Opinion: Don’t Be An Asshole

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The New York Times ran a column asking for advice from a babysitter that noticed that their client was scheduling her time far in advance (causing her to rearrange other job schedules) and then cancelling. She wondered if she should still be compensated.

I think it’s situational – it depends on how much time the sitter has to find something else to do or some other job to take.

If you cancel up to 24 hours in advance, I think that the sitter should NOT be compensated unless, 1) you have an agreement that states otherwise, or 2) it’s a frequent event (in which case the babysitter should have an agreement that states they get 50%, 25%, etc. of what they would have made).

If you cancel day of, I don’t think you owe the total amount, but probably 50% of what the person would have made or 100% if it was a teenager for $7 an hour and you were only going to be gone 3 hours. That wouldn’t be a huge hit to your wallet.

If the sitter is standing in your doorway when you cancel, you are an asshole and that sitter should not only REFUSE to work for you again, they should tell all of their friends that you are a damn awful human being. This happened to me. I cried. True Story.

I used to babysit the younger brother of my brother’s friend – he was one of those children born much later than all of the other siblings…so all of the other kids were in college or high school when he was still in diapers. I didn’t babysit him very often, maybe once every few months, since there were so many older siblings who could watch him.

One day I got a call from his mother asking me to babysit on a particular afternoon after school. I looked at the calendar and hesitated, because it was the anniversary of my dad’s death and I knew that was a day that my mom would keep my brother and I out of school to have a family day together and go visit the grave.

“Zoogie2, this would REALLY help me out. My elderly mother is flying in and it’s only for two to three hours when I pick her up and take her out to dinner so we can catch up.”

I needed the money and I figured that by that time in the evening I’d already want to escape my depressing family, so I agreed.

After a long day of grave visiting, family meals and going through countless photo albumns (along with sniffles from my mom about how proud my dad would be of us if he was here, he’s our guardian angel looking at us from a cotton-like cloud while playing a harp and smiling down on us serenely, etcetra) I showed up at the house a bit sadder and more emotional that I thought I would be.

I knocked on the door and the mom opened it. Barely glancing at me, she said, “Oh, I decided to take my son to the airport and dinner with me. Sorry.” Then closed the door in my face.

Should I have gotten a better apology? Yes! Should I have been compensated for my time, regardless of what memories the day held for me, but definitely consider what kind of emotional hell I was ignoring to help her out? Fuck yes!

She didn’t just cancel on me, she let me drive all the way to her home and knock on the door. She didn’t even have the decency to give me a call or attempt to cancel. The disrespect of her  actions is galling. At the very least, I was out gas money and my time; when I came home and told my mom what happened we were both pretty pissed.

So I called all of my babysitter friends (because at 10 cents a pop, texting was too expensive and I had a limit) and let them know what happened. For the rest of my time in high school, that mom had an incredibly difficult time finding a sitter and when she called me I always said the same thing, “Sorry, I’m busy that day. Goodbye.” I would have confronted her but I was afraid of losing other clients. She certainly suffered for a few years being blackballed.

I’ve been on the other side of the coin as well – one time I was supposed to babysit a family’s two little girls at 6pm but around noon of that same day I started throwing up. My mom attempted to call the family, but they never answered their phone (this was pre-cell phone era). She tried every few hours, leaving numerous messages, so what could we do when they showed up at my place to pick me up? I had to tell them I was too sick to babysit and YES, I felt really badly. I’d called a few friends to see if anyone could cover, but no one could. Because I was apologetic, had clearly tried my best to alert them and find a replacement and because they were the forgiving type, I still babysat for them for another few years. So I understand that sometimes, shit happens.

If the columnist were me, I’d ask myself how important this client is. If we part on unhappy terms, will they tell everyone in their Mommy & Me class and will that negatively impact my ability to get other work? How close are you to the parents? Are you their main babysitter or just a backup? That will defnitely determine how much weight you hold with them. Maybe the problem is that you’ve become ‘part of the family’ and you must love their kid as much as they do, which means you’ll be flexible in seeing her. There needs to be a distance between you as an employee as them as employers.

Can you sit them down after your next babysitting gig and explain how this is affecting you and that as much as you love babysitting for them and spending time with their little sweetpea, this is a job and as such, you think the last-minute cancellations either need to stop or you need to be compensated. Figure out what points you want to make with them, and if they dump you for some 17 year old who needs money to bedazzle her phone, that’s the breaks but at least you won’t feel used or disregarded.

Island Vacation: The Real Deal

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I won’t dwell too much on my vacation, but it was wonderful. I overcame my fear of scuba diving and ended up seeing a lot of really cool animals. Studly and I went to a luau and danced under the stars, we enjoyed it so much that our last night on Maui he found a secluded beach and we danced as the sun set.

He drove the road to Hana and I somehow got us back in one piece. I think Studly may have damaged his heart with the anxiety attacks he kept having while I drove.

The only downer on the trip was a call I gave RockStar to check in as he house and cat-sat Sam. He mentioned having brought his own blanket and I yelled at him, since it was a yarn blanket and we all know how much she loves to eat those.

She ended up being fine, and my trip was magical.

Throwback Thursday – Fitting In

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Through a friend of the family I heard that a local software company was looking for summer interns, which seemed perfect since I was only a few months away from starting college a few hours away. I turned in an application and was given an interview with Ching.

Although I asked a few times, no one told me what department I was interviewing for, so when Ching asked “What do you want to learn about?”, I responded “Maybe a little about accounting.” She was a manager in the Marketing department. Doh.

Somehow I was still hired and I spent the summer learning all about Marketing from a B2B Software perspective. On my first day I nervously smiled at everyone and Googled how to make coffee, since I don’t drink it. Mid-morning, Ching looked over the wall of her cubicle and said she was going on a coffee run, would I like something from Starbucks. That’s when I knew I would like this job – the boss was willing to get an employee coffee.

At the end of the summer I was awarded a part time internship that I hadn’t known I was competing for and the rest is history. I’ve been with the company ever since.

So ends the last of my Throwback Thursdays…

I Think I Made A Mistake

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Is it ever a good idea to tell your significant other that you “think you made a mistake a few weeks ago” while eating out in public?

NO.

But let’s back track a bit, shall we? Studly drove to see me for the weekend. On Saturday morning we headed out to a local bakery to try their Belgium waffles. I freaking love waffles and am always chipper when I know I’m getting some (that’s what she said). Add to that Studly had been particularly…umm…attentive to me and I was feeling cared for and after-glowey. In short, I was a fucking delight that morning.

I had barely started in on my waffle with Studly looked at me and uttered those horrific words and all I could think of was “he cheated on me, that bastard”. That’s what you were thinking too, huh? Well, we’re both wrong.

Backstory – last year I helped Studly fill out an application and write a letter of interest for a temporary position at his government job, basically someone who reviews other’s work independently of their managers. He got the job but failed the test and so was not allowed to be a reviewer. We’ll call this position “REP”, since that’s close to the actual acronym the government uses.

I slowly put my fork down and turned my eyes away from my waffle. “What are you talking about?” I asked, my heart in my throat, my stomach in knots and every other metaphor involving organs acting as they should not.

“Remember the REP job I applied for last year? I applied again this year.”

“When did you do this?”

“On my business trip to New York last month.”

“Oh. Last year you had to fill out an application and write a letter. I helped proofread yours, did you not have to do that this year?”

“I did those and turned them in.”

“Without me. Without my input or opinion or knowledge – ” I cut myself off because my voice was getting loud enough so that the table next to us was turning to look at me. I felt rage fill my body from my toe nails to the top of my head. I sat there silently, fuming.

Becoming a REP would include travelling an additional three months past when his current travel position would end. For the past six months we’d been discussing taking a class together and settling down nearer to each other than we currently live. When had he changed his mind about that and why had he waited until after he’d applied to tell me? Most importantly, why had he brought this up in a public area, especially when I was getting my waffle on?

I controlled my voice carefully, “When will you know if you were accepted into the program?”

He paused and slowly answered, “Yesterday.”

That’s when I got up, found the waitress and asked for a box for my waffle. I’d lost my appetite, which is a first. She brought the box and the check and while he hastily paid and tried to box his own food up, I walked out. Unfortunately, we’d come in one car so my grand exit was marred by having to wait for him to unlock the doors.

It was a tense, silent ride back to my apartment, where I stormed into my room and slammed the door, leaving him to put the waffles away. Sam the cat had been lounging on one of my windowsills and as soon as the door closed she ran over to it and started yeowling, demanding to be let in. I could hear Studly try to calm her down but she would have none of him. What a loyal little cat. I heard Sam growl at Studly as she realized he had done something terrible. Or possibly because he was enroaching on her territory. Maybe because he was wearing blue. It’s also a possibility that she just felt like being angry – with Sam, you never know.

I’ll skip the part where I got upset and punched a pillow and let Sam into the room while making sure to slam the door in Studly’s face. It felt really good to do that.

Sam was actually sympathetic to me cuddled up in my lap, letting me pet her fur and cry. Eventually I decided that giving Sam an impromptu tear bath was not how I wanted to spend my day, I wanted to spend my day demanding answers from Studly.

I’ll give you an overview of how it went instead of blow by blow dialogue. Mostly because I don’t remember exact quotes but partially because I’m lazy. According to Studly, he wanted to see if he could get into the program again after his bad record from last year. He didn’t originally plan on following through with it, until he got the acceptance and then he realized that he really wanted to do it.

I pointed out bringing up topics that are clearly private conversations in public places is not appropriate. He apologized. He did a lot of apologizing that day.

I felt angry, very angry but suddenly I had this terrible thought. You know when you get an idea in your head and you can’t shake it? You can’t let go of it until you confront it? Studly had been extra attentive the evening before and the morning of our fight….had he done that to put me into a good mood before he dropped the bombshell?!

He denied it, but I still have my suspicions. Ultimatley I ‘forgave’ him – and by that I mean that I won’t put up a fuss when he goes on his three month REP trip, but I expect a lot of fucking flowers when he gets back and some grovelling.

Worst of all I have not had a waffle since, because I flash back to that anger when I see one. Which is a shame because waffle-celibacy is no fun.

What I Don’t Know Can’t Hurt Me

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Ignorance is not bliss. Studly and I spoke last week and he was very distant and sharp. The next day he texted me saying that he was going to drive to my place. Since it’s a two hour drive each way, we usually on make that trek on our days off. This meant he had to wake up at 2:30am to make sure he got to work on time, but I assumed it was to make up for how bitchy he was the night before.

When he showed up we went out and had some fun, took a walk and made a nice dinner together. As we were getting ready to sleep he climbed into bed still wearing his boxers. I playfully tugged at the waistband and grinned, and immediately his smile dropped.

“I need to tell you something.” He said softly. “I went to the doctor today because I found…something…last night and the doctor had to remove it today.”

I know you didn't find a pot of gold in your pants...so what you did find probably wasn't good...

I know you didn’t find a pot of gold in your pants…so what you did find probably wasn’t good…

I pulled back and stared at him silently. A flood of thoughts crossed my mind, but the main one is the fact that it’s confirmed – Studly has HPV. According to my doctor the test for HPV in men is unreliable at best* and the only real confirmation is an outbreak which doesn’t happen to everyone.

*Remember I’m not a doctor or health professional. For questions, shell out the copay and go to your own damn doctor.

The second thought to cross my mind was worry for him. Now that we know he has it, we also know that he’s at increased risk for cancer.

The third thought that I was able to clearly identify in the tornado of my mind was the fact that he had known last night and chose not to tell me until today. Would he have said anything at all if I hadn’t noticed he was wearing boxers to bed? After running my mouth for a while about it, he assured me that he never meant to keep anything from me, he just hadn’t known what to say but intended to tell me and that’s why he had driven two hours to my house.

He told me about his appointment and said that the doctor had recommended getting the Guardasil vaccine. According to his doctor* sometimes getting the vaccine boosts the immune system and can cause the virus to become dormant (although it will never leave your system). Since Studly is older than 26, the oldest recommended age for the vaccine, it was not covered by insurance. He says paying full price is worth it if it means he might make the virus inactive. I had another appointment with my doctor yesterday and asked her again about the vaccination – she calls bullshit saying it won’t help once you already have the virus and that in our case we’re exclusive sexual partners and have already exposed each other to what we currently have. So the vaccine is useless unless we plan on sleeping with someone else. I don’t know who is right – I guess vaccination advice depends on what doctor you see.

*Note that my degree is a Bachelors in Business – does it look like I wear a white coat and carry around a stethoscope? If you want to know if the vaccination is right for you, contact your doctor.

I explained that it felt like he wasn’t honest right away and that I wasn’t happy about being on the receiving end of his bad mood. Studly was very apologetic about not telling me right away and the more he apologized, the more I wondered if I was being unreasonable. Was I being too demanding about wanting to know right away?

Throwback Thursday – Your Dreams Are Your Own

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To Amazon’s unending horror, I hate color. My wardrobe consists of neutrals, black and the rare splash of color – sort of like how often you’ve seen a unicorn walking into the Senate. If that ever happens CSPAN will finally be able to justify it’s costs.

On this particular day, I decided to wear something upbeat and perky: black pants, black shoes and a black lace button down shirt covering a turquoise top. It’s more color than I usually wear. I walked into a small, locally owned retail store and was hired on the spot for my “fashion sense”. Considering that I almost never shop and frequently wear clothing from five years ago, first impressions aren’t everything. Remember that, people!

I began working in this store that advertised it was for “mature” women who desired all-natural fiber clothing. We had loyal local clientle as well as out of town women who forgot a scarf or wanted something cooler to wear during their vacations.

On my first day I told my new boss, SoSo (it’s close to her real name, which was also the name of the store) that I recognized the register as the same type that I had used for two years at the Discount Store. I noticed that she input prices manually, used a calculator to figure out tax and break bills given to her by her clients, then did a long work-around to open the till to give change. All of that could be done on the register. I thought I was being helpful, but I was immediately banished to the back room to steam.

Ahhhhh steaming – have you steamed clothing before? If you’ve ever been in a sauna and poured water onto the hot coals or rocks with your face directly above the steam…that’s what steaming clothing in a small closet sized room is like. It sucks. If you hold your hand the wrong way, you burn it. If you stand the wrong way any area of your body could be hit by steam. Since I was in a small enclosed room, the hot steam had nowhere to go, except directly into my pores causing me to sweat. There are people in labor camps that sweated less than I did, although their work is more physically challenging.

I was going to put a pic of the industrial steamer I used, but it searching for it caused PTSD flashbacks...so here is a cute bunny instead.

I was going to put a pic of the industrial steamer I used, but searching for it caused PTSD flashbacks…so here is a cute bunny instead.

After a month I learned that as long as I didn’t question any of the existing policies and quietly put clothing away, I would only have to steam for the last half hour of my shift. The minute I asked why we did things a certain way or suggested moving stock in any way, I would spend the rest of my time soaking my clothing and smelling to high heaven.

A month into my stint at SoSo’s, I was counting down the days until I graduated high school and left Hometown forever (funny, huh? Since I had to move back after college. Friggen HILARIOUS!). I hadn’t told SoSo this yet, but it was my eventual plan…probably when I gave my two weeks notice. I only had three weeks of high school left then the summer and finally freedom in college.

It was a slow day and I was hanging up a new shipment when SoSo asked about my career path. I had applied for college with no degree plan, assuming I would figure it out as I went along. I asked for clarification.

“Well, what kind of business do you want to own?” She asked, folding a shirt and placing it in the window.

“Um, I’m not sure.” I said, confused. At the time I was looking at teaching or accounting, neither of which would involve my own business.

“Well I’m glad I’m able to give you a taste of what it means to be a small business owner.” SoSo said brightly, “I love being a mentor. You were born for retail!”

I took this as an insult, after two years of working for Discount Store.

SoSo cleared her throat, “It’s just that I realized that I haven’t really been giving you guidance on how this store runs. I want you to feel free to ask me all owning a business since you have first hand experience with me.”

“I guess I never considered owning my own business. I’ve been researching a few different majors.”

SoSo stopped folding and turned to me slowly. “So you aren’t interested in owning your own business?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it before.”

SoSo asked me to go steam the new shipment of cotton pants in the back room, and I knew I’d said the wrong thing. At the end of my shift, she wrote out a check for what I was owed and fired me.

“I thought I was mentoring you, I’m interested in an employee who wants to own a business. This is not working out.”

I was fired for not having the same dream as my boss. On my way out I gave one last kick to the steamer and realized that I would need a new job for just the next three months that would give me a good recommendation for one in my college town, since the last few jobs I had let me go or I quit in a fury. I thought I was screwed…

Island Vacation: Planning

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Studly and I both have tons of vacation time, unfortunately we also have employers that put a clock on it: if you don’t use it by a certain day, you lose the time. We realized we were each at the maximum, so we started planning a vacation fast. Studly desperately wanted to go scuba diving on an island somewhere, but due to my passport troubles, our only options were the few US islands. Hawaii is our choice, and a few weekends before our trip I heard that a certain large sports store almost like a chalet (hint hint) hosted monthly intro to diving classes. Talk about good timing (or so I thought!).

We signed up and took a short drive to our local store, complete with pool. After filling out some forms, we were escorted into a small room to watch a short video on the basics of diving. The voice over was a cheerful Australian woman, but rather than focus on the extremely important points she spent the first third of the video telling us about the wonders of diving, how it will open a whole new world that most people will never see…on and on. I know lady, that’s why I’m taking the class, now tell me how NOT to die. On the back of our contracts agreeing not to sue the store in case of serious injury or death was a quiz. An illiterate idiot could have guessed the correct choices, but the ‘teacher’ (who had sat happily staring into space the entire movie) simply repeated the answers and then escorted us out of the training room.

We were instructed to grab masks and fins out of bins and I took a while since I had no idea about sizing and no one was there to assist. Then we all climbed into a small pool and were divided into two large groups. They placed our equipment on us and our ‘instructor’ told us he would demonstrate a skill and then one by one we would repeat it. Aside from the quick overview on the video, none of the equipment was explained to us. He told us to go on our knees under the water, I remembered on the video the woman said press the button to inflate and do…something to deflate the vest. Hmm. I was the only one still above water, so the instructor came back up to ask what was wrong. I explained and he said “Do this” and it looked like he simply pulled the hose. Ok, I can do that. So I tried and nothing happened. They ended up putting weights on me that made me sink like a rock.

It was hard to follow everything and during one of the exercises the instructor showed us how to clear a mask (remove water from it). When it was my turn, I added a bit of water and then cleared it. Apparently I hadn’t added enough, since the instructor then flooded my entire mask and I desperately tried to clear it, getting overly chlorinated water in my eyes. When it was Studly’s turn, the same thing happened and he panicked, going to the surface of the water. Since we were only in 4 feet of water, I stood up to see if he was OK. I made it just in time to hear Studly explain that the water had flooded his nose and the instructor to tell him he needed a custom made mask since he had an ‘oddly shaped face‘. Asshole.

At the end of the instruction the teacher kept signing something. Finally we gave up, since none of us had been told the sign and we all stood up. ‘You can swim around for a bit, in the shallow end only’ the instructor grumbled at us. How were we supposed to know what the sign meant? I tried to swim around, but the weights meant I sank to the bottom and had to work to stay a few inches off of the floor.

They asked us to inflate our vests and remove them, I desperately pushed the button but nothing happened. The instructor came over and showed me a different button to inflate it. “The one you were pushing was the deflate button.”

“Uh, there’s a deflate button?”

“Yeah, how were you deflating it?!” “Pulling the hose the buttons are attached to, that’s what it looked like you did.” With a disgusted look, he took my vest and I got out of the pool.

I was convinced that there was NO WAY I was going to scuba dive after that. If that’s what it’s like in a pool, how would I do under 50′ of water, in the open ocean with dangerous animals!?

They were lining up the vests and I thought about the saliva on my regulator so I asked one of the men pulling vests and air tanks out of the pool.

“Yeah, we wipe them off.” He said with a snicker. Four days later Studly had a bad cold which quickly jumped to me. That morphed into my current illness, I think that Intro to Diving class is the WORST idea I’ve ever had!

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