Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You Just Can't Get Good Help These Days

"Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published October 20, 2011] © 2011

Only in the La Jolla could one get away with a column whining about the help. 

Earlier this year, our wonderful gardener guy became ill and temporarily (he hoped) bequeathed his customers to a twenty-something relative who was perennially undecided about careers and overdue for a job.  Raised in La Jolla and a graduate of La Jolla High, “Bentley” mentioned when I first met him  that he’d grown up with affluence and that despite his relative’s hope that he would ultimately take over this successful landscape maintenance business, he planned to do something different.

That’s the best news I’ve heard in years.

Bentley, alas, had a world-class inattention to detail.  His style was to turn up his iPod and kind of get into the Zen of gardening.  Unfortunately, whatever garden he was servicing didn’t appear to be in our galaxy.

He was, for example, a holy terror with a leaf blower.  I’d be puzzled as to why my kitchen was full of leaves and dirt.  With his iPod turned up full blast, Bentley failed to notice that he was blowing all the detritus from the patio through my kitchen window.  One has to admire the technical skill that got so much lift in those leaves that he could get them up and over a four foot high pass-through.  The stuff that failed to achieve altitude settled like Mt St. Helens ash on the plants. 

“Sorry,” said Bentley, when I went out and used sign language to get his attention over the iPod.  “I have ADHD.”  Which might (but probably doesn’t) explain why this happened ten more times.  And why some fourteen decorator flower pots were slain on his watch.

I learned to keep the house closed up tight when Bentley was around, no matter how hot it was, after I found water cascading through my office window onto my hardwood floors.  Bentley was zapping the white fly on the hibiscus with the hose but didn’t notice the open window next to it. 

I suggested that his ADHD might be at least ameliorated by the removal of the iPod head phones.  But the next week the head phones would be back on again.  He forgot, he’d say, reminding me he has ADHD. 

On several occasions I returned home and concluded that he’d severed a digit with his trimming tool and fled the scene to the nearest emergency room.  It was the only explanation for the fact that only half the lawn was mowed, his tools had been left all over the front yard, and the gates weren’t locked. But there was no sign of blood. 

I gave Bentley a list of what needed to be done every week so he wouldn’t have to remember.  He had to check off the items and put the list in my mail box.  Usually the list was checked off in my mailbox, most of the items undone. 

“I was like totally meaning to do them,” he’d say apologetically later.  “I just forgot.  I have—“

“ADHD,” I said. “I know. But the whole idea is to not check them off until you do them.  The list is supposed to help you.  I really do want you to succeed.” 

Two hours of gardening generally stretched into a whole day as Bentley would leave ostensibly to get gas for his lawn mower and not return for three hours.  Or at all. 

It was only out of loyalty to his wonderful relative that I persisted.  It was quickly becoming apparent that a successful gardening business had probably dwindled to five customers, especially after Bentley lost the entire customer key ring, including some $75 security gate keys. 

Ironically it was Bentley who threw in the towel. This just wasn’t a job that interested him, he said, returning my (replacement) keys.  But he’d had a lot of time to think about what he really wanted to do during his long dreary months in the landscape maintenance biz. 

He’s going into the medical field.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ground to a Pulp In the Rumor Mill

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published, Oct. 6, 2011]  © 2011

Jane Smith tells her two closest friends that she and her husband Fred will not be able to attend a group dinner the next night as planned.  Pressed for details, she finally confides that the two had a huge fight and have decided to spend the weekend away from each other to cool off.   Jane reminds them that this is strictly confidential information. She does not want to start any rumors.

But Fred’s and Jane’s absence is noted and an Inquiring Mind, professing deep concern for Jane, persists in querying one of the close friends if Jane and Fred are having problems.  Close Friend finally says, “You have to promise you won’t say anything.  They’re totally fine but they just needed to spend a little time apart.”

At bridge group a few days later, Inquiring Mind leans in and announces in a lowered voice that she has learned something that must absolutely not leave this room under any circumstances.  Jane Smith’s husband has left her.  Inquiring Mind doesn’t know why but another member concludes, “Isn’t it always another woman?”

One of the bridge group members is having mani-pedis with a group of friends the next day and, unable to resist the heroin-esque high of being Among The First To Know, says:  “This is a total secret so you can’t say anything, but since I think you all know Jane Smith, I know you’d want to know that Fred Smith left Jane for his secretary.”  There is a moment of silence while everyone pretends to be sad on Jane’s behalf, although are actually trying to remember where they do know her from.  T-ball?  Clay camp?

By nightfall, Fred Smith’s affair with his secretary has been one of a long line of extra-marital dalliances of which the long-suffering Jane is justifiably fed up.  Over refreshments at a book club the following night, everyone agrees that one really never knows what goes on behind closed doors.  But out of respect for Jane, whom nobody in the group can quite place, not a word of this is to be breathed.

On Saturday, as the kids warm up for their soccer game at Allen Field, word is out that Fred actually left Jane because of her prescription drug problem and not because of the secretary.  Poor Fred having to live with an addict for all these years!  And the kids!  We must all invite them over for play dates to ply them for information, er, give them the mothering they have clearly not been getting.  If only Jane had confided in someone earlier, we might have been able to prevent this tragedy!

At an organizing luncheon for a local charity on Monday, Jane Smith is rumored to already be at Betty Ford.  There is conjecture that the drug is actually diet pills related to her insecurity about Fred’s infidelities and this is really how Jane Smith has kept her svelte figure all these years, not Pilates or the tummy tuck she always admitted having after her third child – or was that Susie Smith?  Doesn’t matter.  Who hasn’t had a little plastic surgery these days?

In one corner of a cocktail party fund raiser the next evening, the sordid details of the lives of Jane and Fred Smith, whom no one in the group could actually pick out of a line up, are the talk of the evening.  Somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who used to play golf with Fred and they always suspected there was a dark side to him. 

Meanwhile, Jane Smith has 60 “I just heard – I’m so sorry!” messages in her email in-basket.  Fred Smith has been solicited by four of Jane’s single acquaintances offering solace in the form of a drink and “talk”.   Fred calls Jane from work and asks her if she knows something he doesn’t.  And Jane says, “Yes.  There are people in this town who need a different hobby.”