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There exists between service workers and their customers an inherent imbalance of power: We meet sneers with apologies.At the end of their meal, or stay, or drink, we let patrons determine how much effort their server put into their job.
It’s her blue Hoover vacuums that hold up the framework of my life.
Someday, I hope my diploma can hold up the framework of hers.
The professors’ home was a telescope to how the other (more affluent) half lived.
They were rarely ever home, so I saw their remnants: the lightly crinkled New York Times sprawled on the kitchen table, the overturned, half-opened books in their overflowing personal library, the TV consistently left on the National Geographic channel.
Work could be done with one’s hands and with one’s mind.
It impressed on me a sort of social capital that I knew could be used in America.I memorized the geometry of place mats slid on metal trays, coffee cups turned downward, dirtied cloth napkins disposed on dining tables.I knew never to wear pajamas outside in the public courtyard, and years of shushing from my mother informed me not to speak loudly in front of a guest room window.I grew up in a bed and breakfast, in the sticky thickness of the hospitality industry. I was late to my own fifth birthday party in the park because a guest arrived five hours late without apology.Following a weeklong stay in which someone specially requested her room be cleaned twice a day, not once did she leave a tip for housekeeping.The fifth essay in our package appeared on The New York Times’s new Snapchat Discover, and you can view it at this link by pressing the arrow/play button.At age 6, I remember the light filled openness of the house, how the whir of my mother’s vacuum floated from room to room.I took these remnants as a celebrity-endorsed path to prosperity.I began to check out books from the school library and started reading the news religiously. It was there I, as a glasses-wearing computer nerd, read about a mythical place called Silicon Valley in Bloomberg Businessweek magazines.The squeal of her vacuum reminds me why I have the opportunity to drive my squealing car to school.I am where I am today because my mom put an enormous amount of labor into the formula of the American Dream.