art by Seth Alan Bareiss
by J. Kyle Turner
On Monday, the cleaning lady does the upstairs rooms.
Her listing says:
All Cleaning Done By Hand
so she makes a big show of unpacking her bag, laying out her tools, and rolling up her sleeves. Her clients--a well-to-do couple in their early forties--watch from the door.
"It's just so nice having a human touch around the house," Mrs. Lawson says.
The cleaning lady smiles and scrubs the baseboards.
"Not that we can't afford a robot," Mr. Lawson assures her. "It's just, well, you know."
The cleaning lady stands back and adjusts the paintings.
"It's a matter of preference, really."
The cleaning lady nods knowingly, but they keep on for another twenty minutes before they have to leave. They won't be back until late, "So go ahead and lock up when you're done, dear." She waits until she hears their car roar down the street and disappear around the corner.
Then she brings in the robot.
In a matter of hours, the robot has the upstairs looking spotless. The rooms are aired out and the linens changed. The floors and walls are vacuumed and scrubbed, and the bathroom tiles sparkle. Everything is taken out, dusted, sorted, and put away. The windows might be invisible.
Then the cleaning lady packs up the robot and does a walk through of the house. She moves the lamp in the reading room to the opposite side of its desk. She pulls a nightstand out so that it's just a little too far from the bed. She spends twenty minutes sprinkling dirt in the hard to reach places behind the furniture and re-scuffing the baseboards.
The Lawsons are out all day Tuesday, so the cleaning lady shows up with the robot in tow. She's careful to bring it in through the garage where the neighbors can't see it. If anyone asks her about the box, she'll tell them it's a vacuum cleaner.
While the robot is busy with the entryway, the cleaning lady goes through newspaper classifieds:
Entry-level Manufacturing Engineer. Prefer candidates with a Master's degree or higher.
Assistant Professor of Robotics. 3+ years teaching experience required.
Programming Intern. Unpaid; may lead to job offer.
And in between them, two dozen listings with the header: Non-Mechanical Worker Desired.