Thursday, June 26, 2008

Au pairs compared

Number 1 was nice but lacked the ability to discipline the boys. She desired no social life and went almost no where during her 365 days with us. She contented herself to talking on the phone (in her native language) to her boyfriends and friends. She did accidentally spill bleach on the carpet in her room and then cut it out and try to cover it up, but we kept her. We weren't willing to go through the matching process halfway through her time with us.

Number 2 is nice and is very good with discipline. Everyone is different. Her personality is more reserved and she has sought out friendships with other au pairs as well as Americans her age. She goes out all the time and has had a great time. She went out and broke her wrist skating and we kept her too. The time we had to spend taking off work and taking her to appointments was really a strain on our family. I don't think we'd do it again.

The next one arrives in August. She seems very responsible, enthusiastic and serious about doing a good job. All the screening the agency does and then all the interviewing you do..... I still think you might have just as good luck pulling a name out of a hat.

Think au pairs are for the rich? Not so. It comes out cheaper that a day care center if you have more than 1 child. You have to be willing for them to live in your house and make them an adult daughter who lives with you. You have to be good at communication. I have seen some unhappy families and au pairs and I think they were not communicating well enough to get all their needs met. In my professional life, I have never done hiring and firing, so this was a new thing for me: managing an employee. Overall, we have enjoyed it. Not for the cultural exchange part especially, but for the convenience of not having to drive all over town before and after work to drop off and pick up the kids. Once I told a friend I was going to pick up a sitter on a weekend night. They said, "What about the au pair?" Well, she only works 45 hours a week: 7:30 am - 4:30 pm. These girls aren't your slaves. I also liked the secure feeling I get when my husband is away and there is another adult in the house - if anything happened and I had to rush someone to the ER or something, she is there to help in a pinch. I had trouble finding a day care center that opened early enough for me to make it to my job on time (we begin at 7:20 am). Now Matt stays home until his bus picks up at 8:45am.

Think about it - if you have more than 1 kid, an extra bedroom and want to reduce your stress in the daily morning and afternoon transportation frenzy, hiring an au pair might be for you.

Santa Fe Opera like being in prison

I once had the opportunity to attend Cosi Fan Tutte at the Santa Fe Opera House- a gorgeous amphitheater where you watch the setting sun just before the show gets started. I have been a lifelong patron of the arts: orchestra, ballet, drama, museums - you name it. I have been to shows in many fine theaters in the US and abroad: the Paris Opera House, Lincoln Center, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, Braodway theaters, Atlanta's Fox Theater, etc, etc.... I know good manners and proper theater etiquette. I have been a performer and I appreciate audiences that know how to behave in such a venue.

So before this show began in Santa Fe, we were out in the "lobby" (being an outdoor theater, it was outside, so maybe you just call it a terrasse....) enjoying a drink and chatting before taking our seats. I took my camera from my purse and asked someone to take our picture. We said cheese and they snapped the photo. An usher then approached me and politely explained that cameras were not allowed in the theater. I apologized and told him I would of course keep it in my bag once I entered the house. He said that I could not do that - I had to check the camera or take it to the car. I thought he was trying to tell me the standard "no flash photography allowed during the performance for the safety of the performers" or "no recordings may be made of the copyrighted material allowed" speech they do before the curtain rises. No he was telling me that I could not carry the camera inside with me at all. Like you can't carry your gun on the airplane with you. I really thought he was kidding. He would not leave my side - he was practically insisting on escorting me to the coat check or to the car. I continued the conversation about how one time when I was at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris I witnessed a tourist taking a flash picture of the art work and I told this guy how disrespectful I thought it was of the patron not to follow the rules when it was clearly stated that flash phtography was not allowed. The man would not leave me alone.

I couldn't believe that all these other places I had been simply made a request that no one use a camera and no one did. And that somehow in Santa Fe they did not trust that anyone would follow the directions when asked to. Out in the middle of the desert, do the wild outlaws invade theaters regularly and shoot pictures during operas? I felt like I was being treated like a simple idiot who did not have any class. I felt very put down and untrustworthy. I thought this was ridiculous. I did finally find the friend I rode with - got his key - schlep out to the car and stow my highly dangerous apparatus. Then I asked to speak to the house manager. I very politely talked with her for a few minutes. She was a good customoer service rep - politely listened with empathy - apologized for the stalker usher, but still maintained the rule about no cameras.

So are they strip searching every ticketholder for food or cigarettes - who knows? They might just start jonesin' for a smoke half way through Act 1 and light up right there in Row C. Or maybe their ushers are trained to watch for gum-chewers sticking their used wads under the seat. Or some who can't wait for the apr├Ęs-thater nosh - he might rattle open a bag of Cheetoes during a recitative.

I think that is the stupidest thing in the world. They don't do this in New York, London, Paris (well, after 9-11 they did search more people's bags, but it wasn't cameras they were looking for), but for some reason, Santa Fe, New Mexico is attracting some kind of sickos who want to watch opera singers eyes glaze over after having a flash go off in their face or weird "opera pirates" - I bet You Tube is full of pirated recordings of Greek tragedies and Italian operas. Watch out Santa Fe! Get metal detectors and X-ray machines. What will cultured partons of the arts do next to try to sabotage your show?

What time do you open?!?!?!?!?

I want all businesses in America to listen up - right now! Please, for the love of all humanity, make your front window sign that tells the hours you open and close VERY LARGE!!! Large enough so that any customer can read the times from the CAR!!!!!!! This irks me to no end - can you tell? I hate driving up and wanting to check and see if the place I want to go is open or not. I don't want to park the car, get out of the car, walk up to the door and pull the handle only to find it locked. If I have my kids with me I especially do not want to have to do this. Seat belts on kids are tough and 3 year olds do not understand when you tell them the candy store is closed. Please hlep my cause - I want to start a revolution!!!! To the barricades!!!