I hired my first cleaning lady when I was in my 20’s and lived in Manhattan. The first time I met her, she came to my apartment to give me a price quote.
She looked around, raised an eyebrow oh-so-slightly, and said, You cleaned before I came.
I fumbled a bit.
She smiled. It’s okay – everyone does.
She quoted a reasonable price, came with the best possible references, and I liked her, so I hired her. I gave her a key, and we agreed on the day I would leave her payment on the table in the morning, and come home to a clean apartment in the evening. I told her, help yourself to anything in the fridge; being a single person in Manhattan, this was not as generous an offer as it might be from someone else. The typical contents of my fridge: milk, cereal, and light beer. From time to time there might also be leftover Chinese food, or vodka in my freezer.
That first day, I came home to a delightful luxury: A completely clean apartment with no effort on my part, except opening my wallet. I thought that there was one less beer in the fridge – at least, I was pretty sure it had been a full six-pack when I left that morning. But I didn’t really care. I had an apartment with a view of the Chrysler building, and it was clean enough to invite guests. I had arrived.
She came back two weeks later, and on that day, my apartment was returned to a magical clean state, and I had one less can of beer in the fridge. This time, I was sure she had drunk it.
By now, though, she had seen what my apartment looked like when I didn’t clean it first, and she didn’t try to raise her very reasonable rate. In case you, or some economic researcher of the future, want to know, the rate to clean a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment with two cats in 1995, it was $50 and one can of beer.
This seemed like a good deal. I was not a beer drinker, then or now, but I made the effort to keep my fridge stocked with beer. I discovered she only liked canned varieties, and no microbrews, and made sure there was always one can there for her, nicely chilled.
I liked her a lot, and once I left New York, could not find another like her, so instead I used cleaning services, when I could afford them. I kept hoping to find a regular person, and eventually, when The Departed started complaining too much about the burden of doing his own laundry, I asked around and received a recommendation – friend of friend, the Cleaning Lady.