Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You just can't get good help, anymore.

Damn. Just send me a worker who 1) speaks English, and 2) will do what I need to have done, when I want it done, and how I want it done. Every houseboy I've had so far - but for one - who doesn't really work for me - and just fills in in a pinch - thinks he knows better than me what needs to be done in my house, when it should be done, and how it should be accomplished.

Houseboy No. 15 [hereinafter he will be referred to as HB15 - no, I'm not going to even call him by his name at this point - he probably isn't going to last] has been here for two weeks. I made it clear to the agency that sent him that he needs to be able to understand English and, more importantly, be able to tolerate my Kids. I should have been more specific, however, in making it clear that the houseboy would be doing what I want, when I want and how I want - and I neglected to do this. My bad. HB15 will get another week to show me that he can perform his duties following the "3W's" or "what/when/want."

Granted, the salary this poor [literally] young man is working for is NOT conducive to wanting to work hard. His MONTHLY salary for the company he has a contract with is 500 Riyals. And I know this because he told me he makes 500 Riyals a month when I told him that if anything happened to my brand new vacuum then he would owe me 3000 Riyals. He is obviously pretty quick with math because he was able to say that he only makes 500 Riyals a month and that 3000 Riyals would be six months salary! Good. Then we understand each other about my new vacuum - you will be treating it like gold. The vacuum didn't cost that much - it's not a super-duper top of the line best vacuum in the entire world - but it cost more to ship it here to The Sandbox from the States than what I actually paid for it - and then I had to pay customs duty on top of that - and spent two days sitting home waiting for DHL to deliver it to me. Since I couldn't find a canister vacuum here, I had no choice but to get one in the States. And believe me, when you live in a Sandbox, and have two four-legged Kids, a vacuum is a necessity.

And that's how I know what HB15's monthly salary is. 500 Riyals! In U.S. Dollars that is $134.04. Unimaginable. Assume he is working eight hours a day, six days a week - all of the imported laborers work six days a week - only ONE day off - Friday - and trust me, he is lucky if he only works eight hours a day - it may be more - but minimally, he is working 48 hours a week. Take his monthly salary, in U.S. Dollars, $134.04 and multiply this by 12 months - you get $1,608.48 as a YEARLY income; divide that by 52 weeks for a weekly salary of $30.93 and divide that by the 48 hours a week he works for the grand sum of .64 cents and hour! Can you even buy anything for SIXTY-FOUR CENTS in the States, anymore? So, that he doesn't bust his ass working for .64 and hour isn't a big surprise. And, honestly, who could blame him. What person in their right mind would bust their butt for such a measly wage?

Regardless, it was his choice - well, kind of - to come here, to The Sandbox, to work. I don't think "choice" had much to do with his situation because if he could have found a job in his "home" country where he could support himself then he wouldn't be here. I know he is 25 years old; I know he is married, and as yet he has no children. I do not know much more than that as even though he does speak English, we do have a bit of a language barrier as his English, although decent, isn't stupendous, and I speak absolutely no Bangla - or Bengali. No, problem. I am willing to train the guys who work here and I don't and won't just toss them a bucket, cleaning solutions and rags and say "Have at it." No. I demonstrate by doing the actual task for them. I explain to them... I'll show them more than once if need be. But the "3W's" are not optional; they are requisites. So, pay attention!

The list of weekly duties is fairly simple and includes cleaning two bathrooms, wiping [cleaning and conditioning] all of the leather furniture, dusting the wood furniture, cleaning the glass in the house - windows and tables, vacuuming, and cleaning the tile floors with a machine. I'll do the rest of the housework - the laundry, the dishes, cleaning the kitchen - the counters, inside the refrigerators and microwave, etc. What I want done can easily be achieved in the three five-hour days that I have scheduled to have HB15 come work for me. Even after all of the above is done, on two of those days, I know there is extra time where some other relatively minor tasks can be accomplished - such as cleaning the patio furniture, taking Clorox Clean-Up to wipe off the outside of the appliances and to the smattering of "slobber" spots which my two adorable "Kids" randomly leave on walls and doors - cute smudgy nose prints and the like.

Honestly, I don't think requiring all of what I want done in three five-hour blocks is asking too much. I know that I can clean both bathrooms in an hour and a half, it takes an hour to clean all the leather furniture, the appliances can be wiped down in a matter of minutes - not asking the guy to clean the insides - just wipe down the outsides... This is a small house. There's nothing to vacuuming the entire thing - maximum time if you're really doing a good job - an hour. The biggest job is cleaning the tile - and I insist that my floor machine be used - I abhor mops! Using a mop is pushing dirty water around and I'd rather scrub the floor on my hands and knees than use a mop - and after the first floor machine got broken by HB2 - I cleaned the floors this way.

With any "new job" that there is a learning curve. It takes a bit of time to get into the swing of things and realize what will be expected of you and how you will be expected to fulfill your responsibilities. I know that I am not a patient person. I also know that I am beyond fussy and particular to the most minute detail. But for goodness sake, when I show you how I want something done - personally demonstrating whatever task - how tough is it to just copy what I do. We're not involved with rocket science or recreating the wheel - we're just cleaning my house! We had a conversation - on your first day - that I would take the time to show you everything, that I would explain everything, that you should ask questions if you have any - because I talk fast - and because the only way this will work out for you is if you do exactly what I tell you to do and exactly how I tell you to do it. You said you understood.

When I demonstrated how I wanted my black dining room buffet polished and specifically told you never to set the can of polish OR anything else on top of the buffet, how in the hell did you interpret that to mean that it would be alright to set the waste basket on top of it?!? Yep. My fault. Apparently my telling you that I didn't want you to EVER set ANYTHING on top of the buffet - but for the two vases that are already there - wasn't quite specific enough and no, I didn't actually say that the waste basket should NOT be set on top of the buffet. Do you set waste baskets on top of furniture in your home country?!? Dumbass. And, when I showed you how to clean the tubs and moved the shower curtain liner to the outside of the tub, and then opened the curtain/liner all of the way, did you see me wad both the curtain and liner up into a ball and put it up over the rod and leave it there so that a few hours later it would be one wrinkled mess? No. You didn't see me do that. I also explained to you that if you move something from the spot it's in - like, for example, the bath mat - it gets replaced to its original position. This seems to be an issue for all of the houseboys who must just drip on the floor when they get out of the shower instead of dripping on a bath mat. None of them has been able to grasp the concept of putting an item back to the position it was in before it was moved.

Here is what really set me off, though. I've patiently been doing the demonstrations of how to use the machinery [vacuum and floor cleaner], showed you that you spray the polish on the CLEAN rag to dust the buffet, picked up the Kids toys from the kitchen floor before you sweep it [prior to using the floor machine], given you clear and specific instructions and/or demonstrations for cleaning my bathrooms, taken you to the garage upteen times to gather the equipment and solutions you are going to need for each task, blah, blah, blah, blah and every five or ten minutes I am working with you we get interrupted because your damn mobile phone is ringing!

Yesterday I reached the end of my rope with his "mobile." Turn it off. Now. Or, I will. You may be getting paid next to nothing to come and work for me - and for two weeks now, I've been doing much of the work because I want to make sure you "get it," and obviously, this isn't working quite as well as I thought it would, because you are doing things - like setting the waste basket on the top of my buffet to clean the tile floor in the dining room - that I never, ever, gave you any indication it would be alright to do. Perhaps if you were spending the time that I am working with you to show you how I want things done - or don't want things done, as the case may be - instead of either talking or texting all of your buddies then you would be able to grasp AND retain ALL of what I am doing.

When HB15 gets here next week, before we do anything else, I am going to tell him that he will be all done at my house if he so much as touches his mobile! I will suggest to him, in no uncertain terms, that before he rings my doorbell it would behoove him to turn his mobile OFF - not put it on vibrate so that when he gets a call or text message he can respond at the earliest possible moment that I am not over his shoulder - but OFF! Honestly, I really wouldn't have minded a call or two - who knows - perhaps it was his employer - the agency - calling to see if things were going well for him or calling to determine if he would be done at the set time of one o'clock - oh, and that's another issue - but I highly doubt his agency - who is getting fifty-percent of the 8SR an hour I am paying HB15 is calling every five or ten minutes...

And, by the way, just to be clear, you work for me from eight o'clock in the morning until one o'clock in the afternoon - three days a week. Up until two days ago, you would come to me and tell me that you were finished at 12:40 or 12:45 and then you would go out and sit on the curb and I would see you waiting and playing with your mobile! I had to be specific about this with you, as well, and tell you at at 12:40 or 12:45 that we still had plenty of time to do a couple more things - fifteen minutes is plenty of time to go through my house and wipe "Kid" marks off the walls - and it gives you ample time to take care of all of the equipment and products you have used. Perhaps, HB15, you don't quite comprehend that now you've pissed me off with your excessive mobile usage and that you will be done working for me before you've had time to "text" another message if I see you playing with your phone one more time!

Nope. You just can't get good help, anymore...


  1. That's so sad! Funny- but sad! Is there anyway you could get a girl to be your house-help?

  2. Probably not, Enamorada. Maids here are few and far between - and hard to come by - for expats. Locals have them - sometimes more than one! But expats are not allowed to recruit their own help and this is how it is that I had to go through an agency in the first place...

  3. I'm sorry to 'break' the news to you, but he will undoubtedly break that holy vacuum that you covet. I have a vacuum graveyard in my storage closet. In fact, my hoover was just busted the other day by my maid. Along with the 8 canopeners and then the two hand mixers. Best of luck to you. HA.

  4. I_Oman, let me just say that if my "holy vacuum" which I DO covet, gets broken, you're going to read about the first case ever of "houseboy abused by an ex-pat" because I will beat him senseless with whatever part he breaks! [Let's hope its not an attachment; that would be a very, very difficult beating!]


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