Thursday, January 7, 2010

Can't Do Everything...

I've been trying to be better about giving gold stars to people I might have failed in the moment to reward, people whose wisdom works on me over time and makes it into the blog. Yesterday, for example, I walked right into the appliance store on the corner with gold stars ready for the twin who had offered up in classic Brooklynese that one can do anything themselves...

I did have another excuse for walking in. I wanted to price juicers, which I might purchase as part of my mission to eat better in 2010. As one of the twins talked the various merits of juicers ranging from $80 to $250 I was distracted by trying to determine which brother had offered the sage advice. Finally, as he finished informing me of my choices and I said I would think about it a bit, I asked straight out.

"OK," I said, "one of you, can't remember which, offered up the comment a while back that 'you can do anything yourself.'" I was clearly fixated on the wrong brother as I spoke. The one who had been helping me raised his hand.

"That was me," he said, "it's kind of my mantra."

His brother nodded vehemently. "Yeah, he almost blew up his face trying to fix the heating himself recently," he said good-naturedly.

The advising brother laughed sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess maybe there are some things you could let other people do, but...after working here..."

I nodded. "I get it. You know enough to know that other people are possibly going to do it wrong, so frustrating."

"Exactly," he said.

I do get it. I am the same way, even though I am not at all handy. With things I have a strong opinion about, which is to say most things, I feel like I have such a clear vision of what the outcome should be that I'm generally disappointed or frustrated with people that I hire. It's totally unfair, I know, since I shouldn't complain if I can't actually do it myself, but there it is. It is hard to imagine exactly what you want, pay someone to do it, and then be practically back to square one after all is said and done. It means, for me, that many projects go undone, the perfect person for the job too hard to find, I too lazy to figure it out myself. For the appliance store owner, clearly, it means almost dying trying to do things himself that he doesn't really know that much about. But, to be fair, even experts, even doctors and electricians, are often just working by trial and error, trying various things to see what works even if the result of their efforts not working is the loss of life or limb.

I owe my cleaning lady a big gold star, many of them. I will come clean, no pun intended, that she is often blamed for all the things we lose in our house, all that is broken. To be fair, she might put things in weird places, she has even been known to throw things away, broken things I never quite got around to fixing but meant to. But still, that is no excuse to badmouth her even slightly in front of the children. It is pathetic that my kids imbue her name in anger as they hide Lego structures because I myself have thrown past masterpieces in the Lego bin to clear off surfaces before her arrival. I do not protect her. I mutter her name under my breath when I can't find things, even clothes that she in no way could have been part of having misplaced. See, I should really clean the house myself if I am going to complain about the job someone else does. I do remember that, recall that having someone else scrub my toilets twice a month is a luxury.

Thinking of this, I gave both twins stars.

"I wrote about you on my blog," I said to the advisor, "encouraging people to resolve to take things into their own hands."

He smiled, big. "Cool," he said, "I'm a guru."

I laughed and waved as I walked out. "You are," I said. "You are."

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