So our maid quit on Monday. I know, from those of you not in the third world, I will not be getting a lot of sympathy. But you learn to rely on having help, and then it’s gone, it is a bit of an inconvenience.
So here how it went down.
She seemed to be a really good person and I’ve never seen her sit down, not once. I stood up for her against my Brazilian mother-in-law more times than I can count. But things were starting to get a little loose. She was coming in later and leaving earlier. Not that I cared, she got most everything done. And when everything wasn’t done, it wasn’t the end of the world, but it started happening more and more. And she was on the phone more… you get it.
But come on. As I’ve mentioned, these people travel hours to work all day for practically nothing. However, my place was pretty easy. Not the typical Brazilian household, or at least the ones I’ve been exposed to. My management philosophy, based on my professional experience, was that if someone was good and got the job done, you just let them get it done and don’t worry about how they got from A to B (aside from anything illegal or unethical, which unfortunately, on Wall Street, was sometimes the case, but not so much in my most recent professional world). So I didn’t say anything to her. I also felt guilty about my mother-in-law beating up on her all the time, so I might have mentioned something had it not been for that.
But… that being said, I had asked her to be to work by eight-o-clock on Monday. In nearly a year, I never requested that she get to our apartment at a certain time, but I wanted her there at 8 on Monday so we, including my husband, could discuss the month. We’ll be traveling and we needed to knock out the details of her days. Well, guess what. Eight forty-five and she still wasn’t there.
So I called her cell. And she said that she was late because of the bus. The bus excuse had come up far too many times. I didn’t even ask why she hadn’t bothered to call and tell me she was late. If my boss had asked me to be somewhere at a specific time, I would do everything I could to get there, including sleeping on the stoop the night before. But that’s just me. And yes, THIS situation is not THAT situation, I get it. All the variable are different. But that is where my irritation was coming from. So I was mad. And I let her know that I was mad. So she quit.
I was mostly mad because my husband was waiting around, but I was also mad because in the back of my mind I was beginning to feel that she was taking advantage of me.
Later, she actually told my husband, who had left because he couldn’t wait around anymore, that I fired her. But not only did I not WANT to fire her, I’m no fool, I know that in most countries you need to think long and hard and weigh the benefits against the consequences before you fire someone. And, I have no idea how to fire someone in Portuguese.
So yesterday we settled up with her. I wasn’t present for it, my husband took it on. But I’ve been feeling guilty the past couple days. I don’t want to see someone not have a job. I’ve already seen that multiple times on Wall Street and it’s really sucky. I thought the days of seeing people suddenly jobless were over for me for awhile.
But today I saw her around the corner with someone dog. She’d obviously gotten a job right away. I know she saw me, but she turned away, so I didn’t want to push it by saying hello. This time. I only hope she’s making more money, but I’m pretty sure the work environment is going to be tougher (but I hope not).
My husband warned me that the culture here is different. That people might not act as I assume they will. As I expect them to. As I might. Other expats warned me the same. Maybe she was pushing her limits because she wasn’t happy. Maybe she wanted more money. Don’t know. It works out OK for us because we are traveling for awhile and then shortly thereafter, we’re (finally – another story involving visas, passports etc.) going to the U.S. We’ll get by for awhile with an every few days a week person for a time. But I really hope it works out for her too. I do.