I look forward to Monday mornings when the maids, Lek and Saega, arrive to clean my apartment. When I first moved here, I’d make myself scarce while they did their work so as not to be underfoot. Later I began hanging around and helping out. My current duties include gathering up the used towels and sheets and leaving them in a small pile outside the door. Then after the maids bring in the new linen, I wrestle the pillows into their cases while they unfold the pressed sheets and smooth them over the bed.
At this point I’m in the way, so I lie down on the fresh sheets and watch them sweep the floor, clean the kitchen countertop, and wipe the tops of the tables. At some point Saega gives me a damp cloth to run across the top of the headboard (hard work, to be sure, but someone has to do it).
The girls are usually in good spirits, especially considering it’s the start of their work week. (I was never like this.) To help maintain morale, I turn on the air conditioner and keep two containers of orange juice in the refrigerator. For entertainment, I try to repeat, in my mangled Thai, bits of their conversations (which is always good for a laugh out of Saega)
I am one of their favorite residents.
The covid-19 trouble initially dampened the mood. The first week, after the government requested everyone to stay at home, when things looked especially grim, the girls wanted me to just stay on the sofa and not handle anything they would be touching. (I finally went out on the balcony.) But after a few weeks passed and I did not fall deathly ill, I was allowed to reassume my responsibilities. In deference to the virus, the three of us wear masks and rigorously wash our hands when the work is finished. (Ironically, the pair are my only social contacts these days, meaning they are far more likely to infect me than the other way around.)
A word about using a mask. My masseuse friend Pam had given me a miniature collection for my birthday, but it turns out I did not know how to properly wear them. When the maids first saw me with one strapped to my face, Lek pointed out I had it on upside down (how could she tell?) and that it should cover my nostrils (well duh). Saega showed me how to pinch it around the bridge of my nose to hold it in place. I felt more than a little stupid, but now is a good time to learn.