Monday, August 26, 2013
Confusing Yard Work Experience, Part II
Today's post is a little story my wife shared with me tonight, after we ran through her proposal defense over Skype. Remember last month when our neighbor asked to do some yard work for very little money? So that story got a continuation today. While my wife was working through some last minute edits of her PhD proposal & presentation, the doorbell rang. She could see from the window that it was our elderly Latino neighbor, and he probably wanted to ask about doing some yard work. Being that she was less than 48 hours away from an important deadline, she just pretended to not be home and got back to work.
Five minutes later, she heard the whirl of a lawn mower. At this point she was a little upset, because we hadn't really decided if we wanted to outsource our yard work yet. And regardless, isn't there an expectation that one should speak to the homeowner before sauntering onto someone's property and operating gas powered equipment? So, she walked outside and said, "Hi there!" over the lawnmower. At which point, our neighbor turned off the mower, looked at my wife, and started to cry. Tears down the cheeks, something is clearly wrong, crying.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"My uncle died. I just need to do something."
"Your uncle died? You don't have to do yard work now," she said. "Is there family you can be with?"
"I want to be out of the house. I want to do the yard if that's okay."
"Is your family home though? Do you want to be with them?"
At this point he said something about his sister, with whom there seems to be some tension, but his English and my wife's Spanish can only convey so much.
My wife is ridiculously sweet, and there was zero chance she would say no to a crying old man who just wanted to mow our grass. It did seem odd that his own yard was not the one he chose to trim, but if this was what he needed, then great. She said it was fine to keep going, went back inside, and got back to work. A little later she heard the bristles of a broom sweeping off our front porch, and then the doorbell rang again.
"Okay, all finished."
"Oh, great. It looks wonderful, thank you."
"So, whatever amount you think is fine."
While my wife thought this was some sort of odd, mower-based therapy for our mourning neighbor, it was also apparently a job for which he expected to be paid. My wife explained to him that she had no cash (she just puts everything on the card), to which our neighbor in mourning replied:
"Really? You don't have anything?"
My wife went through the house and managed to scrounge up all the cash she could find in old purses and wallets. This amounted to two single dollar bills, leading her to immediately feel like crap.
"I'm really sorry, but all I have is two dollars."
"Oh, that's okay," he said, and walked away.
I am not sure how to feel about all this. Angry? Guilty? Defensive? Happy, that my yard is clean for a mere two bucks? Two dollars is, without a doubt, an insulting sum to pay for any amount of work. It is also a particularly awful amount to pay someone who is grieving the death of a family member. Still, our side yard is about twenty feet by fifteen feet and our front porch is half that size. My wife thinks he was out there for twenty minutes, tops. Oh, and there is the pesky fact that we did not actually ask anyone to work in our yard in exchange for money. As usual, I am at a loss.
What is it exactly is the next step here? I am getting a distinct feeling that this may not be the last time we have one of these experiences. Should I just do a better job keeping up with the yard, hoping to keep my neighbor at bay? Ought I go over to my grieving neighbor's house to have a clarifying discussion about yard work etiquette? Should I instead bring a bouquet of flowers with more money stuffed in an envelope? We send our condolences, as well as this this stack of dead presidents...
Help us out here readers. What do we do next?
*Photo is from Tobyotter at Flickr Creative Commons.