What's Your Reality?
A concerning encounter
This story is a bit different from what I normally post. A recent event caused me to pause. I’d like your thoughts on it.
Anna is a six foot tall, muscular woman with limited English. She came with great references. But our association started off on the wrong foot.
I had hired her to clean a house I was renting. I had
moved escaped from Woketopia, an artsy mountain town that had held so much promise but ended up delivering so much insanity.
I was happy to find a seemingly sane place. My new town has a plaza with a proud white courthouse build in 1916 anchoring the grassy square. Trees provide shade, and sometimes cover from rain during the summer monsoon season when every week, some event is going on. Concerts bring people together. Craft fares offer distraction. Citizens walk their dogs and pause on the benches, coffee in hand, enjoying the sun and the human parade. News from afar of increasing crime doesn’t compute in this clean cut, small town.
So, when I hired Anna to clean the house, I felt safe. She had come with excellent references from a trusted friend and neighbor, Jennifer.
Anna asked to see the house in order to give me a quote.
“How many people live here?” she asked.
“Just me,” I replied.
She emitted an ooohh. “Only you?” she repeated as if in disbelief.
This is an older two bedroom house. It is, by my standards, nothing fancy. It’s a temporary rental that allows me to scope out my new town, while interest rates rise and real estate prices (I suspect) adjust accordingly.
But it made me wonder where Anna lived.
I gave her a tour of the house and we agreed on $25 per hour.
On the appointed day, her green SUV, a bit worse for wear, parked outside. She brought an assistant. At the end of three hours, she demanded $175. Twenty-five dollars, per hour, for each of us, she said.
I was taken back. This is not what I had understood. She had told me $25/hour. I gave in rather than argue and paid her. I mentally put finding another service on my to-do list. This was way beyond my monthly cleaning budget.
A few months later, Anna contacted me to see if she could clean the house again. I told her I wanted a set price. She had, after all, done an excellent job. And she had such good references.
“Can I come by? “ she asked.
“Certainly,” I responded. Perhaps she didn’t remember the house. And pricewise, I wanted to know what I was getting into.
She showed up at the appointed time.
“How many people live here, “ she asked again. I reminded her that I lived alone. “Just you?” she replied yet again, looking around the main room.
Once again we walked through the house.
“How much,” I inquired.
“One hundred thirty dollars,” she said.
I still thought that was too high, but I agreed. Quite honestly, I was lazy. I didn’t feel like finding and vetting someone else. I’d recently had a hip replacement and needed some help with the house.
So we set a date and I left a key under the front mat. I had some things I had to do that morning.
When I returned, Anna was getting ready to leave. We met as I rolled into the garage.
“I want more money,” she demanded in her broken English. Anna is tall and stockily built. She towers over me.
“Times are hard,” she explained. “The other people I live with don’t work.”
“Jennifer pays me $150,” she went on.” Jennifer’s house is nearly twice the size of this place, I pointed out to her.
“We agreed on $130,” I reiterated. I stood my ground.
I felt divided. On the one hand, I am always happy to give someone a hand up. I’ve been fortunate and I’m happy to share. But this encounter had a bad feeling to it. There was an aura of desperation and of envy not far below the surface. Anna’s repeated question of “How many people live here,” and her repeated response of “Just you?”came to mind. I suddenly felt unsafe. The energy here was not good.
Why do I tell this story? Because while I can afford to pay my bills, inflation is hurting all of us. The government numbers are laughable. A dinner out has doubled in price, and I recently had an estimate for car repair at $175 per hour!
And there is talk of food shortages in the coming year. Poor crop yields, reduced availability (much less affordability) of fertilizer, supply chain issues…these are not positive signs. I’ve already seen spot shortages. Back in Woketopia, shopping at Trader Joe’s was hit and miss for many products. Here in this new town, at the local Costco, canned organic canned tomatoes are sometimes unavailable. The chicken refrigerator is not quite full. Perhaps other items are becoming scarce as well.
What will happen when inflation combines with potential shortages? I have to wonder what people will do. I wonder what I will do. I live alone. Should I be concerned? Was there an implied threat in Anna’s demand for more money? Who does she live with? What kind of pressure is she under? What will people do if things continue along this path?
I got the distinct sense that Anna would do whatever she needed to do. For her it’s already about survival.
I am new to town and am building my community. I’m getting involved with like minded people. I keep an eye on an elderly neighbor. I am concerned for all of us, and this encounter made me pause. We all live in our own bubble to some degree. What are other people experiencing?
This is just one story, one encounter, one data point. Do you have any? Because I want to know what others are seeing. It’s the sum of all our stories that create our reality. What’s yours?
I am curious if it really was about survival. The encounter, I mean. Was she being intimidating because it was her survival and that of her roommates, or was she being intimidating because she felt she could?