(This post is written in response to another post by Teendoc, on the subject of a toy janitor/maid’s cart, available for $150 in the current FAO Schwarz catalogue. While the irony of a high-priced let’s-play-maid kit is not lost on me, I was taken aback by the level of distaste expressed in some of the comments.)
They empty our garbage; they change the bed linens of our incontinent parents; they clean our skid marks from hotel toilets.
The lowly menial workers. We depend on them to manage the less attractive aspects of our increasingly complicated lives and, as good liberals, we try to treat them with dignity. But God forbid our beloved kids should identify with them.
Truly, has there every been a generation of children more cherished, and more agonized over, than this one? A confession: I’m not a parent, so maybe I’m getting in over my head here. But I do have lots of friends who are parents (in many cases, after long emotional roller coasters with infertility clinics and adoption agencies), and they all worry so, so much: that their kids will get into a crappy preschool, for starters, which will lead to a mediocre elementary school, followed by a so-so high school and some second rate college nobody has heard of, all culminating in a thankless job in a dead-end industry.
It’s sad, I think, that things have gotten so cutthroat out there, we’re afraid to let kids idle away an afternoon playing hotel maid.
I have a degree from an elite law school. I’ve also cleaned houses for a living, for people who thought I was invisible, even though I had the same intelligence, the same hopes, the same feelings – the same humanity -- that they did. If a toy cleaning cart teaches a kid some humility, and maybe a little respect, what’s the big deal?
For years, I’ve had a habit of saying "I’d rather clean toilets at the airport than (fill in the blank)” Every day the list grows a little longer: manage a hedge fund, be the personal assistant to Sarah Palin, work for the Bush administration. Being on the fast track isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be.
I still clean my own toilets, and floors and (every 20 years or so) oven. I like manual labor. It gives me a chance to think. And it is, in its own way, satisfying. I know, cleaning my own bathroom is not the same thing as scrubbing the urinal down at the local Chevron, but still I’m amazed how many people I know who think it’s beneath them to do even their own housework.
As the world has shown us these past couple of months, reversals of fortune can come at any moment. Cleaning hotel rooms, unthinkable?
There but for the grace of circumstance go you and I.