Invisible Helpers

            It is known that children have wonderful imaginary worlds.  They can fantasize about anything they like just because they have the ability.  They are even able to have invisible friends.  I know, I had a couple of them myself when I was a child.  But who knew that they will show up again when I grew up.

            It is also known that States in the US differ from each other.  But what it is not widely known is that sometimes the differences can be really huge.  They vary in their size, geography, climate, landscape, laws, and mentality and even in the availability of services. 
When we lived in New Hampshire – with a population of one million and most of them born there – it was almost impossible to meet an immigrant.  Absolutely the opposite of California, a state that has well over thirty million people and as many immigrants as natives.  Or at least that’s how it is seems.  With that also comes different access to services.

If immigrants want to survive in their new land they have to work.  Most of them come from Mexico or South America.  In a new country you are forced to learn new skills.  The easiest and fastest way to learn some skills are in service businesses.  The best is the sort of service where one can learn fast, not mess up too much, and still make good money.  Therefore, among the popular services are jobs like gardener, cleaning crew or housekeepers (however you like to call it), painters, or window washers.

Once you are knowledgeable about the workforce in different states, you understand why it takes three months of waiting for a good window washer in New Hampshire while in California you have a several offers at your doorstep every day!  Immigrants have adapted very well and have invented services that a normal person would not even think of.  Not only can they clean your house, take care of the garden, or wash your windows… they will also: decorate-redecorate your Christmas tree, take your child/dog/cat for a walk or to play, bring your groceries home (for that matter they will shop and bring anything to your home), wash your clothes, iron, hang them in your closet, or just every morning will come to make your bed.  Say what you wish for and you will get it.  Services are not overpriced and if you sign up with them regularly you will even get a discount.  On top of that, it also works as a sort of “social security” – which the American government does not really provide, compared to Europe or Australia, for example.  Here it is more about people helping people.  In this case, citizens with higher incomes are supporting citizens, or those waiting to be citizens, with lower incomes.  And both sides are happy that way.

And that’s how it became the custom in California, maybe even tradition, that no one is doing anything by themselves.  Most people don’t even think that it could be any other way.  You just hire for everything.  Honestly, who likes to clean, mow the lawn, dust, or other necessary housework that we get bothered by!

            I too, after we moved here, got California fever and thought for a moment that I will hire for everything.  Not just because it is so common, but also because I really felt pressured.  Daily someone was at our front door with very tempting offers.  Sometimes they even put more pressure on me and told me that it is basically my obligation.  Luckily I came to my senses quickly and decided that as long I have the time and energy I will do it all by myself.  Not only has it saved us a lot of money, it has also allowed me to have better control over the household and do things my way.  However, as time went by I felt I should add something to the “social security” and I started hiring at least window washers.

            As time passed, our house needed repairs from the outside as well as from the inside.  Our children grew, our lifestyle changed, and our house needed to keep up.  The way I usually do it is to start all the projects at once.  Many of them I could not do alone, so as a true Californian now, I started hiring help enthusiastically for the big jobs! 
First came the movers.  These guys are also usually from the lines of immigrants, but they seem to be a higher on the service worker totem pole.  They generally lived here longer and they speak at least a little bit of English.

I was waiting and waiting but they were not showing up.  I decided to take advantage while I was waiting and went to clean our bathrooms.  They came exactly in the middle of my work and banged on the door.  I ran to open for them.  I was wearing sweats and rubber gloves on my hands.  I was holding the toilet brush too.

The boss said, “We would like to talk to the lady of the house,” and waited.  “I am the lady of the house,” I answered happily and took off my gloves and put down the brush.  The movers did not say a word; they silently assembled the new furniture and placed it into the living room.  All four of them were staring at me the whole time like if I was a vision.  Staring is not polite in America so I asked them if everything was alright.

“Yes, yes, everything’s fine,” said the boss “it’s just, that we just, never saw the lady of the house cleaning the bathrooms,” and all four of them turned their amused faces at me.  Then came the painters and workers who were hired to do the new facade.  These guys are even “higher” than movers because their profession really needs a lot of skill, knowledge, and practice.  Good English is necessary.

Their boss and I walked around our house.  He was giving me all the instructions on how to prepare the house for their project.  Where will they need to set their tools and other equipment?  “…and don’t forget to tell your gardener to cut these branches, so we have easy access to the wall right there,” said the boss and pointed out an overgrown bush.  “Also tell your maid or cleaning crew when and how we will be working around the house.  We can’t have them in our way,” and he went on and on giving me more instructions.  I mentioned that I do not have a gardener or cleaning crew and he can give all the instructions straight to me because I am the one who will do the work.  He dismissed my comment entirely and gave me a look as if he was hallucinating.  Then he continued with the instructions for “my people.”

After my experience with the moving guys I decided not to go into details about my self-sufficiency and I let him think whatever he wanted to.  And that’s how I came to have invisible helpers.  The whole week I was getting instructions for my gardener and cleaning crew.  They got praised every day by the boss as he admired their precise work.

“Please don’t forget to tell them ma’am, I really appreciate their work,” he kept reminding me every day.  I had to assure him that I will give them all of his compliments.  You bet that I never forgot!  Bruce and my parents who knew about the whole situation were very entertained and anxious to hear the daily updates.

            Until this day, when Bruce comes home and the house smells fresh he does not forget to mention: “I am pretty sure your invisible helpers were here today.” J
KD (2013)