BETTY is a cleaning lady with no other options. She has cleaned every sort of building, office, apartment, hallway, stairway, cellar, storage area, toilet (both private and plublic), even buses and morgue vehicles and jail cells… you name it, she’s probably cleaned it. At least once.
She began cleaning when she was 14 years old, part-time after school, working to 1 or 2 in the morning, because her mother was an invalid who could barely get out of bed without help, and her father, in a drunken rage one night, stumbled through the big window in the aparment’s front room and fell 16 stories to his death. He had no insurance.
Betty gets her jobs by word of mouth, and references from friends and those she’s worked for; this takes her all over the city, which is why she uses the bus. Once she hit 55, she qualified for discounted fares, which helps greatly.
Betty and her mother now live on the 4th floor of the same building she grew up in. When Betty works, as she has been doing these last 41 years, her mother is looked in on by a kind neighbor lady for whom Betty also cleans for, as a token payment for the occasional watchful eye on her mother.
Betty has degenerative arsthritis in both knees, and the doctors at the free clinic,
After they looked at the X-rays, told her that she can’t continue to work where she has to be on her knees all the time, scrubbing floors. Add to that her hip has become worn to the point where she is going to either have to have it replaced, or she will become crippled for life, unable to move her leg, or sit or stand without a great deal of pain.
Betty is overweight but not obese. At the moment Betty is handling her pain, which is great, with quantities of pain killer pills, given to her by the free clininc. She takes too many of them, against the doctor’s orders, because she has built up a resistance to them, and when she runs out too early, she tells them somene stole her pills, so they give her more. They know she’s taking too many, and she thinks she’s fooling them. She’s also tryng to fool herself.
It’s a shame that she has no insurance, no pension plan, and no savings. She earns 5 dollas an hour, all under the table, no records kept, and she and her mother have nothing tomorrow unless she works today.
It’s getting harder and harder for her to get up in the morning.