A maid interview overheard

As anyone who lives in Dubai will know, timing is everything when visiting a mall on a Friday. Get there in the morning, and you’ll have a pleasant experience; arrive later – anytime after about 3 – and you might as well be committing retail hara–kiri.

It was around lunchtime, and you could see the mall population visibly swelling. I popped into Café Nero and, while queuing, realised that an interview was taking place at a nearby table.

The interviewer was blonde, and wore a pea green summer dress. She looked polished and shiny, with eloquent eyebrows and oversized earrings. Across her nose, I noticed the faintest sprinkling of freckles. She had a kind smile, and was leaning attentively towards her interviewee.

“Do you cook,” she asked.

So when can you start?

The replies were more softly spoken. But the answer must have been yes.

“You can cook Arabic food too, that’s great!” she said, her hand fluttering upwards to push a strand of hair behind her ear.

On the other side of the table sat a petite, dark-haired Filipina lady who you could tell from her body language was nervous, but was being put at ease by the friendly potential Madame.

There was a pause. There are always pauses in these interviews, what with the language difference and the awkwardness you feel when you’re not used to hiring domestic help.

“Can you iron?” she asked next, again perfectly politely.

I could see that they were sizing each other up. The blonde thinking: Will she fit in? Could she make the myriad of tiny logistical manoeuvres that make up my life run a little smoother? Would I feel comfortable having her watch my kids while I’m working, or would I feel strangely untethered? Could she run the household while I’m gone like a Swiss watch?

And her potential employee thinking: Have I got the job? What are the hours, pay? She’s an expat so more time off! Cable TV? A laptop? My own room? I really hope they don’t have pets!

As much as I wanted to hear the outcome of this interview (especially the words You’re hired!), I had to leave before they’d finished chatting. I walked by and heard a shared giggle – a genuine bubble of laughter that floated above the table. And I found myself thinking, I really hope it works out for both of them.

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