My (Short) Life as a Maid

When I was growing up in a small Nova Scotia town, there were very few summer jobs for a girl with no particular skills.  Babysitting was one of the ones I turned to to make a little extra money.

Between us, I think babysitting is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  Let me explain.

My first babysitting job was for our neighbour, Mary, who had 5 little girls.  She worked at the local cinema selling tickets.  Her husband would stay with the children in the evenings, but on Wednesday afternoons there was a matinée and I was volunteered by my mother to watch the little darlings.  They were great kids although child number four, a sweetheart named Patrice, was mentally challenged.  It made the job a little more difficult but it wasn’t too bad.

When Mary got home from work, I handed over the little girls and she handed me a quarter.  Yes, $0.25.  I was thrilled.  A quarter could buy a lot in those days in the 1950s.  I ran all the way home with the precious “pay” in my hand and excitedly told my mother about the quarter.  My Mom was shocked and told me that I had to RETURN the money to Mary as I couldn’t accept money for helping out a neighbour!  I can tell you I trudged up the hill to Mary’s house and handed over the quarter with a mumbled explanation that I really couldn’t accept the money.  I learned something about my mother that day.  I didn’t really need the money and Mary and her husband did.

For a few years I occasionally babysat for Mary and never accepted money for the job.  I really liked her and her children and was saddened when I was away at boarding school in my last year of high school when she died at the age of 29 during surgery to correct what was supposed to have been a minor heart defect.

In university, I babysat frequently, mostly for a family of 4 girls.  Their father was a professor at my university and he and his wife were great party goers.  I was there until the wee hours of many a Saturday night and was always paid the same amount – $2.00.  If I was there a couple of hours in the middle of the day, I got $2.00.  Four hours in the middle of the night?  $2.00.  One time I sat for a whole weekend while they went to a conference.  I remember that the youngest child was eating her carrots because I had told her to.  She didn’t speak for the rest of the day and in the evening when I went to help her brush her teeth, I found the carrots still in her mouth!

A little note.  I invited the parents of these little girls to my wedding and said to Mrs. W.,   ” I want to have 4 little girls just like you.”  And I did!

At the end of fourth year university I was asked to babysit another gaggle of kids, this time a family of 6 boys, whose father was my geology professor.  They went away for a few days and I remember that my pay that time was $20.00.  It was 1965 and I felt rich!

I must have done a good job because another professor’s wife called me because she wanted my to be her MAID for the summer.  I was to do ironing, light housework, and babysitting for her group of 5 kids.  The pay was good so I accepted the job, but asked for a day off the first week and was told, “No.”  She needed me because she had to attend the university graduation the next day with her husband.  I told her, “No.”  I also would be attending the university graduation the next day where I would be receiving my teaching degree.  I never went back to work as her maid.

It was a short career!


A “Staycation” Scare

Yesterday was Wednesday, so it’s free bus day here in Ottawa.  We decided to have a “staycation” and act as tourists in our new city.  Hubby and I left home in the morning to make the most of the day.  We visited the Rideau Centre and I had a Tim Horton’s steeped tea which was delicious.  Then we walked across the street to Chapters book store where we spent a happy hour browsing the books and magazines.

Around noon we walked up Wellington Street, past the Chateau Laurier, and got to the Parliament Buildings just as hundreds of people were starting an Outdoor Yoga Session.  Hubby thinks there were over a thousand people there and they were pouring out of office buildings carrying their yoga mats and heading for “The Hill”.

We watched for a while and then made our way to Bank Street, where we had a delicious lunch at The Royal Oak pub.  When we left there we decided to try to walk as far as we could south on Bank Street, towards Billings Bridge.  About 15 minutes later we spotted the No. 1 bus coming and we decided to take it.

BIG MISTAKE! And here is where the “scare” comes in. First of all, a man started talking to me before we got on the bus.  I’ll call him Creep #1.

Creep #2 and #3 were already on the crowded bus.  There were two seats side by side and I sat in one of them.  The man on my right was very fat so Hubby decided to stand.  Fat guy starts picking at some sores on his arm so I turned the other way.  Creep #2 who was on my left then shouts at the top of his voice, “The Hell’s Angels are my friends”.  Creep #3 yells at him from across the bus, “You don’t know the Hell’s Angels”.

The guy who was yelling then shouts, “I’m one of the Hell’s Angels.”  Creep #2 yells back at him, egging him on.  Other passengers on the bus were shouting to the driver to kick them off the bus.  It was really frightening.

The situation  was escalating so the driver stopped the bus and came back to tell the guy to stop shouting.  He stopped until the bus got going and then shouts the same thing again. Then Creep #2 starts saying, to Creep #1 who knew him (no surprise), “I hate that guy. I’d like to beat him up. He reminds me of Paco. I beat him up and did nine months for it”.  The first guy says, “I hate Paco too.  |He tried to set me up for a robbery.”

The shouter keeps shouting and then slips his hand in his pocket and pulls something out that he hid in his hand.  Hubby and I got out at the next stop and started walking to our destination.  But it didn’t stop there.

After a couple of blocks, there was the bus, stopped with the flashers on.  Beside it was another No. 1 bus also with its flashers on. All of the passengers were getting on to the second bus.

The shouter was standing on the corner about 30 ft. in front of us.  Suddenly a special constable pulled up in her car and shouted a couple of times to the man to get his hands out of his pocket.  “Where’s the knife?”, she shouts.  “Where’s the knife?”

I was terrified.  We passed by them then and kept walking.  At the next corner the second bus pulled up.  The doors were opened to let passengers on and I heard the bus driver call to the people on the bus, “Anyone who saw what happened, give me your names and phone numbers.”

We walked about three miles in the heat and humidity but didn’t get on another No. 1 bus.  The No. 98 was a serene experience by comparison.

I was shaking for about half an hour!