Has this ever happened to you? My roommate and I occasionally save up the money to call in a woman to tidy up our apartment — kind of as gift to ourselves when the rush of New York living becomes a bit too overwhelming to get the energy up to clean the living room. Last month, I got a text from her asking if we needed her services any time soon… and I found myself suddenly submerged in an uncomfortable awareness.
The money that my roommate and I save up and set aside for a cleaning — that I usually see as simply “paying for a service” — that money was essential to this woman’s livelihood. In paying her to clean my apartment, I was giving her the means through which she could pay the rent in her own.
It was a sharp moment of emotional clarity about the grander nature of our transaction that sent pinpricks up my arms. I got to thinking. What else might my transactions be directly responsible for? Why had the simple-yet-obvious knowledge of where my money was going been so invisible to me before? And why, now that I’d realized the emotional truth of the transactional nature of money, did I feel so disconcerted by it?
As I tried to answer these questions for myself, I found myself tumbling down a rabbit hole of existential unease (as I’m, apparently, wont to do). The story, it goeth thusly: