During my last six months in graduate school, I sublet a con-
dominium from a couple of professors who were on sabbatical.
Their gorgeous apartment in a quiet suburb o√ered me luxuri-
ous shelter compared with my previous tiny urban nest. Their
mailbox frequently received flyers announcing ‘‘Responsible
Cleaners. Flexible Schedule. Reasonable Rate. We are white.’’ A
few times when I looked out through the windows in the study, a
van painted ‘‘Dial-a-Maid’’ was parked across the street waiting
to pick up some cleaning ladies who had just ﬁnished their
shifts. From time to time I ran into a couple of women from East-
ern Europe who cleaned for my neighbors downstairs. When I
was distracted from my writing and listened carefully, I could
hear them giggling along with the noise of the vacuum cleaners.
Toward the end of my stay, the owners arranged for someone
to clean their home prior to their return. Since they were paying,
I was in no position to object. In all honesty, I felt relieved to be
free of the hassle of cleaning the spacious apartment. Although
I had met many domestic workers by then, I personally had
never been in a position anywhere close to that of an employer.
This time, I was almost there.
The day came. I made sure that there was iced water and fresh
juice in the refrigerator and I put out some fruit and other
snacks on the kitchen table in case the worker wanted to take a
break. Although the agency told me that the cleaning lady had
keys to get in, I wanted to say ‘‘Hi’’ and have a chat so that the
service would not be another depersonalized relationship. The
bell rang and at the door was a woman in her early forties who
was possibly Polish. I nervously introduced myself and asked
her name. She looked confused and shook her head, saying