the househelp that scared the wits out of us

when i went home yesterday, i saw my housekeeper was finally back from her holiday. i was expecting her back last friday but she never came. and by monday when she still did not show up, i was nearly convinced she went AWOL.

my sister, jesse, who was the one who found her through friend’s references, whispered to me as i exhaustedly drop my bag on the centertable. “i had to call her again to come back because she came and left after two hours.”

our househelp is paid to come to the apartment three times a week and is paid for a whole day’s work (eight-hour service). i, being used to my results-oriented type of management at the office, just wanted her to get the work done and she can have the rest of the day off. i told her so. however, as it turned out, she finished the usual stuff too fast and long before jesse wakes up and needs her help to do and run some errands. and so it would happen that jesse wakes up seeing the apartment immaculately clean and finds out she has to do the groceries and cook the meals herself. naturally, my sister (the one who convinced me to get a househelp) found it inconvenient.

you have to talk to her, my sister kept on urging me, tell her.

and so i did.

“um… cristy, can we talk?”

“about what?” the pitch of her voice, if it was the first time you heard her answer, would give you the impression that it doesnt matter what you are going to talk about, she is not about to talk to you about it openly. but i found out, it was just the way her voice sound.

“well,” i started. i am always results-oriented; i find it really unnecessary that she has to linger at the apartment just to kill the eight-hour service. but it is preposterous to pay her for an 8-hour service if she was just there doing her work for 2 hours. and i cannot obviously just pay her for the 2-hour service because it is not her fault she works really efficiently and fast. so either way, you see, we have what i would have referred to (in the office set up) as a manager-subordinate crisis. “i know you really work really fast, like really fast. but it would be nice if you stay a little bit longer than two hours.”

“why?”

you see, she’s quite a househelp. i would kill for a staff like her in my team; i always like people who ask questions.

“well, because there are things or errands jesse needs your hand on and it would be quite a problem if she wakes up and found you gone.” it is true. that is the reason why when one hires a househelp, you need her more than two hours. there are just some things that one finds necessary to put attention to in some specific time way after the early morning hours.

“can she not put them down before hand?”

good point.

“if she has time, im sure she would.” i do find my sister making her a list of things to do and stick them on the refrigerator door the night before cristy arrives. but she has other priorities, too: ensuring that she graduates from college is one. “but thats why we hire a househelp because we do not have time for this ourselves.”

“okay.” she nodded.

the truth of the matter is, we are scared of her. not in a horrific way; but she oozes an aura of knowing exactly how to start her work and end it that it is difficult for us to tell her what else she needs to do. i also account this to the fact that although we grew up with a babysitter (her name was Mary and I and Jesse were horrified of her- she would threaten us with a stick if we would not take our afternoon nap) and a number of househelps when we were young, we were forbidden by our parents to order them around. having househelps then were not a sign of luxury for me and Jesse; it was rather an inconvenience.

it was inconvenient. not only did i cry in frustration when i can’t cook the rice the right way when all of them left during my family’s bankruptcy in ’93 but it was such an ordeal having to juggle between the responsibility of doing the household chores ourselves and the exaggerated challenge of surviving adolescent years.

“but if you must want to go home after your job is done,” i added, not really quite sold to the idea that it was a win-win situation. “you can do so. you can come back later to run errands.”

she smiled this time. “okay.”

i looked briefly at my sister’s back (she was now playing scrabble online) and then went to the bedroom and changed clothes.

i was not recalling anything when i talked to cristy. but her questions made me remember.

the fire. the bankruptcy. the adolescent years. jesse hugging me while i cried over losing the remaining Php300 (~US$6) allowance we had (it was a week before the next one can be sent over) during my junior year at the university.

God, those events seems five planets away.

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