Friday, May 23, 2008

Suckered! (Again)

Those two little girls who made me such a sweet, flattering packet recently have been coming around every day to ask if I have any animal chores for them to do. Every day, not that I needed their help, but just to encourage their little enterprise, I said yes. (How can you turn down little girls who have made such a sweet card and envelope?) Every day I would hand them a bowl of formula to take to the squirrels in the outside cage. After that, they would squirt a couple off ccs of my special "bird soup" down the throats of the six baby birds. And for that, every day, I would pay them a dollar.

And it was all working out fine, except I began thinking seven dollars a week, for work I didn't need done, was going to start mounting up. And Demetrios kept reminding me that most kids who come around wanting to help me feed the wild creatures I rehab do it for the joy of it and/or as a form of civic-mindedness.

One day when the girls came, I didn't happen to have a dollar bill in my purse. That was okay, they said; I could pay them later, whenever, no problem.

The next day, Cait came alone. I paid her two dollars. "This one is for today," I said, "and this one is for yesterday. One for you, one for Alli."

I mentioned to Cait that I had just learned of an emergency with my mother, and would be gone, so she and Alli needn't come by for several days.

Nevertheless, while I was away, the little girls showed up every day, asking for me. Demetrios told me over the phone, "They're hinting they're owed some money."

"Well, they aren't," I said, "but never mind. I'll get it straight with them when I get home."

When I got home, there was note taped to the front door saying the girls would come around the next day to receive their money.

Today Alli came.

"But I gave Cait the money the day she came alone," I explained. "Didn't she tell you?"

"No."

I stayed silent a bit, eyebrows raised, to let sink in the idea that her "friend" had not been true to her. "Well, never mind," I said, after a moment. "To avoid a dispute, it's worth it to me to pay you another dollar." So I did.

Fifteen minutes later, both girls were back. "Cait says you only paid her one dollar," said Alli.

"Cait," I said, "I paid you two dollars and told you one was for Alli."

Cait, glowering at me, her arms crossed, said, "You paid me one dollar."

"Well, that is not the way I remember it. But in any case, that's what I owed you, right?"

She nodded.

"And Alli, just now I paid you what I owed YOU, right?"

Right.

"So what do you want from me now?"

No answer.

I shrugged and said goodbye and closed the door.

Not half an hour passed before they showed up on my doorstep yet again. Trying hard to be pleasant, I smiled as I opened the door. "Yes?"

There was some hemming and hawing. Cait's elbow poked at Alli, who finally spoke up. "Our parents have been talking to each other," she said, "and they think it is very strange we are only getting paid one dollar a day. They think five dollars would be more appropriate."

I started to point out that five dollars for ten minutes (not for a day!) was $30 an hour, that I hadn't really needed them to do this feeding for me, that it wasn't as if I had had them prepare the formulas, wash up the utensils, change the bedding, or clean out the cages...but I decided it wasn't worth wasting my breath. It also wasn't worth the risk of tangling with such parents. So all I said was, "Well one dollar is all I can afford, so goodbye." And I closed the door and, it being mostly glass, walked away.

First moral of the story: flattering lips (or crayons!) are always, without exception, by definition, lying lips (or crayons).

Demetrios says he never liked these two girls, that in their faces where, at their age, sweetness ought to be, there is something hard and calculating that put him off from the first day. I suppose I would have seen that, too, had not their card to me made me think of them as ever so sweet. Second moral of the story: a little humility would have protected me from this whole shabby mess.

.

3 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Firstly, I was amazed at the children feeling they had "earned " and therefore deserved that money. It was a privilege for them to have been able to help you care for those animals in some way.

I was even more amazed that their parents felt you hadn't given them enough !

If my kids had come home to me saying they had "only" been given X amount, I would have told them, in no uncertain terms, that they had neither earned nor deserved any monetary reward, and then I would have made them both repay all the money and formally apologise...... to be able to help someone like you do this worthwhile task is indeed a privilege for a child.

I am sorry these girls did not feel the same way.......what a horrible position for you to be in.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

You're right, of course.

The bit about their parents may not necessarily be true.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I mean they may have lied.

My next door neighbor tells me they lied to her. She, however, had better sense than to pay them to feed her fishes.