Last night, we arrived home at 8.20 with a trunk full of grocery bags. I rang the doorbell, no one opened the front door. Thinking that the house helpers didn’t hear, Speedy opened the front door with his key, I proceeded out back and knocked on the helpers’ room to tell them that there were a lot of grocery bags to bring in. No one answered. I knocked again, still no answer. Sam took a flashlight and peeped through the window. The bedroom was empty. Right there and then, I decided the helpers had to go.
I’ve kept my cool with these helpers’ hit-and-miss cleaning. I’ve never made an issue about their four to five-hour afternoon naps (sometimes even longer and they wouldn’t come out of their room until sundown) which meant I had to stop writing to go down and answer the door every time the mailman or the mineral water delivery service came. I had our bedroom flooring repaired one afternoon a few weeks ago, the repairman needed rugs, wondered where the maids were and I told them they were sleeping. He found it strange and muttered — sarcastically — how comfortable the helpers’ lives were.
I’ve kept my peace about how they always seemed deaf to the doorbell in the afternoons. I never raised my voice whenever they asked permission to go to town for personal stuff, even when it wasn’t their day off. It took a lot of effort but neither did I raise my voice when they went out and left the stove on. Twice. The only thing they did with gusto, and with regularity without being told, was walking Twix around the neighborhood — and only because they did it in the company of the other helpers in the neighborhood. Many times, it took them an hour and a half to walk the dog and Twix is a toy dog. At the height of summer, whenever they wanted to spend several hours in the clubhouse pool, I never said no. When they wanted to play volleyball on the nearby empty lot with the other helpers, I let them — even though I knew that the real objective was to make themselves visible to the construction workers hanging out a few meters away.
Speedy locked the gates to the garden and laundry area last night. Surprisingly, when he got up this morning, the house helpers were back. They told him they climbed over the fence. Well, they managed to get to their room but not inside the house. That’s one great thing about the design of this house. The maids’ room is outside, the laundry area and a second kitchen are adjacent to it.
At 7.00 a.m., I called the helpers into the bedroom, asked where they had been and they told me their aunt (who stays in the adjacent subdivision) sent a text message, told them a relative was in town and they went to visit. So why didn’t they text us, I asked. No load, they said. Right. They had enough for tricycle fare — to and fro, and tricycle fare here isn’t cheap — but couldn’t spare P10 pesos to load up their cell phones. I asked them how many times they had done this in the past (we don’t ring the doorbell when we get home after 9.00 p.m.), making us think they were in their room when we got home late at night, then sneaking in early in the morning of the following day. They couldn’t answer. Imagine that. Maybe they were telling the truth about last night, maybe not. Maybe they were out with the construction workers. I didn’t really care. I only knew they had become a liability and I couldn’t trust them any longer. I told them to pack their things, they would get the remaining pay due them and then they could go.
The thing is, we have house helpers primarily because we don’t like leaving the house unoccupied. And coming home to find the house empty when we’re paying two people to make sure it isn’t just sucked. Big time. It was the last straw and I have had it. We’ve managed without live-in house helpers before; I don’t see why we can’t now especially since the kids are old enough to take care of their own space. And this is a much more secure neighborhood than the old one. If we decide to hire a new helper, I’d much prefer someone who only comes in daily. We can even get janitorial services so we won’t have to buy the cleaning stuff.