Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Do You Need a Maid?

 Do you really need a maid?  Chances are, no, you don't.

For over a decade we had a maid, and it was an interesting experience.  After watching the video above (and many other Consuela Videos like it) it brought back memories of the frustration and expense of having a maid in our home.

It sounds logical at first.   You are both working high-pressure jobs that require 10 hour days and are both making "big money" - so why not have a maid come in a couple times a week, you know, to do the major cleaning and laundry and such?  After all, we can afford it, right?

Maybe.  Of course, I also had an office building that needed to be cleaned, so I justified the expense as just an extension of that.   But like so much else, it was just justification.

What it really got down to was, Status.   Yea, it was cool to have a maid, to say that you had "help" like you were a rich person, even if you really were not.

Yes, it does take time to do laundry, to cook your own food, to clean your own bathroom, to make your own bed.   But having a maid doesn't really save all that much time, and it does cost a lot of money.

And what do you do with all this time you saved?  Work more, or just watch TV and goof off?

The maid scenario falls into that same old deal that is so tempting when you are making (what you think is) "big money".   You are a young hotshot attorney or real estate agent, bringing in the big bucks, why not pay someone $10 an hour to clean your bathroom?  That's an hour you could spend on legal work or selling real estate, right?

Wrong.   Having a maid doesn't "Free Up" more productive time, it just allows you more goof-off time, so you goof-off more - probably sitting in front of the television and getting fat.

Then there are the problems with having a maid.  We had two originally, each one coming one day a week.  Both were from Latin American countries.   We had to let one go when she asked us if we could borrow $5,000.   Never a good idea to give the keys to your home to someone who is desperate for money.

Our other maid was loyal and stayed with us for years.   The problem was, she was very helpless in life and would come to us with a lot of her personal problems.   We ended up renting her an apartment, as she had trouble with her landlord.  She lived there for 18 years.

One day, she came to me with a mailing that she was sure was a deportation notice.   On the cover was the smiling face of Ed McMahon, announcing that she had already won the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes!   I explained to her that no, the INS wasn't after her, than since she had a green card, they could not deport her, and moreover, she hadn't won the Sweepstakes, either.

And while that is a funny example, many others were not.  She would get phone calls, in Spanish, from people claiming to be from the Police, threatening her if she did not pay them money.   There is an entire industry of Latin American people exploiting their own, based on poor language skills, fear of the police, fear of deportation, and fear of authority.   Bottom line, of course, is fear.

So it was an emotional drag also, to be her employer, as we felt ourselves being drawn further and further into her life, and when we did, we were kind of appalled at how hard a life she had.  People like to beat up on immigrants these days, and it is a shame, as they have a hard enough time as it is - and are usually beaten up, often literally, by their own kind.

We sold the office building, we sold the house, and when we bought the lake house, we briefly had some cleaning staff come in to help.   But we finally let them go when one of the ladies brought her deathly thin husband along to "help" and we realized he was a meth fiend.   We also realized that now that we were both working part-time and semi-retired, it was kind of obscene to have cleaning help when we were perfectly capable of doing it ourselves.

And it is funny, too, I find that doing laundry, running the vacuum, and putting things away, makes me feel better about myself and also provides with me physical activitity to do during the day.   How many people have a maid and a gardener and a lawn service and then pay someone to tell them how to exercise?

It kind of makes no sense.   And how much did we spend?   I can't rightly say, but it was hundreds of dollars a month, I am sure - which is thousands of dollars a year.  We spent money on a maid and then refinanced the house to pay off credit card debts - and never made the connection between the two (or the six cars parked in the driveway).

It was sad, it was difficult, and it was expensive.   Oh, and she liked to break things.   We went through three vacuum cleaners, including an Electrolux.   She felt that the best way to unplug the vacuum cleaner was to yank the cord from across the room.  And for some reason she felt she had to smash the vacuum head into the furniture - scarring furniture and smashing the vacuum in the process.

And no piece of tchotchke was safe.   Small precious items would be found in a tiny pile of pieces or in a plastic bag.   I would glue some back together, only to see them broken again.   And articles would be moved around the room in an attempt at Mexican Feng Shui.  Ceramic elephants, apparently, had to face a certain direction.   And cardinals!  They were good luck (but most likely to be broken).

Other friends of mine also had maids.  And some of these friends were housewives who did not even have part-time jobs.   They needed a maid to "help around the house a bit" - a gambit my mother also used back in the day.   The problem was (and is) what do these bored housewives do with all this free time?   Sit around and feel useless and sorry for themselves, is what.

She called Mark, "Mr. Mike".