I don’t remember marrying him. And now, fifteen years after entering into that union, my wife and I want a divorce. Not from each other. From our mow and blow man, Salvador. He came with the house we bought, along with his father.
When we moved into our severely challenged house in 1986, our lady neighbor from across the street insisted that we hire her gardener, Santiago, because as she put it, he’s a loving, caring man. And indeed he was. So much so, we sponsored his citizenship a few months later.
Years went by as we watched our shrub specialist age and his kids grow up. Santiago remarried and decided to move back to Mexico. (Yes, they actually do that.) Before he left, he re-sodded our back lawn and replaced his services with that of his son, Salvador.
Salvador is not like father. Salvador doesn’t like his work or even plants. Salvador does the least possible raking to get by. We’ve been dealing with Salvador’s attitude since 1998.
Every three years my wife and I talk to Salvador about his disinterest in our property. And every three years he listens, nods and says he’ll do what we ask him to do, which he does, for two weeks and then it’s back to less caring.
So a month ago I made a decision – Salvador must go. Okay, he needs dental work, he just got married and had a baby. But is that reason enough to accept lazy work and a worse attitude?
My wife felt terrible about letting him go which left that chore for me. So I prepared myself for an uncomfortable confrontation scheduled for last Wednesday, our weekly thirty minutes with Salvador’s leaf blower.
I rehearsed. I would tell Salvador the truth, that he didn’t care enough, that he was taking advantage of kind people, that he took us for granted and that we had given him too many lectures without seeing improvements. This firing would be a necessary lesson for Salvador, and hopefully he would learn from it and grow up. Yep. I would have to be his tough-love dad. And I would do that because the holy trinity of truth, honesty and responsibility is something we all have to uphold, even when it comes to Salvador.
Last Wednesday snuck up way too quickly. I heard Salvador’s hedge clipper buzz and went out to do the deed. But somewhere between my front steps and Salvador’s sweaty face, I decided to slightly modify this moment of truth.
“Salvador,” I said. “We’ve decided we’re going to make some changes as to how you work for us.”
“Okay,” he said.
“We’re going to need you to put more attention into our lawns, like blowing away the leaves out of the pots as well as off the ground.”
“When you see something has died, tell us and we’ll let you know what to do about it.”
“That camellia over there and those ferns, they dried out months ago, take them out.”
“Yes, that one and others you find.”
“The hedge in front, keep it level. It drops six inched under the tree. We’ve talked about that.”
“And when it comes to pruning, ask us what’s needed and what’s not. We have too many dead branches now.”
“All those rotting leaves under the bushes that we don’t see, (I’m pointing) all that needs to be cleared as well.”
“Now I know this will take more time, so we’ll see how this goes and if all looks good, we’re going to give you a raise.”
That’s how my kick-ass, life-lesson lecture came off. And I left him to carry out my adjusted needs, the same needs I’ve had for fifteen years.
Forty-five minutes later Salvador left our property and I went out to inspect his work. The two dead plants that I specifically pointed to were removed. The other dead ferns were not. The flowers and shrubs along the driveway were cleared of debris very nicely, but the areas under the bushes were not. The leaves in the flower pots had been taken away, but the patio table and chairs still needed attention. The far side of the house wasn’t entirely cleared either, but then again, that wasn’t on my list.
And so I went back into my house to think about what happened. And here’s my conclusion.
I don’t think Salvador thought, Well shit, I’ll do what I need to do based on what they’re paying me. The leaves under the bushes can wait. And I don’t think Salvador thought, Wow, with that long list, I guess they expect a lot more of what I haven’t been giving them.
I don’t think Salvador thought that. I don’t think Salvador thinks much about anything. And I don’t think he can remember more than five items on anyone’s list.
I used to think Salvador was lazy. Now I’m beginning to think he’s maxed out, whatever that means. I don’t want to call the man stupid, but I believe it’s fair to say he doesn’t process information the way I do, or maybe you do.
But is that a reason to fire him?
If he didn’t show up or come close to our requests, that might be justification for letting him go. But somehow, he always manages to do just enough for a passing grade on his report card. And as much as I respect excellence and hard work, I can’t quite get myself to punish those who don’t meet my bar…when it comes to mowing my lawn.
When it comes to delivering service in the film business, as a manager I demand much more dedication and skill. But that’s not for me. It’s for my clients and the studio I work for. I can’t afford to give my department head or my customers anything less than their expectations.
And so sure, I have fired people and people have fired me. It’s never pleasant.
So I’m hoping that this coming Wednesday, Salvador will finish clearing the dead leaves as I asked him to. If he doesn’t, again I will have to consider using aggressive force to correct the problem. We’ll see what happens. My decisions change from day to day based on his actions and everything else.
Now I get it. (Well I always did.) I understand why President Obama has changed course a few times in his approach to saving lives in Syria. He had to. Other players threw their cards on the table taking the game in a whole different direction. I’d hate to have a president who doesn’t respond to dynamic shifts and other people’s needs; like yours and mine, along with Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel; all of Europe, the Caucasus, the entire Middle East and Asia. Okay, Africa too.
I’m glad I’m not the President. I’m glad all I have to take on is my gardener’s leaf blowing. The Middle East, that’s somebody’s concern. Right?
UPDATE: This week Salvador finished what he left from the week before. Yes, I asked him about it but he came through for us. OKAY, he needs more supervision but he’s not lazy and he wants us to be happy. That’s all that counts. Salvador STAYS.
Originally posted on Curiosityquills.com.