My brother and I spent a recent weekend house hunting with my parents. We had fun poking our noses into other people’s homes, making up stories about their lives, and swapping design ideas. My little nephew especially, has enjoyed the whole exercise. We’ve all loved listening to his suggestions as to where Mah-mah and Yeh-yeh should live.
We’ve seen some lovely places and some not-so-nice ones. But most have one thing in common – the maid’s room is invariably hidden in the back somewhere, next to the kitchen, by the laundry area. These are usually tiny spaces, dark and poorly ventilated. Luckier maids get the entire area to themselves. But in many cases, the rooms also serve as storage space. The maids sleep among old books and tennis shoes and boxes of goodness-knows-what and toys and broken electrical appliances, and other useless stuff too good to throw away.
One maid we met had to climb a small ladder to get to her bed because it was elevated nine feet off the ground. The area underneath was used to store what looked to us, like a whole load of junk. There was no way she could sit up on her bed. I asked her if she bumped her head waking up in the morning. “Yes, ma’am,” she said, “all the time.”
My nephew stared into the darkness that was her sleeping quarters, looked up and went, “Waaaa.” Even he was appalled.
Why do we do this to other human beings?
Yes, we live on a tiny island. Yes, land is scarce. Yes, maids are here to work, not have a holiday. Yes, yes, yes. But shouldn’t we treat the people who take care of our homes, cook our meals and look after our kids, a little better? There’s nothing wrong with having a room at the back. But there’s something sad in the fact that the only space most maids have at the end of a hard day’s work, is an area reserved for the family’s junk.
If that sounds a little silly and sentimental, then how about this bit of common sense – surely, a maid is more productive, more alert and better able to do her job if she gets a good night’s rest?