|Empty nest Gus|
Long ago, when I was between the ages of 8 and 11 and my teeth were too big for my face and I never got picked for kickball and I was discovered talking to myself - often - I remember a tired old teacher telling me that I was "someone who marched to a different drummer."
It's been years of course, but I can still spot another marcher - my refrigerator repair guy for example - a mile away. But I've been at ease socially for a long time, so when a marcher and I communicate, provided they are peaceful, I am always happy to carry the conversational kickball. Then, if my marcher and I confront an awkward pause - waiting for a supervisor to call back with a price for example, we won't have conversations like these:
Appliance repair person:
But more like these:
Me: "So how did you decide to be an appliance repair person?"
Appliance repair person "My father told me to get a job and I answered their ad."
Appliance repair person :
Courtney is getting married in September. She is not, as I've mentioned, willing to relocate to New England. I will, therefore, be making monthly visits to Cleveland to
take over help with the planning. Because Gus is
unaccustomed to being alone for more than a few hours at a time, and because he
gets sick when he travels, and because boarding is out of the question, and
because none of my friends or relatives are willing to move in while I'm gone, my
only choice was to hire a pet sitter.
I had mixed feelings. My experience with marchers who prefer non-human company is that they don't always love actual humans. They can be snarky. They can have off-putting bumper stickers that say things like: "The more I know about people, the more I like my (non-human)".
We'd have to interview, and how would that go?
Me: So, how long have you been in this business?
Pet Sitter: I'm not sure what you mean.
But I asked around, found the perfect candidate and went to her website. Did I care about testimonials? Not really. Did I care about years in the business? Not really. What I wanted was a picture which I would scrutinize for signs that she was a happy person who would be compatible with docile, affectionate Gus, or a disgruntled, surly person who might drive him under the bed where he would wonder why I stopped loving him.
But my marcher had a smile and eyes that said, "I also cry at sad movies" and so I clicked "contact".
From the kitchen window Gus and I watched her arrive, not in a crumpled van in need of cosmetic repair or covered with hostile bumper stickers but in a late model Honda that looked freshly washed. Out of the car did not step a person stealing furtive glances at the woods and chatting with herself, but an energetic young woman who marched to the door with confidence. When she knocked, Gus leaped like a gazelle from my arms and raced to the door as though he'd been waiting all eleven months of his life to meet her.
Here would have been a good time to pull out a couple of chairs, discuss Gus's habits, her rates, what they included, when she'd be at the house, and conduct a tour.
Instead, I shared my research of the Ragdoll breed and explained more about them than even I had wanted to know as a prospective buyer. Then I asked ten or eleven questions about her experience. Then I offered a few "let's say" hypotheticals to gauge her judgment. Then I asked if she would prefer to email me each day with reports or leave written ones. And how would they spend their time? And what about emergency vet trips? Where would she go and would they treat him without my authorization? Should I sign a release? Then, so that there was no question about the unique drummer to which I march, I spent several minutes trying to figure out where to leave her a key. Mailbox? Under the mat? In an envelope under the tire of my son's car? Under a rock in the back yard? For the second time, I asked if she would take Gus to the vet if he was sick. Her answers were thorough and polite and probably she wondered if I'd left the house since bringing Gus home.
"So food is here." She pointed with her pen at his dishes.
"Yes, and the water, as you can see is next to it."
"In the bowl," she nodded.
"He never drinks it but if I had to eat kibble, and the same kind all the time, I'd definitely want to have water with it. But Gus loves the fountain I bought for him. He drinks from it all the time." I called Gus to his fountain to demonstrate, and he responded by staying where he was.
After a tour and a few more "what ifs" and even more discussion about where to leave the key, we agreed to talk again soon, and the interview ended.
I hoped we made a good impression, but I wondered where exactly I'd gone for that half hour while my inner marcher was in charge. Maybe, I concluded, we try harder to relate to those in whom we see a little of our hidden selves. Or maybe, we make our most awkward attempts at relating when relating is most important.
Outside, the pet sitter sat in her car making notes. Probably while the visit was fresh in her mind, she wanted to get her thoughts down on paper.
Probably they included something like this:
Cat: sweet and social.
Owner: not used to interaction with
In any case, I was charmed. In addition to being equally skilled at communicating with humans and non-humans, the pet sitter clearly adored Gus. I hired her to visit the following week when I would make my first visit to Cleveland to
Gus, clearly thrilled, responded to the news by having a drink at his fountain.