I was never meant to have staff.
Under the heading of I Can't Believe She Has the Nerve to Complain About This, I reached this decisive and most certain conclusion today. My lack of spinal fortitude had me unsuccessfully terminating my housekeeper's employ for the second time in four days. Don't misunderstand: we LOVE Meena. She is a sweetheart of a lady, a grandmother from India who has been in Doha for 26 years. And, she cleans our house to exacting standards (not mine, as I don't possess any, but trust me, the standards of someone who's really, really picky). The singular problem leading to the attempted "letting-go" is that, when she is here for her one day per week, I have to drive her home. I know what you're thinking: "Get a grip, lady, she's cleaning your whole damn house!" This wouldn't be a big deal if it weren't for the fact that at that point in the day, I've just returned from the one-hour plus trek to the school and back (as I pick up Ben once a week) on the Expressway, and I've barely had time to pry my white knuckles from the steering wheel before hopping back in the car to return her home. The half-hour return trip to Meena's house is just enough to send me over the edge and force me to complete a bottle of wine in its entirety while making dinner.
I know who to blame for this whole mess. My loving husband arranged for this household help before I arrived, and dutifully drove her to our house and back once a week. When I arrived (note: before I had my license) it made sense to me to keep with the status-quo. Now that it affects me personally, it's a whole new ball-game. Besides, in the dividing of marital tasks, I'm pretty sure it's written somewhere that he's supposed to do all the hirin' and firin'.
This is a country where eHarmony would do well to launch a subsidiary, a virtual match-making site for the service industry, perhaps something like eForeignWorkersWhoWillCleanTheLintOutOfYourBellybutton.com. There is, literally, someone for everyone, if you're looking for that special person to do a task you'd rather wash your hands of, so to speak. Since arriving, we have not pumped our own gas, cut our lawn, swept our sidewalk, washed our cars, filled our BBQ tank, or brushed our own teeth. A friend recently referred to "the guy who cleans [her] golf shoes". I'm sure if I had asked the young man behind the counter at Pizza Hut if he could tune our piano, the response would have been, with head waggling in one direction and pointed index finger in the other, "Yes, Madame. I can do it. No problem." You'd think I'd be in heaven, but this place is not for the faint of heart. This culture of service has, in several instances, put me in a situation where I have to hire an individual for a job that we might otherwise attempt ourselves. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I suck at it: just last week I bartered 200 riyals over the asking price for our carpenter to build extra shelves in our kitchen. Note to the gardener: don't water her flowers for two weeks and she'll tip you, big time!
My negotiating skills are self-defeating, to say the least. After a 20-minute conversation with Meena, I've agreed to drive her for another month, at which point her taxi-driver friend will have returned from holiday and take over the driving duties. Expect subsequent posts to include reports of me driving her home, cleaning her toilets and waxing her legs. By Christmas, I should have a full-time job...that is, if her standards aren't too high.