Dear Amy: My beloved father-in-law passed away a few months ago. Before he died, he was bedridden for several years. He received a handicap parking permit. During the years of his sickness, Mom proudly displayed it whenever she parked, even though Dad was not with her.
Now that he has died, she still uses it everywhere she goes, even though she is very healthy and walks two miles every day.
Recently, my wife and I took her out to dinner. I was very embarrassed when she pulled the permit out and told me to park in the handicap space. I offered to drop her off at the door and park in a normal spot. She would have none of it.
To avoid an argument, I parked in a handicap space. Afterward, I vowed not to do that again, because it is illegal and wrong. My wife thinks that I am overreacting. She wants to appease her mother and believes the permit reminds her of dad. Please help.
In a Quandary
Dear Quandary: A parking permit is a strange totem to attach emotional meaning to. Perhaps you should simply assume that your mother-in-law is attached to the convenience of illegally using a handicap permit.
When you are transporting people in your own car, you get to say how and where you will park. Your offer to drop off your mother-in-law at the entrance was the appropriate gesture to make. Your wife could have easily walked with her to the restaurant entrance and waited inside while you parked in a regular spot.
Because you know it was wrong of you to park in the handicap spot, you might have made your point clearly if you had told the group before the meal: “I feel terrible about taking up that spot while we are sitting here eating. I’m going to move the car now. When we leave I'll retrieve it and pick you up at the entrance, if you don’t want to walk.”
Dear Amy: I have employed a cleaning lady for nearly 20 years. She is kind, pleasant and trustworthy. She is now in her early 50s and has no physical limitations, other than lifting heavy things.
I pay her cash. I have always paid her $80 per visit, and she comes every other week. I also give her a generous $200 at Christmas.
She used to work roughly four hours per visit, and always did a good job. But in the last several years, her work has slacked off. It appears she only works two hours per visit, and I usually end up doing my own dusting or cleaning smudges off my countertops, and cleaning the floors.
I always straighten my apartment before she comes. I only want her to clean, dust and vacuum.
My friends tell me I should fire her, but I don’t have the guts. She has always been nice to me and I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Should I give her a raise? Warn her that she’s not doing enough? Or fire her?
Want to Do the Right Thing
Dear Want: You don’t have the guts to fire this person, and so you are contemplating giving her a raise. But I fail to see how giving a person a raise when they do a bad job fixes this problem. She is actually giving herself a raise by working half-time for the same payment.
I think it is human nature to gradually lower your efforts with a repetitious job you’ve done for many years. You should tell her you notice that she is missing tasks that she used to do. Review with her the scope of the job, make a list and ask her to check off each item as “done” before she leaves your house.
Your light housecleaning might not be a four-hour job. Perhaps you should reduce it to three hours and pay her a higher hourly wage.
According to an article published by Angie’s List, the average hourly pay for a house cleaner is from $25 to $45.
Dear Amy: I was very disappointed that you neglected to mention the neediest among us – animals – when you recommended several charities in your column. You obviously don’t care two hoots about the lives of beings that cannot help themselves.
Dear Dismayed: I grew up on a farm. I have and love animals. It may be easier to love defenseless animals than people, but in these challenging times, I’m making my own choice to encourage others to try to help people.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.