Never agree to do a job without knowing how much you’ll be paid - a good principle to live by that I learned the hard way.
I’m not sure how old we were but when my brother and I were in grade school, the lady who lived a block away on the corner hired us to clean up her yard. No big deal – we thought. It was a small yard. “I’ll pay you,” she said.
So, on Saturday morning, eager to earn some money, we reported for duty. The lady had everything ready - rakes, shovels, trash bags, and a wheelbarrow. After she untied her dog and put it in the house, we set to work, figuring we’d be done in an hour or two.
What the lady had failed to tell us was just how bad the yard was. Aside from the normal yard debris of twigs and leaves, there was garbage – as in household garbage. Apparently, her yard doubled as her own private city dump! It smelled horrible. And, as you can imagine, keeping a dog tied in the yard didn’t help matters either. Neither did the multiple cats. Then to add a little more to the mix, a fruit tree (apple, I think) had dropped its fruit on the ground for who knows how long. It all added up to a gooey, slimy, and very smelly mess, anywhere from six inches to a foot deep.
By noon, we were barely half done. Taking a short break, we went home to eat lunch. But, I don’t think either one of us were that hungry. Afterward, we returned for more “fun.” Late that afternoon, we finally finished. All the slime and scum had been shoveled, raked, and carted away; the yard cleaned down to the bare ground. We cleaned up the tools and then knocked on the woman’s door.
She came outside to have a look and was very impressed. And appreciative; thanking us profusely and telling us what a nice job we’d done. And then, she remembered she’d promised to pay us. “Wait just a minute,” she told us, disappearing into the house.
Soon she returned with our pay, handing each of us a quarter. Yep, one quarter. Twenty-five cents for eight hours of work! And not the most pleasant of jobs.
And that’s how I learned to establish wages before agreeing to do the job. I learned something else that day too. Never clean up someone else’s mess!