. "No kiddin'?"
"She actually said he was caught in some lady's underwear drawer?" I didn't believe that for a second. Doc House get caught? No way!
Bobby shrugged and hopped up, heading for the smoke hole.
Now, you see, that's how rumors get started.
After lunch, I was making my rounds, answering broken light bulb calls and pitching in with the cleaning girls. The place was literally abuzz. Everybody and every floor was talking about the 'underwear drawer' incident, as it had been dubbed.
"Where does he get off sneaking into other people's houses? My husband would kill him!"
"What the heck was he looking for?"
"I always knew he was a pervert, but for crying out loud!"
"Don't you ladies and gentlemen have anything better to do? All this rumor-mongering is not getting the patients bathed or meds passed. Now break it up!"
After lunch, my next stop was Doc Wilson's office. Someone had mysteriously loosened all the screws on his desk chair resulting in something of a commotion, or so I'd heard. It was an easy enough fix and gave me the chance to get at his windows as well.
"How goes it, Doc? Good time for you?" I motioned to his dismantled chair.
He waved me in. "Sure, thanks… uh, I'm sorry, I don't know your name." Doc Wilson is a nice guy. A bit overdressed if you asked me, but then nobody does.
"Just call me Janitor-guy." I smiled and threw a look over my shoulder, indicating Doc House's office. He smiled and shook his head. "Mind if I wash your windows while I'm here? Help me get that one off my 'honey-do' list."
He laughed out loud. "Sure JG, go right ahead." He went back to his files and charts and what-nots while I tinkered with his chair. I didn't have to work too fast. Luckily, he had a spare chair. They call that one the 'bad news' chair.
The phone rang and Doc picked it up. I looked at him to see if he needed me to leave, but he shook his head, so I kept working.
"Lisa, I wasn't there, I don't know what he said." He paused, "No, he hasn't discussed it with me, in fact, I haven't seen him all day." Another pause. "Well, I'm sure if anyone can soothe the man, it's you." He then hung up, shaking his head and sighing as he did so.
"Doc House at it again?" I said.
He looked at me quizzically. "How did you know?"
"Oh, Doc, I don't know what IT is, but IT is all over the hospital." I chuckled.
"What are they saying?"
"Can't put two and two together. Something about some ladies' underwear." I shrugged my shoulders.
"Oh God." Doc Wilson got up and left the room. I could just bet where he was going.
I finished putting the chair back together and back where it belonged, then started on the windows. It was another fine day. I could see the two Docs out on Doc House's balcony. He was cool as a cucumber as always, but Doc Wilson was waving his hands, pacing back and forth and rubbing the back of his neck. Finally, Doc House turned and went back into his office, Doc Wilson hot on his heels.
My job was done, so I gathered my supplies and left.
On the elevator back down to the basement, I heard the oddest conversation. Two really well dressed suits were watching the numbers tick down, not looking at each other and certainly not looking at me. Invisible, remember?
"This one is going to cost us."
"Look, we don't even know what really happened yet."
"It's House -- enough said -- it's going to cost us."
They got off before I did, so I didn't get to hear the rest. Man, I'd like to be a fly on somebody's wall. This was getting good.