Friday, August 15, 2014

Imitating People

There have been so many people coming to your door this week, you have become an a-door-a-phobe.  You sit on the couch with the front blinds open, watching the shadows of birds and trees, wondering if any of these shapes are going to morph into a human being walking up to your door again.  Landscapers have been coming to give you bids on your yard, cleaning services have been coming to give you bids on scouring the inside of your home, and there’s a pigeon that you’re allowing to roost right outside the front door on top of one of the patio pillars, in full view, so every time you hear her coo and flap and make shadows, it’s like she’s a person at your door, too.

The third and final landscaper comes by this morning.  You think you’ll like him best because the spelling of his last name is so similar to the spelling of your own.  You start out merrily walking the yard with him—the vast and sweltering front, back, and sides—pointing out things you’d like done.  Although he keeps saying that the customer is always right, he keeps contradicting you “from a botanist’s point of view”.  What you want to prune, he wants to chop down to the roots.  What you are growing into a bush, he wants to shape into a tree.

He doesn’t know the names of bushes and plants; he thinks your olives are plums.  He has never heard of a female Brazilian Pepper.  You inform him that they are native to Florida, wanting to emphasize your own knowledge and the hard work that you have already put into this property.  You keep admitting that you are only an amateur, but you are ready for a professional job.  He points out that the water pooling underneath your air conditioner's drip pipe is ruining the foundation of your house. 

“You need to put a bucket underneath that,” he says.

“It’s my pigeon bird-bath,” you joke.

“They can take a bath in the bucket,” he says.

He seems to enjoy standing in the direct sun at noon with sweat pouring down his face and pooling between his breasts.  You yourself can’t take it anymore.  You dismiss yourself and run inside; he strolls to his truck to do the estimate.  You’re so dehydrated, you won’t pee for hours.  You glug down some water and remember the bright side: you’re getting the yards and trees professionally done!  Your giddiness returns.

You see him coming up the walk, so you go outside.  He doesn’t want to give you the total cost before he breaks down the entire job into pieces.  You start listening a little more carefully through the glee when he says that because you want your hedge taken down one foot instead of the standard six inches, that’s an extra fifty dollars.  And because he’s gonna have to bring in his specialists to identify the trees and their sodium needs, that’s also going to cost more.  But the grand total is $425…twenty-five dollars less than the two other quotes.  You have your man.

You walk down the driveway with him, going to get your mail, chattering on about how excited you are to finally be getting a professional job.  You are hanging from the mailbox like a monkey when the botanist informs you that his company isn’t licensed and bonded, but they are insured.  If anybody falls out of a tree on your property, they can’t sue you.  And while he’s not a botanist yet—he still does tech stuff—he hopes for this to become his second career.  You climb down and look away from him, into your mailbox, reaching your hand in to grab the envelopes.

“So you guys aren’t really professionals?” you ask.

You remember that you picked this company because its ad said, “We Wear Uniforms!”  Indeed, Would-Be Botanist is wearing a t-shirt with his last name—again, very close to the spelling of your own last name—printed on the back with “Landscaping Services” printed underneath.  The same logo is printed smaller in front, to the left.  There is no first name.

“Listen,” he says, sweat pouring from his red hair down his pale cheeks into his puffy red beard, and again from between his breasts.  “I have a cousin who’s a teacher and he makes half of what I did when I was a tech full-time.  I’m doing this because I have a natural talent for it.  So do all my guys.”

Your teacherly self stands there dripping in sweat, remembering how much time you just invested standing out in the heat for nothing.  Your envelopes are getting damp. You say you have to get in, and Quasimodo it up the driveway.

Later, truly in the heat of the day, the pest control guy arrives.  You have taken yourself off summer naps, so you are cranky.  You have grocery shopped and the food is not put away.  Carl rings the doorbell and you go outside.  You walk the yard together, looking for spiders and ants.  They are staring at you in the eyes.  Your house is Halloween in August. 

Carl says he recognizes everyone from last month and can’t believe they’re all back.

You tell him you have to go in because your groceries are melting, melting, but to knock if he needs anything.  Forty-five minutes later he rings the doorbell instead, scaring the cats, but it’s not his fault.  You lean your forehead against the security door and ask him how it went.  He leans against your house, in the blue uniform of the brand-name pest-control service you use, looking like he has just crossed the border.

“I looked so hard, my eyes watered,” he says.


You sit on the couch for an hour, waiting for the third and final cleaning service representative.  You watch out your front windows.  By now the shadows have shifted, but they still dance on the street and your front pillars, imitating people coming to your door.

You wish it could be Robin Williams coming to your door.

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