Wow, that sounds pretentious. But, I live in Chennai. In a third world country. So I'm giving myself a pass on that one.
I've talked in the past about how important it is to find good help here in Chennai. After living here for over a year and a half, I can't emphasize enough how crucial it is to mesh with the maid, dig the driver, and groove with the gardener, as they're at your house every...single...day...
As someone who really enjoys her privacy, having people in my house and around my yard all day long is really disconcerting. Sure, I love having a clean kitchen, sparkling clean toilets, and shiny floors, but it all comes with a price. My solitude. Forget sitting around in my pj's. Don't even think about running downstairs to grab something from the dryer in just a towel. Walking around with a tank top and no bra? Not kosher! And honestly, I don't even feel comfortable just vegging on the couch watching TV while they're here. Crazy, I know, but I still can't do it.
I've been very blessed with my latest housemaid. If you remember, I had a heck of a time finding the right person who could multi-task, understand English, communicate, and who I could stand being with in my house for nine long hours every ... single ... day. But I found her. And after seven months, I still like her as much as I did the day I hired her. She's a sweet girl who thankfully isn't from here. She's from Delhi. And while it doesn't seem like it's that big of a difference, let me assure you that it is. She's seen a "real" city. She's been to "real" grocery stores. She's experienced other cultures. She gets it. She's also a wonderful care-giver to Grady, she loves babysitting the girls, she's a fantastic cook, and her cleaning is above average. I'd even go so far as to say it's better than "Chennice."
Now my driver? My head hurts from banging it against the wall. I don't even know where to begin. What sounds like a luxury with having a driver, is initially a necessity. The streets are a free for all. Parking is virtually non-existent. There are yellow pages, but many business don't go by the names in the book, nor could they give a Westerner directions, even if they spoke English! There's no zoning. No business district. Unless you know where to go, you really don't know how to get there. Streets have three different names, not that you'd even know because there are no street signs.
To complicate things even further, if you completely rely on your driver because you don't have your Tamil Nadu driver's license and you're too afraid to drive, then when he's late, you're late. Or worse, if he doesn't show up, you're stranded.
After getting stranded myself a few times, I learned to drive. At first, it scared the daylights out of me. I was tentative. It was awkward driving on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right. I wasn't comfortable driving with the same reckless abandon as the locals. I wasn't confident. I drove every Sunday when the traffic was less. Then I tried on Saturdays. I went out on the weekdays, and even began driving at night. Slowly but surely I became skilled enough not only with my driving, but also with my directions. So much so, that I often dismiss my driver early in the afternoon, just so I can gain back some of my independence.
Drivers are also used to run errands. A schlepper per se. Clothes need to go to the dry cleaner? No problem. Have your driver take them. You need to go grocery shopping or are missing an ingredient for dinner? Give your driver a list and send him off. You need to fill a prescription filled, get flowers for a dinner party, have the gas tank filled, or something dropped off at a friends house. Send your driver do it.
This is all in an ideal world.
Unfortunately, our seemingly competent driver has recently been having troubles successfully accomplishing these menial tasks. Apparently it's too difficult for him to arrive early enough to take me to the school for meetings or other obligations. In the past two weeks he's arrived late three times, thus forcing me to drive to the school myself. Normally it isn't a problem, but lately I've been feeding Grady breakfast on the twenty minute drive to the school. Late breakfast = cranky child = irritated mom. And the kicker? He doesn't even let me know he's going to be late, rather he arrives at my house and then sends me a text message saying that he's here and he's sorry that I'm not. Really? What part of text me so that I don't wait for you do you not understand?
Another frustrating aspect is that despite specific instructions and lists, he's been returning from the stores with the wrong items. Or worse, with no items. And always with an excuse. Some of my favorites are:
"They don't have that" ~ Which can mean ... the one store he went into doesn't carry that particular item right now, though it probably means that he just didn't feel like checking at another store.
"It's too expensive" ~ Which can mean ... that he didn't get an exact price, so he's just assuming that it's too much money. It's also used as a deterrent to potentially cut down on his workload... if it's too expensive, I won't make him go out and search for something that I may not buy.
"Only one store carries that" ~ Which can mean ... that he doesn't feel like driving across town to another store to get what I need. Or that he has no idea what I really want.
"It will take time" ~ Which can mean ... The store doesn't have it now. Or the store said they'll have it soon. Or the store has no idea when they're going to get in the specific item. But most likely ... that he's too lazy to take care of it correctly, or in a timely manner.
Without going into any more specifics incidences and irritations with my driver, of which there are many, let's just sum it up by saying that I've finally hit my limit. I obviously don't need a driver. I only need a part-time schlepper. But I can't really get that. It's all or nothing. So I gave him an ultimatum. It's my way or the highway, and there are no more chances.
Matt seems to think he'll be gone by the end of the month. Who knows... maybe I will get to walk around without a bra during the day after all. No wait, I forgot about the rest of the people still at my house... the gardener, the roving guards, the maintenance people... Ahhh... big sigh.