Most of the time, thought Teresa, you could get out of a moral quandary by simply saying nothing. For example: a few weeks back, a neighbour had popped over for a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate cake. The conversation had soon turned to the subject of Grace. Now Grace had worked for Teresa for many years and had turned out to be the most hardworking, honest and reliable maid she’d ever had. In fact, their relationship had gone well beyond that of employer and employee and Teresa now counted Grace as a good friend. When Mr Thomas had passed on four years earlier, Grace had been one of the first to arrive on the doorstep, a bunch of flowers in her hand and tears streaming down her face.
So when Grace was hired by this neighbour for one day a week, Teresa was expecting nothing less than total satisfaction from the lady. And yet, when asked about her new employee, this neighbour’s first words were:
“Oh her, Grace, she’s no good! Much too slow and on top of that I think she’s skiving behind my back. I’m not sure she even touched the carpets and floors. I don’t want her back – absolutely bloody useless!”
A moral quandary. Teresa could, of course, have sprung to Grace’s defence and condemned this neighbour’s harsh and simply untrue character assassination. But instead, she merely turned to the woman and with a gracious smile replied:
“Oh I see. Well maybe you can look for someone else then. Would you like another slice of chocolate cake?”
The main reason for this mild response? Insider information. Grace had already told her what a terribly difficult employer this woman had been – and that was understating it. The woman had followed Grace from room to room, continuously criticising every move she made and had blamed her for badly done work before she’d even done it. Then it turned out that this slave-driving woman had an aversion to anything machine-like. She refused to own a vacuum cleaner (“what’s wrong with a brush and pan and getting your knees dirty”), a washing machine (“doesn’t get them as clean as a bit of elbow grease in the bath tub”) or even a cooker or microwave. (“I always eat out. Oh dear, did you forget to bring sandwiches? What a shame.”)
So, when an exhausted, dishevelled and hungry Grace had later turned up on Teresa’s doorstep, tearfully describing what had been one of the worst days of her life, Teresa had laid a hand on her shoulder and responded with:
“Oh, I’m so sorry about that, Grace. You mustn’t go back. Leave it to me, I’ll make some excuse to that woman.”
Her interest aroused, Teresa then made enquiries along the street and amongst her church friends about this particular neighbour. The answers she got were startling. If all the stories were to be believed, then this woman had never had a maid stay for longer than a day. In fact, some hadn’t even lasted a full day, forsaking any thought of payment and taking the first opportunity of escape. One apparently had even come to blows with the woman with the police being called to intervene.
So in this case, the moral quandary had been easy to solve. It meant that the neighbour could have the satisfaction of thinking that she was actually firing Grace. And it also meant that Teresa could get rid of the slices of chocolate cake which she’d recently found hidden in the back of a cupboard, covered in ants and a year out of date.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish