She was an elderly woman from Sienna whom we met on a trip to Italy. She spoke English quite well, and in the course of our conversation she asked, "Is it true that you American women are slaves to your homes?" I am an American, I am a woman, and I own my own home. Am I a slave to it? What a silly, backward idea. "Of course not", I respond. Where did she get such an absurd notion? The very idea. How insulting. This peasant woman from Sienna, suggesting to me that I am a slave. Which of us is traveling to foreign countries: She or I? Does my life sound like the life of a slave? When I come back home and back to my environment what do I feel? Comfort? Oh, Yes! Slavery? Nonsense. And yet her question haunts me. It's dangerous for a new idea to be force-fed into your mind. How do you expel it? It's like a song that repeats and repeats but cannot be erased from memory. I think of her question the next time I stay home all day awaiting the arrival of the plumber, or waste perfectly good time for an appointment with the electrician. And the computer problem: where are those Computer Geeks anyway; they're already an hour late. I have other important things to do. This is a bad mindset. I will not think of myself as a slave to my home. I love my home. It always feels wonderful to be back home no matter how far I've travelled or how long I've been away. I am reminded of an essay I read years ago in the NY Times. It said the real value of vacations is that you realize how beautiful your own home is when you return. It helps you understand and value the wonderful life you have. That essay stayed in my mind all these years. It really resonated with me. But now I have to wait for the stone mason, who has to replace some chipped flagstones on the patio. The living room sofa is in bad need of steam cleaning after a visit from the grandchildren. And I have to be home to sign for a Fed Ex package due to arrive from Hong Kong. Why don't I schedule these people on a day Consuelo is here? She can let them into the house and I won't have to stay home. But Consuelo doesn't speak english. Although I speak a little Spanish I can't exactly describe to her what she needs to explain to the servicemen. Trapped. I feel trapped. I AM trapped. And I was looking forward to seeing the new exhibit at the Montclair Art Museum today. What should I do now? What choices do I have? These jobs have to get done. Well, I reason, I don't have to waste time. While I'm waiting I can accomplish some small tasks. How can I make use of the time as I wait for repair guys? Putter in my garden? No, that won't work. If I'm out back in the garden I might not hear the front doorbell ring. If I miss the repairman I'll have to to waste another day waiting for another appointment. And I'll probably be charged for wasting the technician's time. I hate being so dependent on service people. I'm a captive audience. I'm at the mercy of ridiculous service people. What choice do I have? None. "What do you call people who must do what is expected of them without having any freedom of choice?" Slaves?
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