Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cleanliness is Next to Craziness

Another guest blog by The International Man of Intrigue. I've been busy trying to see if Alice from The Brady Bunch is willing to relocate.

How can I say something like, “our full time housekeeper had the gall to ask me for a raise two days after I threatened to fire her unless she started coming to work on time,” without sounding like a pretentious douche?"

One might respond, “International Man of Intrigue, you cannot say something like, ‘our full time housekeeper had the gall to ask me for a raise two days after I threatened to fire her unless she started coming to work on time,’ without sounding like a pretentious douche.” I, however, beg to differ.

Six months ago we hired “Jasmine” as our housekeeper. It was as much an experiment for us as it was a necessity. We were moving into a huge house with more rooms than we knew what to do with and we had no idea what the daily upkeep would require. Had we known it would involve rodents, floods, and indoor scootering, we might have looked for someone with experience as an EMT.

In the beginning our arrangement worked pretty well. Jasmine speaks Sinhalese and translated for us when bribing the garbage men. And, it turns out that living with squirrels necessitates a full time housekeeper. On top of all that, she does a great job keeping the floors clean in a house where the outside often likes to come inside. Dorothy would add that Jasmine has some mean bed-making skills, too. Plus, she adores our kids and is very trustworthy.

Sure,she has her quirks, and many are endearing. She and Arthur Dent seem to share a common language. She brings treats for the girls after payday. She tells Dorothy CSI: Colombo crime stories in gory detail that she hears from her brother. Wait, that last thing isn’t endearing: It’s kind of scary.

However, as the weeks passed, reality started to surface in our domestic dream. Dorothy and I joked that Jasmine is actually a Cold War-era spy that never got the word it was over because no maid could actually be this bad. Jasmine had never used a washing machine (for clothes or dishes); she had never used a vaccuum; she hates to iron and hid unfinished laundry in the spare room; she used the underside of our spare bedroom mattress as a no-interest savings account; she often left daily tasks unfinished or put certain work off for days; she commonly exhibits a very regional opinion that when things go wrong it is never her fault (even when it clearly is, but a discussion of societal differences of guilt and personal responsibility is an entirely different topic) and she developed the horrible habit of coming to work later and later.

I can put up with a lot. I can even put up with a maid that is no good at maiding, especially in a country where there is a very limited social welfare system and people who want to work ought to be given the chance. Tardiness, however, seems to be my tipping point. And that brings us to the present. I told her last week that she needed to come on time or she couldn’t not-work here anymore. Among some other things that needed to change, I emphasized Dorothy’s continuing commentary that the house begins at a certain time, and Jasmine said, “yes.” However, two days later we were out of our norm and I was home in the morning instead of Dorothy when Jasmine popped the question: “I should get a raise, now, sir?”

A raise? Really? As much as I like the fact that Jasmine is trustworthy, I just can’t bring myself to pay her more money for crappy work. Call me crazy. Call me an educated economic student of Smith, Ricardo, Freeman, and believer in good old fashioned supply and demand. Call me anything, but please, call me after breakfast when I’m waiting for our housekeeper to show up and chasing squirrels from the dining room.

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