About 7 years ago, when I moved into the last place, I put a silly postcard on the front door:
It was a bit of an inside joke – nobody in the house had a “real” job, I’d just come back from travelling for months. I still identified strongly with slacker culture.
When we moved into our current house (the one we “own”, by which I mean the one we pay the bank gobs of money for the privilege of fixing up), I moved the postcard with us. At least one of us still didn’t have a “real” job, and it annoyed me that my octogenarian neighbours always wanted to know why we weren’t working if we happened to be home during the day. Took a day off? Don’t work til 6pm? Haha, no, check the postcard. Totally forgot about that part of life.
The postcard has remained while we pasted “My dog is friendly, HONEST” and then “Baby sleeping, ring doorbell UPON PAIN OF DEATH” signs over top of it. To be honest, it’s one of those things I’ve forgotten was there. Certainly the ironic slacker message is no longer relevant.
To go with our grown-up house that we pay for with our real jobs, for the past few years we’ve had a nomad handyman/yard helper/whatever type of guy who shows up randomly to see if we need our walk shovelled, or our leaves raked, or our eaves cleaned out. We give him 20 bucks, he gives us about an hours work doing things we don’t particularly want to do. He only shows up every 6 weeks or so, and I think he only stops if he can actually SEE something that needs to be done, so it’s a very symbiotic relationship. He works when he feels like it, making a pretty reasonable wage; we don’t get ostracized by the neighbours. (Much.)
Except last week he knocked on the door, and I was a little surprised to see him. It was a miserable day, and there wasn’t anything that needed shovelling or tending to. It’s spring; we’re just waiting around for things to melt. He asked if he could scrape the ice off our walk, or at least try, and failing that, maybe he could take the 20 bucks and come back in a few days to do it? Or anything else? He’d leave his ice scraper. He really needed money to put gas in the car to go see his kids. He understood it was an imposition.
And while he was fumbling through his apologetic business proposition, he made reference to the postcard on the door.
I realized that he had been interpreting it as a criticism of people who don’t have jobs.
I gave him the 20 bucks, and he made an attempt on the 6-inch-thick glacier that is our front walk, gave up, and left his ice scraper, thanking me profusely and promising to return.
I went back inside and took the damn postcard down. I was completely mortified, three years’ worth of embarrassed. I was heartbroken that this intrepid soul, who showed up willing to work hard, who went out and found jobs when he needed them, thought we were judging him for not having a “real” job. He had no idea that I respect him for carving out his own path, for getting out there and just doing it. That, frankly, some days I wish I had the guts to ask someone if I could rake their lawn when I needed twenty bucks, too.
Mind you…he hasn’t come back yet, either.
Well, at least I have an ice scraper. Maybe next time he’ll leave a rototiller, I really need one of those.