Our remaining incompetent household help ambushed us with her bags and cartons packed of her belongings at 5 pm, just 20 minutes before our family went to mass in a nearby church. The peace we've known to uphold every Sunday was eventually destroyed by the melodrama of Michelle and the fury of my mother.
Ate Nene who has been with us for years since I was grade school is on a much needed vacation. So far, she is the longest reigning authority in training and making sure that the new household help is comfortable and in tip top shape. I don't know how she managed our family and how she managed to stay put with my fiery mother, but she mostly did her work well and she already knows my family inside out. Suffice to say she has promoted herself to being like a family, fighting with my dad, with my mother, with me. She knows the nitty gritty things that tick us. Sheknows where we keep our most valuable possessions. She has a great memory and intact common sense. She may have shortcomings here and there, but so far she is the best. She knows our whole routine, plus with her petite frame she can manage to do anything.
A lot of maids come and go. Some couldn't take the pressure of my mother. Some had other plans upon arriving here, and some were practical screw ups that we wish we'd never met. Ate Ne's record is unthreatened.
When this petite Michelle entered the picture, we treated her like any other new maid. We treated her with respect and we tried to take it easy. Ate Ne, as usual, taught her stuff as my mother did too. But with all the maids we've had, Michelle is the most racy one...in a bad way.
She is easily upset by work. It's like she's being punished if a new task is assigned to her aside from her usual routinary tasks. Ate Ne does all the major work and Michelle just manages to WOW us with her super meticulous way of sweeping grass in our sidewalk. We figured that was her favorite task because because she gets to gossip with other household help in our neighborhood. Their meetings usually last for an hour or so until you try to look for her and find her sweeping imaginary dirt.
Aside from her wonderful sweeping skills that even target invisible dirt, she has also a thing for instructions. If not being able to memorize her text mates' numbers and the directions towards the nearby mall, I would've assumed her mind only has a capacity of a 5 second memory.
There was a time when I was on my way to work, I specifically told her to give Harvey a cup of dog food along with rice. I even stressed that dog food should be prioritized more than human food. I just spared a few seconds and got my phone in my bag only to catch Michelle going to Harvey with his dish filled with rice, but with no dog food in sight. I quickly stopped her and told her where she was going with the dish. She told me she's going to feed Harvey. I seriously didn't know if I would be actually amazed or kill myself for even bothering to waste my saliva and time in giving her instructions a couple of seconds ago. She looked at me, got the picture and turned around reprimanding herself because she forgot the dog food.
Oh and there's more, when I was in a hurry to go to work I asked for a favor to get my black shoes I prepared at the edge of my bed. I was puzzled at how excellent she was in making me feel frustrated. She ended up looking for shoes I didn't ask her to look for in my room for a whole 5 minutes. With full effort, she opened boxes that I never told her to look at, and ended up presenting to me a pair of dark brown shoes. I asked if she was color blind. She said no. I asked if she knew what black was. She said yes. I even asked if she knew where my bed was. Yes, she was standing next to it. I got my shoes and just stared at her blankly. By that time I knew I was late and I had no time to argue.
I knew I wouldn't be comfortable at asking favors from her. At the back of my mind I know that I should be doing it myself than ask her. Aside from I don't trust her that much, I find her more of a slacker. There were times that she'd lock herself in her room with the driver. I would knock and ask for Harvey's teether. I was being such a good actor lately that I repressed my anger and doubt that she's doing something fishy in my parents' house. I had no time to get angry at her. It's pointless. She would throw sharp glances at me and she would mutter profanities she thought I couldn't understand. I am fluent (hearing) in Cebuano, that was her mistake, and if I fight her, that would've been too unfair. She would've been gone by now.
Also, I always find her sleeping while Ate Ne is doing the chores. No wonder they weren't talking to each other and no wonder how Ate Ne needed that vacation. In food, she comes up with brightest comments of a connoisseur especially if my sister and I had the mood to cook. She would encourage us all the time and her face would lighten up at the site of something she could benefit from. Still, I didn't mind at all.
She did things that would be enough for me to lash out at her, but I don't lash out at maids especially if I don't really care about them. Usually I'll leave them be. I don't care what they do with their time and life as long as they do their job. For matters that involve trust, I only trust Ate Ne, the rest had been always answerable to my mother. Sometimes, I wouldn't even remember their names until they leave.
I am not a slave driver even. I keep to myself and just like how I am with my parents, I deal with my life, they deal with theirs. They cannot argue with me because I never ask them for anything. It's true that they sometimes cook food that I eat, which I don't really personally ask for them to prepare since I eat out almost everytime. It's true that they sometimes sweep my room, but my room is always barren and I'm a certified minimalist. They could finish my room in less than 5 minutes.
Aside from her wonderfully flawed work ethic and grumpy personality, I don't know and don't care to know anything about Michelle.
But last November 2007, Harvey Elizander came to my life. He is a cute, funny and adorable little dog. But since he is a puppy, an active one at that, he needs attention however minimal. As much as I'd like to do it myself, I can't. I have work and I have other responsibilities. I may not be there to pat him once in a while and put food on his dish, but certainly anyone there could do that. Ate Ne has and she loves Harvey tremendously. Harvey loves her back and sleeps beside her too. But with Michelle? Harvey can smell the enemy.
Michelle puts him in a cage and only releases him when I'm on my way home. God knows what else she did to my dog. She doesn't like Harvey and she mentions his name in full disgust. She never fails to tell me that. "Hindi ko talaga gusto yung aso mo." (I really don't like your dog) And instead of answering, I kept quiet. It's okay, we don't really like you too, but that's not enough reason to kill him whenever she has the chance. If only I had caught her do somethng nasty.
Before Ate Ne left for her vacation, she talked to me and told me the possible things that might happen to Harvey when she's gone, care of Michelle of course. For the past couple of days I had to call every lunch time and in the afternoon to ask my mother if Harvey's still alive.
I know I couldn't and wouldn't trust Michelle with my life. I couldn't even trust her with Harvey's, but there was nothing I could really do. I am always out of the house because of work and I have little knowledge in household tasks. My mother even reprimanded me whenever I ask Michelle to open the gate at wee hours in the morning, a single important favor she needs to do for me, but my mother told me to just text her instead because she doesn't want Michelle to lose hours of sleep because of her frailty health. Really, mother?
Come December, my mom employed another maid just to wash clothes. Apparently Michelle couldn't handle it because she said she was suffering from back pains. My mom at that point didn't have the time to search for a quick replacement and training household help could be so draining. IN short, my mother fell at the mercy of whatever minimal thing Michelle could do.
But early this year, my family knew that she would be replaced soon as she confessed her need to move out. We didn't hesitate to say yes, only if we have found her replacement, which is by far understandable. That's why when Ate Ne left for the province, my dad asked her to bring back a willing household help to work for us. It was a clear arrangement that Michelle would leave as soon as Ate Ne comes back after a week.
But there were some temporary glitches here and there. Ate Ne wasn't able to take the last trip back to Manila and we found out that she would extend for a couple of days. Knowing the new set up, my mother came home from the hospital today only to find out that the kitchen was messy, untouched and worse thing was, Michelle did the exact thing my mother told her not to. In short, the tupperware she was holding tipped over and the sauce fell to the floor. My mother, as usual was furious. It could have be anyone at that point. Michelle resulted again to her usual muttering and walked out. My mother didn't have the nerve to chase her. She was tired.
After a couple of hours of silence, Michelle told my mother she would leave. She was crying and she told my mother she couldn't take it anymore. Take anymore of what? Sweeping? My mother didn't hide her anger. My mother felt she was betrayed. She even asked her to wait for a couple of days until Ate Ne comes home because we hate to admit we'll be in shambles without any household help, but Michelle was insistent. Kill us when we're vulnerable, I say.
My mother already had enough. She inspected her things and decided to let a devastated, victimized Michelle go. I even urged my mother not to pay her, but my mother out of professionalism and security, gave Michelle just enough money as a form of our last responsibility with her. Now we couldn't care less if she gets bitten by a dog somewhere and ends up dying with rabis. She left us with no other choice.
Some say that the last cross she had to bear was Harvey. Well, I just hope Harvey indeed made her life harder. She may look like working, but she doesn't execute her job well. She's caught randomly sleeping, chatting with friends and fooling around with houseboy help. She's poor at comprehension. She's not an easy person to work with and her attitude sucks. Normally, our family would be crying by now because no one really had the capacity to cook, have the time to clean and have the energy to do chores in between. That is not our expertise. We are all too busy managing our own lives with school and work. God knows we need all the help we could get. But if paying for the type of help from the likes of Michelle is our only option, then we're not really looking for help. We're looking for added stress and a series of unimagineable disappointments.