Sunday, April 29, 2012

Beep Beep, Beep Beep YEAH!

I know what your asking yourselves--"Why is she quoting the most annoying Beatles song ever written?" Well, I'll tell you. One, it's simply appropriate because of all the constant honking. Of course, the YEAH!s are not nearly as common as the beep beeps, but you can't have one without the other. It's simply not done. Two, we have purchased a car and hired a driver so now the beep beeps are coming from our very own car! (A Hindustan Motors Ambassador!)

So now we have a maid and a driver. That is a sentence I never ever thought I would type.

It's a little weird having "staff" (for lack of a better word.) I've mentioned the maid before, who is wonderful, mainly because I no longer have to wash dishes or clean (both of which I tend to do in a half-assed manner anyway.) Well, that's not entirely true, I still wash dishes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and over the weekend. (Just an FYI, Mr. ATK has not washed a dish since we have been in this country. I'm just (passive aggressively) sayin'.)

Now having a driver is a little odd. Having a maid is a little odd, too, but at least we had a cleaning lady when I was growing up, so having someone clean for you isn't that weird. Of course, I always hid in the basement when the cleaning lady came. The maid is here for 9 hours and we have no basement, so I mainly just sit around and watch her clean, which was a little odd at first. It is kind of odd having someone cook for me. Let me clarify that, it's kind of odd having someone who is neither my husband nor mother cook for me. As I typed this, the maid just came into the room with a mixed vegetable dish she had made a few days ago, which we hadn't even tried yet. She's like, "Did you not like this? Do you not like green beans?" I was like, "Uh... well, no... We like green beans. We just didn't get around to trying that dish. Um... I guess we forgot about it." I felt kind of sheepish admitting neither of us had even tried the dish. I assured her we would eat the green beans forthwith. They are some pretty decent green beans. Not the best, but not awful. What I find funny is that I actually feel slightly guilty for not eating my vegetables, which is odd because I never felt guilty about not eating my vegetables when my mother made them. Yet for some reason, I don't want to upset this lady that I pay to do stuff for me. Not that I make it a priority to try and upset anyone, or that employing someone gives you some inherent right to treat them like crap (regardless of what Republicans think. Because if they don't like it, they can go get another job!) Anyways, I can't really articulate it, but it's an odd feeling. I should be able to say, "Eh, I'm not feeling the green beans. Throw them away." (After all, I did technically purchase the green beans in the first place.) But I'm more prone to sneakily throw them away so she doesn't feel bad. Not that she would feel bad. I don't know.

So having a driver is actually weirder than having a maid, because you know, the maid keeps busy all day. There's laundry! There's cleaning! There's ironing! Cooking! Shopping! You know... stuff to do. A driver, well he drives the car. Since we have no desire to drive our own car in this crazy town, a driver is crucial. Otherwise, we would just have a car parked in front of our building and that doesn't help anyone. So the driver drives. But where to? Well, he comes at 7:30 to take Mr. ATK (and soon me as well) to work. And then he comes to work at 5:30 and takes him (soon to be us) home. Well that leaves about 8 hours in the middle of the day when he is doing.... what exactly? Not a whole lot.

Now, granted, he is also responsible for the car and since we bought a bit of a beater, he has had to take it to the mechanic a few times and fix a flat tire, stuff like that. So that's one way he can spend his day. Also, he runs errands and takes the maid to the market or wherever she needs to go. He'll also starting walking the dog three times a day once I start working. But you know, none of these things take a very long time. So what's he do in the meantime? Well, he sits in a chair outside. At first, I was a little concerned because I knew he would have a lot of down time, and I didn't know what he did while waiting to drive me somewhere. Does he just sit in the car? Am I supposed to let him hang out in the apartment? And then I worried that I was a bad person for not wanting him to hang out in the house. I mean, it's 110 degrees here and I want him to sit outside all day. Of course, then I slowly came to realize that all the people sitting in plastic chairs on the "sidewalks" all day were other people's drivers. Then I didn't feel so bad for making him sit outside.

At first, Mr. ATK and I (but Mr. ATK in particular) were a little chafed by the idea of paying someone when they aren't doing anything. You know, when we were negotiating the contract the driver mentioned providing tea and bread (for breakfast) and "dinner money" (if we go out at night, we would give him something so he can eat while waiting for us) and while neither of those thing is very expensive (in fact, they are very cheap), we were both a little suspicious--is this customary or is this guy trying to pull one over on the dumb Americans? Plus, it's hard to get over the fact that I'm paying you to sit around and do nothing most of the day. Part of me is thinking, You worked for like 20 minutes today; buy your own dinner. Drivers also get paid more than maids so you look at the two and you think, She's working all day for half as much money. She doesn't ask for lunch or breakfast or dinner money. This contributes to mild feelings of resentment as well. But upon further reflection and discussion with Mr. ATK, I had a bit of an epiphany. First, duh, the maid only works three days a week and the driver works six, so there's most of you pay disparity right there. Second, the driver's job is pretty important. Like, I can't do most of what the driver does (e.g. drive a manual transmission (in this crazy city nonetheless!), diagnose mechanical problems, fix said problems, etc.) I can do what the maid does. I don't like it, and she is better at doing pretty much everything, but if she's not here to cook me dinner, I'm not going to starve.

Plus, he may not be constantly moving about doing things like the maid, but he is still "on the clock" all day. It's not when he is not driving he gets to do whatever he wants. Maybe some days he has a lot of errands to run and maybe some days he spends most of his time sitting in a chair outside next to the car, but he always has to be ready to go. If I call him and say, "Can you go drive across town to pick up some dog laxatives? The laxative store closes in 20 minutes." He has to jump up and go. As for the food, well, what does the maid eat? I mean she is here from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, she must eat something, right? We figure she must eat some of what she prepares for us. Well, we pay for all that (the food, labor, etc.) but we don't begrudge her having a bowl of lentils or whatever, so why get all stingy with a loaf of bread?

Anyways, as we've processed all this, we've come to the conclusion that having domestic help is awesome and having a driver in particular has been particularly handy. Since we've gotten the car, we've gone more places and started seeing the sights around New Delhi. Since no one wakes up in this country before noon, we generally have no problems with crowds or heat when we show up at 9:30 AM.

Now all I have to do is take the time to upload the pictures....

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