Oy! For days I have been hovering on the outskirts of an attack of anxiety and have just finished performing the deed which engendered the prickles..... I have just fired my Gardener for complete and total incompetence.
So what, you say? Big deal.. Yeah, for me it is a big deal. For one thing, I hate having to fire anyone. In my lifetime I have hardly ever had to do it, thank heaven. I guess the time worse than this was when I had to fire my best friend, but hell,, what could I do.......she was incompetent. I can't stand incompetent.
This case was paticularly hard because of my own procrastination and....face it.......incompetence at firing people. I have been wanting to fire this guy for 40 years and just never made it, till today. Forty years, you say? Yes, dammit, forty years......wanna make something of it? Actually, I knew after the first few months in 1973 that he was not the greatest Gardener in the world, but, at the time I was young and healthy and loved working in the garden so it didn't matter so much. I could sort of fill in the blanks myself and make up for his lack of skills. But it pissed me off. As I said....I hated incompetence....his and mine. I would repeatedly try to improve his methods........I would tell him of things I wanted done that he should have known needed to be done. He always acted as if I had asked him to do something outlandish and totally foreign to the world of Gardeners like putting on a tutu and dancing the swan part of the Swan Lake Ballet. ("What?? You want me to trim those vines in front of the gate?? But they don't need to be trimmed, if you just push the strands aside like a curtain and walk thru the opening.") Then he would nod sadly and say, "OK, next week. And, by gosh, sometimes he even did it the next week....but sometimes not and certainly not on a regular basis as needed. Sigh.
Each month when I would present him with the check for his work (?) I would clench my jaws to keep from uttering obscenities and put on a fake tepid smile. Oh God....not only was I incompetent, but a hypocrite besides! Once indoors, I would groan, screech like a banshee with a vocabulary of particularly dirty words and phrases (in several languages), pound my fists on the table, hit my head against the nearest wall and scream, "I've gotta fire that guy.....why didn't I fire that guy?" And so it went. For Forty Years. Yes, I know.
After 20 or 30 years it became like a bad marriage in which only one of the partners was dissatisfied. I soon realized that it was useless and unrealistic for me to fantasize that he would come to me one day and brazenly tell me he was leaving me for the prettier lawn down the street. (...but of course I was beyond rational by this time) . Of course, it was up to me to act and, so far I had been incompetent beyond belief at acting on this matter. (I was worse at firing him than he was at gardening.) Sob. As I may have mentioned, I hate incompetence, particularly my own, so this has not been good for my general self esteem for the past near half century. But as my youth and vigor have gone the way of the bustle and gas-lamps and girdles and skirts that end at least 4 inches lower than the crotch, it has become an increasing problem and by now the absurdity of it all became so monstrous that words or my mind could not deal with it. Last week, I wistfully looked at several of my neighbors front yards with envy.....nay.....raging green eyed jealousy....I might almost say lust.........several of the deadly sins....and was trying to decide between murder and suicide.....I believe they are both also on the no-no list.. And it happened that the Gardener who services those lucky neighbors was, at that very moment, servicing my neighbor next door ....the garden, that is. So I spoke to him and asked him if he could, out of the kindness of his heart, fit me into his schedule.
It happened like when you see a piece of thread protruding from a seam of your garment and you tug on it to remove it and things are nevert he same afterward. Before I knew what was happening, the sleeve fell off of my caftan and the other sleeve was threatening to follow it, and had I not gathered up my skirts and what was left of my garment and fled to the porch I might have ended up standing stark nekkid on the lawn at Califa street. That little piece of thread apparently held everything on earth together. When I caught my breath and weakly waved goodbye to him it seems I had contracted for him to come on Saturday and "clean everything up" (also remove a hundred or so unwanted plants and plant 1000 or so desired plants and heaven knows what else besides come every week and beat all the foliage, plants and vines into submission henceforth.
Oh......talking about little pieces of thread and the consequences of pulling them, I guess I should go back one step further and tell you what really started the Great Green Avalanche. You all know what a tyrant I am about saving money and being frugal. Well, one day last week I got a coupon offer in my email for $30 worth of plants at a local Nursery for only $15. To quote Eliza Doolittle, "Gaaaaaooooooow". How could I resist? It was only when I stood contemplating 3 flats of Lobelia, one of Gazanias, one of
Cosmos and two of Impatiens that I realized that no matter how I communicated to my current incompetent Gardener the urgency of getting the young plants into the ground in some tasteful arrangement before the leaves fell from the trees in the fall it was hopeless and the only way in hell to handle everything was to fire the sonofabitch and get somebody who was Competent. Now.....tell me.....do I know how to face a problem and solve it or what? (We will never speak of the 40 years nor fact that that $15 coupon ended up costing the national debt in weekend Landscape transformation fees........that IS understood, isn't it????)
My last word on this whole thing is a warning to all of you........be careful (of exactly what I cannot say) but you never know when you get up in the morning and open your Email what monstrous changes it might bring about in your erstwhile boring, uneventful, incompetent overgrown jungle of a life. That is what makes life so interesting, I guess........now I must go and lie down and put cold cloths on my head.
The New Yorker covers: July 7 & 13, 2008
8 hours ago