JANUARY 26, 2007

You know that thing snobby rich people in movies always say, "It's so hard to find good help these days?" Well, where I grew up, people actually say that. All the time.

And they aren't joking.

It's like some of these people just stepped out of the 17th century or something, at least as far as their treatment of employees goes. I'm not sure they understand the difference between owning a slave and employing a staff member.

If I sound a little bitter, it's probably because I am. As a personal assistant, I'm now a member of the household service industry. I've experienced firsthand how difficult this kind of work can be.

Between driving Mr. Monk around, picking up his dry cleaning, groceries and other necessities, handling pretty much all of his paperwork and business correspondence, and just keeping him occupied, it's like I'm a chauffeur, valet, nanny and assistant all rolled into one. (I guess the one thing I'm definitely not is a maid - I'm more like the opposite of a maid.)

My job isn't easy. Honestly, there are days when it feels like my parents' maid Merva has it better than me. But then I remember what my parents are like.

Poor Merva.

Unfortunately, when I think about it Merva actually does have it a lot better than some of the other household employees I came across growing up. I'm not sure who make worse employers: the people who've just struck it rich and hire a whole staff of people to run their enormous new house because they think that's what rich people are supposed to do, or the people who just inherit money and hire a staff so that they can continue to do absolutely nothing for themselves.

I do know that it's one thing to have a staff of people to help you run your life - if that's how you want to spend your money, fine. But it's another thing to treat those people like dirt.

There is just no excuse for some of the behavior I've witnessed. I've seen people screaming at their employees because the prize poodle had an accident on the Persian rug or the Rolls Royce wasn't shiny enough. I've heard of people getting fired because they accidentally shrunk a pair of cashmere socks in the wash or dared to ask to leave early to pick up their sick kid from school.

As a child I witnessed more than one household employee leave my own parents' house in tears. Probably for making an unforgivable mistake like putting too much ice in my mom's cocktail.

Honestly, those sorts of bosses make Mr. Monk look easygoing and carefree. He's practically a candidate for boss of the year compared to them. I guess you could say it's just so hard to find a good boss these days. Seeing my parents and all their friends recently really drove that point home.

Yes, my job can have its exhausting, frustrating moments. But at least I'm not working for someone like my mother.

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