You cannot live with them nor can one live without them

I am not referring to one’s wife. Perhaps in the not too distant future one will be able to replace them with robots but currently they are indispensable especially if one’s wife works or is invalid. I am referring to one’s maid. This blog exposes that binary condition as it recently applied in the McCleland household.

Pictures: This series of photographs is about garage doors

In our house, the services of a maid are vital because Janine is semi bed-ridden. As such she is unable to perform any housekeeping duties and as she is unable to walk, she is incapable of supervising the maid in any way. Furthermore with her erratic sleep patterns, the maid has been issued with strict instructions NOT to wake her up or in fact, as she is a light sleeper, to make much noise whilst cleaning her room.

Garage Doors#1

Towards the end of November last year – 2015 – the maid broke this cardinal rule. With immediate effect, she received her penalty: a shrill blast and tongue lashing from Janine. Upon being reprimanded, the maid stormed out claiming that she was unable to work under such inhumane conditions.

Then peace returned to the McCleland sans a maid.

A week later, our equanimity was shattered. The offending action was that of phone call from an official at the Department of Labour. Our former employee who had absconded & not fired was claiming unfair dismissal.

Garage Doors#2

The maid had lodged a complaint regarding a number of infractions:

  • Non-payment of wages which was invalid as she had appeared two days later for her pay but as she had not been forced to sign on receipt, this was in dispute.
  • Non-payment of UIF Contributions for 3 years which I readily conceded whereas she claimed 4 years. Again we were unable to substantiate the number of years as there was no paperwork.
  • Wages in lieu of dismissal

Ultimately with gnashing of teeth and swearing aloud in the shower, the various amounts were settled. Maybe these actions were cathartic, but the pain of the money misspent lingered.

Garage Doors#3

The short-term solution over December was to use a Maid Service. This represented a motley collection of maids, some excellent some totally incompetent. As we would have been amiss having a disreputable house over Christmas, we forlornly conceded the necessity. It was more than that. It was a foretaste of what was in the market.

A woman in her late 20’s was the best of the bunch and was duly employed in January. Apart from a communication problem – her command of the English language was rudimentary – she appeared to meet the requirements of the job.

This time we had crossed our Ts and dotted our Is in the Contract / Legal department.

For two months everything went swimmingly well.

Then it happened.

Garage Doors#4

Alesha’s sliver bracelet went missing. She rightly suspected the maid as Alesha is prim and proper about where everything is kept in her room not only in terms of position to the closest 2 millimetres but also as regards colour order. Needless to say she will drive her future husband demented regarding order, cleanliness and neatness, much to his chagrin.

As we shared this maid with the next door neighbours, Alesha phoned Claudia & explained about the disappearance of her jewellery. Claudia confided in Alesha that she had been tenaciously searching for a sentimental piece of jewellery which Alan had recently given her as a present. Hence the hushed tones.

Both families were solely disappointed.

Yet another maid had abused our trust.

In the McCleland household, it was a case of tightening the SOPs – Standard Operation Procedures. No longer was she allowed to open any cupboards or drawers except those in the kitchen.

Garage Doors#5

Surely the implication for any sane human being would be that her employer had suspected some shenanigans, something untoward or theft.

Did this deter our maid?

What do you think?

Instead of the R400 cheapie of Alesha, she now went after Janine’s expensive jewellery. With Janine semi compos mentis after her scare in ICU, she purloined her prize bracelet, a piece of jewellery insured for R 20 000!

Claudia then informed Alesha that a silver bracelet had miraculously appeared in her jewellery box. As she never wore silver, it had to be Alesha’s, which it was.

Garage Doors#6

A trap was set for the next morning in our driveway.

She would be confronted by both families.

Janine’s gold bracelet worth R 20 000 was recovered and the maid was dismissed.

It was back to the Maid’s Service.

Fortunately we only had to use their services for one day. By the end of that day she had contriving to smash two photographs hanging on the passage wall and broken off the lid of an electric kettle.

We then employed a new Maid on Thursday.

Garage Doors#8

By Friday night we had counted the cost of her first day at work. Amongst them were two pairs of beige work trousers which had been washed with my jeans. As a consequence I now owned two pairs of bluish beige – or was that beigy blue – work pants. Woollies was the winner as I purchased 2 new pairs of work pants on Friday night!

Apart from that she overloaded the Tumble Drier with too many wet towels. On Saturday morning after my run, I was off to Tesco to purchase a fan belt.

Then on the following Tuesday she again contrived to do some more damage by burning out the motor!

Guess what we have found now!

There are two cupboards for cleaning materials, one for those in use and one serving as a storage area as we are never informed timeously about impending shortages. Alesha has now found some bottles half empty.

Garage Doors#9

Does that imply that the two week old maid has already abused our trust and commenced stealing from us?

We are on the horns of a dilemma: Do we fire now or later?

Perhaps the McCleland’s experience makes a compelling case for the “abolition” of maids in South Africa.

There is a faint glimmer of hope. When is Google going to invent the housekeeping robot? If they can invent self-driving cars, surely housekeeping robots are within the realms of possibility

By all accounts, albeit anecdotal, the McCleland’s experience is not atypical & not without precedent.

 


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