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Monday July 18, 2005 // By Sandy


Friday, the maid came. This is the maid we agreed to treat ourselves to with the bushels of garage sale lucre. At least, we thought it was going to be a maid, a delightful Polish woman named Margaret, recommended to us by our upstairs neighbor. Instead, I opened the door to Margaret… and her own personal Polish army. (The Polishing Polish, they could call themselves, if they lacked all tact, as it appears I do.) As they all filed in, offering me their names, I promptly forgot all of them—except for the last, who was named Lucy. I said, “You’re named Lucy? The cat’s named Lucy!” Which got me a cacophony of giggles and some immediate goodwill, which I felt I needed since they were about to become intimately familiar with the underside of my toilet.

I had arranged to work at home for the day—not that I distrusted the crew, but mainly I was curious to learn a little technique. As much as I would like to believe the opposite, hiring a maid does not allow one to recuse oneself from any future cleaning duties. But I learned quickly that cleaning does not lend itself well to spectating, and besides, I had work to do. With a promise to myself to set upon the cleaned surfaces and cleaning supplies later that day and attempt some reverse engineering, I went back to work and let the ladies do their thing.

Once or twice I got up to get some water and got a chance to spy on the maids at work. They really were like an army, down on their hands and knees, sweaty from the heat and hard work, taking out dust bunnies wherever they lay in wait. Meanwhile, in between scrubbings and dustings, they provided some unexpected fringe services: making our bed—tucked in tight, just how I like it—emptying all the trash bags, and even putting away the dishes that had been left drying in the sink. This last chore really stunned me, since it’d require some investigative work to understand where everything goes. Turns out they just decided to skip that part and put the pots wherever they could find a spot. Still, wow.

Two hours after they arrived, a sweaty Margaret came up to me to say “That’s it!” Actually, that wasn’t it. Even with 10 superwoman-hours under their belt, they still couldn’t get to everything. We’re not dirty people, but with a big apartment like this, we let some things linger longer than they should. Next time, she said, “maybe three girls, only hour and a half.” She didn’t follow it with, ”... if you learn to clean up after yourself, you filthy oaf,” but I felt it in her voice. I hope she’s right, because those two hours cost us a bit more than we were expecting, burning through our cash winnings faster than we’d like. Eventually, we’ll be digging into our own pockets for this luxury, moving us one step closer to… I don’t know what. Something resembling adulthood.

Was it worth it? Oh, certainly. The house is cleaner, at least until the cats have something to say about it, and we’ve each got five more hours of our nights and weekends back. Five hours to spend sleeping (happy), reading (very happy), cooking (chocolate-spatula-licking happy) and playing Scrabble (ecstatic—62 points, at least). So, despite impulses otherwise, I refuse to feel guilty about it. We can afford it, it makes us happier, possibly heathlier, so why not?

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