Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My latest gig

Since I got back from Japan in June, I have joined the ranks for the unemployed -- hanging around the Employment Commission office, getting alerts from CareerBuilder, Indeed and JournalismJobs.com, cranking out resumes, dreaming up cover letters, dashing off to the occasional interview, trying not to wait for the phone to ring. Getting my hopes up and finding myself crashing down with each rejection.

While waiting for the real thing to come along, I have started “babysitting” (eldersitting?) a couple in their 90s two nights/week. There is not a lot to do besides helping Mrs. C get ready for bed and turning Mr. C once in the night. He is bedridden with dementia (possibly Alzheimer’s) and has bedsores so he can’t stay in one position long. She is in a wheelchair. Basically, the family (who are friends of mine) want someone there in the night in case something happens. I’m not a nurse – far from it! In fact, this is so far outside my comfort zone, it’s not even on the same planet, but it’s good for me. My idealistic self is satisfied that I’m helping someone and I think it’s good for one to make sacrifices for their elders.

Last night I was working on my computer when Mrs. C asked me to kill a spider in the other room. Now people, I am deathly afraid of bugs! I can actually kill a daddy longlegs – no matter how big – because they curl up and get really small when you kill them. But this was one of those large, hairy, brown spiders. That is the kiss of death for me!

To really understand this, you’ve got to know that Mrs. C is not your typical sweet old lady. She is a rather patrician, autocratic 91-year old Southern lady who was born right after the turn of the century when there was still a huge separation in the classes in the south. Make no mistake about it – she is the lady of the house and I am the paid help. She can put you in your place with her silence and while her body is frail, her will has only become tempered through the years.

Last night, after giving Mr. C his meds, I asked Mrs. C if I could sit in the living room while she did her work in the study.

“Of course,” she said graciously.

So I settled into the armchair Mr. C used to sit in when he was able to sit up. I pull out my laptop and start playing a game with the sound off. In a few minutes, I see her traveling around the house, inspecting locks, checking that the dishes are done, making notes about what the day help will do tomorrow. I know she is up to something because she rarely moves around so much, even in her chair. I watch from the corner of my eye while playing the game. She will let me know in her own good time.

Sure enough, she finally speaks from the doorway separating the kitchen and dining room: “There’s a spider in here.”

“OK,” I call back, hoping she is going to kill it herself.

No such luck.

“Can you come kill it?”

“NO,” I think. “I’ll try,” I say.

I walk cautiously to the doorway, asking in a trembling voice where it is.

“In there,” she says with this cranky old lady tone that indicates I am an imbecile for not knowing. She points through the kitchen doorway to the dining room.

I move her wheelchair back and cautiously walk in. I spot a brown shape about the size of a flattened golf ball, gleaming, motionless on the cream carpet. Even from a distance of several feet, I can see that this is not one of the gray, spindly-legged insects we used to kill when we were kids. This creature is plump -- and it has hair.

“How am I going to kill it?” I ask in a shaky voice.

She tells me there’s a fly swatter in the kitchen. A fly swatter! For that huge animal! You’ve got to be kidding! I grab the fly swatter, warn Mrs. C that I’m afraid of spiders and march into the dining room. I call to Jesus for help (seriously!) and SWAT the plastic waffled square smack in the middle of the target. The spider jumps up about two feet in the air. I can feel the motion through the handle of the flyswatter and I squeek.

Mrs. C moves her wheelchair back out of the doorway and smiles. “Don’t have a heart attack,” she says sarcastically.

I quickly smack the monster again. Another jump. Another squeal.

It looks like it’s flat, but you can’t be sure. I know these rascals have a way of curling up and pretending to be dead, but as soon as your back is turned they unfurrow themselves and slither off into the darkness. All that smacking, jumping and squeeling for nothing? I think not.

“Now what do I do?” It’s a rhetorical question, but Mrs. C has an answer. “Step on it and make sure it’s dead.”

“Eeeeewwwah!” I step back. NO way!. I can just imagine me stepping on the spider with my athletic shoe, feeling his body through the rubber bottom and then looking at the squished carcass. Not happening.

Mrs. C snickers and I realize that she is having a great time.

I get an idea.

“Maybe you can run it over with your wheelchair?” ! I get a picture of stern Mrs. C resolutely pushing the wheels with her hands toward the spider, running it over with single-minded purpose.

She knows I’m kidding and offers a different solution. “Get a paper towel and squish it up so you know it’s dead,” she suggests.

Are you kidding me? Then I would really feel the shape of the body as it squished beneath my paper-towel protected hands. In fact, just thinking about it, I sense a phantom body disintegrating beneath my fingertips. I feel nauseated.

“I don’t think so, “ I say weakly.

She backs her wheelchair up and travels around the living room, waiting for me to figure it out.
I finally get a tall plastic kids’ toy – probably something she has around for the grandchildren to play with – and set it down near the flattened brown body.

Mrs. C silently rolls the chair back to the doorway. She is not about to miss this show.

With the flyswatter, I nudge the creature into the can, bracing myself for it to come to life and scamper away, or worse – jump again. No movement. Good sign. With my feet as far from the can as possible, I lean over and look inside the can – the spider is halfway on the lip, but half of the body is still on the carpet. If I pick up the can now, it will probably fall out and I’ll have to start all over again. I nudge a few more times, lean again and see that it is ¾ of the way inside the can. I grab the paper towel that Mrs. C had so helpfully offered earlier and pick up the edge of the can, holding it out in front of me like a snake handler with a basket of poisonous asps. Mrs. C watches casually from her chair, parked so she can see everything.

“Eww, Eww, Eww,” I say in time to my quick-step run to the bathroom. I look resolutely NOT into the can and pray to God and Jesus that the spider is really dead and won’t crawl out of the can onto my hand. As I reach the open toilet, I realize that I will have to move my hand to the bottom of the can.

Eeeeewwah, that means that a mere ¼ inch of plastic will be separating my exposed skin from the grotesque body inside the can. But I have to do it. Mrs. C is watching.

I maneuver my hand to the bottom of the can, still holding the paper towel to add a 16th of an inch more protection between my hand and the spider. I can literally feel the hairy legs invading the sensitive skin of my hand as I imagine the spider crawling, bouncing or sliding out. I dump it in the toilet and make myself look to be sure it is truly disposed of. I flush – twice -- and breath a sigh of triumph!

“All done,” I call casually to Mrs. C as I exit the bathroom.

“Thank you,” she says regally as she wheels back to her study.

As if nothing had happened.

1 comment:

"MissMeliss" said...

OMG, that would be ME!!!! eww, ew, ew!!!! too funny!

Melissa