Tue10212014

Guest workers: No Shoes, Please

Last month, I hired a housecleaner for the first time in my entire life, and a good friend of mine exclaimed to me, “Oh, Gracie, you’re going to LOVE it!”

Truth be told, I really don’t. But that isn’t to suggest that this new relationship is anything to complain about. Margit, who cleans my home twice a month, is efficient, attentive and cooperative. She comes with high-quality, eco-friendly cleaning products. She arrives on time, does a good job and leaves in a friendly manner. Basically, she’s a good egg.

So what’s not to like? Well, here’s the rub: Every minute she spends in my house, I feel the unease or pressure of hosting an important guest, which I know is insane. I mean, when was the last time I had any visitor – ordinary or important – spend his or her time vacuuming the carpet or scrubbing my toilet?

It isn’t a rational response. I’m paying for this cleaning service just like everyone else; no one is doing me special favors. But for whatever reason, when Margit walks through my door, my mind immediately begins to devise accommodations that might make her stay more comfortable and relaxing.

Having grown up in a Japanese home, accommodation is beyond second-nature to me – it’s more like first or primordial. The tricky part has always been appearing as though my efforts are effortless – a different skill set altogether – while exuding serenity and well-being. I’ve improved somewhat over the years, but when it comes right down to it, I’m really not very good at masking what I think or feel, and my mind is too jumpy to be called serene. So while I can complete any service task required, I’m squirrelly about it – moving in fits and starts, sometimes frozen in panic.

Of course, Margit has no idea that during the entire time she’s working in my house, I feel like I should be doing more for her: I should be more quiet, more courteous, more out of her way. I should have had a better scrubbing brush for her to use, I should have had the step ladder at the ready for cleaning the microwave oven because it’s obviously too high for someone of her stature to reach, I should have insisted she take a bottled water home. While Margit is moving from room to room, I’m mentally tracking her, trying to anticipate when she will arrive in my vicinity so that I can exit quietly before she even takes notice of me.

The obvious solution is to vacate the premises while Margit cleans, but this is my first time at the rodeo, and I don’t feel comfortable leaving someone I barely know alone in my house. I know people do it all the time, but I’m not there yet. So I’d rather be hunkering down, trying to be both invisible and friendly at the same time, anxiously waiting for that moment when Margit is finally gone. Then, all that’s left for me to handle is to not pay too close attention to all the spots I notice she’s missed.

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