Published on September 18th, 2014 | by Richard Black0
The Babysitter Hazard
I celebrated my wife’s birthday this weekend and it was lovely. We even went to the same restaurant which added an element of intimacy to the occasion that’s been lacking in prior years. I’ve often heard that “doing” things together is an integral part of remaining a happily married couple. I’ve also heard that wombats make nice pets. I hear a lot of things and while I’d like to discuss many of them at this point in time, I’d prefer to focus on the the issue of babysitters and the immense level of discomfort I, and presumably most married men, feel when driving a young woman home in this litigious day and age.
Up until a few months ago our go-to sitter was my wife’s niece Sarah. Our daughter Darcy loved Sarah and Sarah loved Darcy. It was a nice arrangement. In addition to her many positive attributes Sarah didn’t steal booze from our liquor cabinet and never set up a meth cook at our home. Most importantly however Sarah owned her own car which saved me from the necessity of making awkward conversation while driving her home.
Unfortunately Sarah decided to forgo a lucrative career in babysitting and headed off to college. I can’t say that I agree with her decision but my opinion on the matter was moot. Sarah left and Laura and I were placed in the position of finding someone else to watch our daughter or roll the dice with child services.
I’ve got buddies who exhaustively research sitters and I respect them for their diligence. They perform online background checks, drive by the prospective sitter’s home at odd hours of the night and even peek in on the kid during marching band, presumably to ascertain that she is, in fact, taking marching band and not just huffing paint thinner through a saxophone. I’m not that guy but I’m happy to rely on my obsessive friends advice when I’m in need of a trustworthy babysitter.
Am I concerned about my daughter’s well being while the wife and I are out at a burlesque show in the middle of nowhere without adequate phone coverage? Of course I am. Unlike most people however I’ve accepted my limitations. I’m really terrible at reading people and even worse when determining if they’d be appropriate to care for my daughter. I’m also remarkably lazy and occasionally prone to go with intuition despite the fact that past experience has shown that I should do precisely the opposite of every instinct I’ve ever had.
And this is how I came to hire a peppy 14 year old who came up to our door and offered to rake our lawn, clean out our gutters or care for our child. I figured that such an enterprising young kid would either be a criminal mastermind I couldn’t hope to safeguard against or entirely too busy with extracurricular activities to take part in dating or substance abuse. Time will tell but so far it’s turned out pretty well.
Heather, the 14 year old, has been abso-fucking-lutely amazing. The first time Laura and I headed out for our monthly key party we came home to find that she had swept the floors, emptied the dishwasher and even put our daughter in the correct bed. I was, quite simply, delighted.
I was so delighted in fact and, perhaps a little loaded, that I cheerfully handed Heather $100 for four hours worth of work. She gave me a bemused look, my wife gave me a withering glance and I bid them both goodnight to pass out on the couch in my sports coat sans pants. I know it sounds strange but in this crazy, topsy turvey world one never knows when a sport coat might be required and I like to be prepared. The next day was Sunday after all and I had a church service I planned on not attending.
A few months later the wife I were planning to attend some sort of event. I can’t remember exactly what it was for, something about clubbing baby seals or ALS or clubbing baby seals to benefit the sufferers of ALS none of which I should mention are causes I typically support. The fact is that if Lou Gehrig would have kept his pants zipped up then no one would have to club a baby seal to help sufferers of ALS but I’d committed to the event and we needed a sitter.
My adoring wife Laura suggested that we call Heather and as the kitchen was in need of a thorough cleaning I enthusiastically agreed, at first. Over the next few days I became a bit reluctant about using Heather as a babysitter. First and foremost was the issue of payment and the fact that I didn’t intend to pay her more per hour than most college grads make grinding axes or selling life insurance or doing whatever they do before they decide to get a post graduate degree.
My second concern was really more of a question. What sort of father would let his fourteen year old daughter return to the home of a man he’d never met and who paid her $100 for four hours of work? For the sake of propriety I’ve chosen not to pursue this particular train of thought at least not until I sell my home, buy another one at least two miles away from Heather’s father and become thoroughly proficient with my shotgun.
My final concern revolved around taking our babysitter home, specifically, what in the hell I would have to talk about with a fourteen year old girl. I’ve never been particularly gifted when it comes to conversation at the best of times and I couldn’t think of anything I could bring up during the thirty second drive that didn’t sound creepy, strange or outright offensive.
I fully realize that I could have kept my trap shut but I’m just not built that way. Uncomfortable silence makes me…well…very uncomfortable. Sure I could ask about Darcy, I did by the way, but that’s a subject that can only last for ten seconds tops. There are only so many ways one can ask “How was my daughter?” before it starts to sound like an interrogation.
Being me I screwed things up. It didn’t even take me ten seconds.
“Did she go down all right?” I asked as Heather stepped into that car and quickly wished my brain had a foot and a crotch I could use to kick it with in the balls.
“Yep she fell right asleep,” Heather responded.
“So far so good,” I thought and breathed a sigh of relief that was also, thankfully, not taken as the deep husky breath of an oversexed middle aged man. whom could not think of anything else to discuss that wasn’t rife with sexual innuendo.
For legal purposes I feel compelled to mention that I have no interest in the aforementioned babysitter or any minor. There are many other ways I can ruin my marriage, end up in jail or on the wrong end of a shotgun and, to be honest, seducing a babysitter doesn’t even make the top ten on my my list of “How to Fuck Up One’s Life in Thirty Seconds or Less.” With that disclosure I will continue with discomfort already in progress.
“So how’s softball going? You’re a pitcher right?” I asked hoping that she missed the obvious and quite unintentional implications of my question that she might be a lesbian and a fister. In order to cover my tracks I moved the conversation along as quickly as possible to another disastrous line of questioning.
“Do you girls use a regulation size ball? Kids your age have such small hands I’ve always wondered how you can hold a ball that big?” I asked and with that frantic bout of verbal diarrhea we began the longest 20 seconds of our lives.
“Nevermind that,” I said before she could answer, “have your parents lived here in the neighborhood for a while?” I could hear the next questions a potential perv would ask. Do they work much? Do you have any siblings? Does your father own a Howitzer?
“We’ve been here ever since I’ve been a baby,” Heather responded as I pulled up into the driveway.
“I love babies,” I said and made a mental note to have someone design the equivalent of a car boot for my mouth.
“Yeah they’re cute,” Heather responded.
“So here we are,” I said and put the car in park once we’d finally arrived at Heather’s home.
“Yep that’s my place,” Heather replied without jumping out of the car or screaming for help. Instead she looked at me expectantly. “Holy crap” I thought, “This is where it happens. This is where she makes her move.” My mind flashed back to the last time I was in a father’s driveway with a girl some twenty five years ago. Nothing happened then by the way and it didn’t this time.
“Your wife said that you’d pay me,” Heather said.
“Ohh shit that’s right,” I replied and fumbled around my wallet before tossing her a handful of bills. You have a nice weekend,” I shouted out the window as she headed towards the back of her house and I woke everyone within a six block radius.
Like a socially challenged idiot I couldn’t stop there. In my defense however I’m not a usually stickler for manners or safety but I’ve been taught from a very young age that one does not drop someone off without making certain that he or she is safely inside a home. Unfortunately Heather was not aware of this peccadillo of mine and turned around, presumably to be certain that the weird ass guy who drove her home wasn’t following her, and paused.
“I’m just going to stay here in the car until you get inside. I just want to make sure your safe,” I yelled sounding, once again, precisely like someone posing as a concerned parent or adult but who was really just a Class Five Freakshow.
“If you can’t get in I can call your parents,” I said noticing that Heather’s pace had quickened once she’d turned around. In order to calm her fears that I may be a pervert I waved my phone out of the window much, I imagine, in the same way ice cream truck drivers and child abductors dangle treats from panel vans.
“You can come back to our home to call your parents if you can’t get in,” I yelled as Heather pretty much broke into a dead run and disappeared behind the back of her house. I couldn’t blame her. I would have done the same thing in her position.
Once I was safely at home I mentioned the trip to my wife Laura who promptly broke into gales of laughter. I’d be lying if the phrase “You have nothing to worry about. She probably thinks you’re gross,” wasn’t mentioned during the conversation but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t, just a little bit, hurt by the understanding that my wife was right.
For the sake of my ego and certain legal concerns the next time my wife and I go out to clip toenails for tots, raise a barn, or petition the Army Corp of Engineers to get back into the Everglades and need a sitter Laura will be in charge of driving Heather home. Given the remnants of my raw machismo I think it would be best for all concerned not to mention the exorbitant price I provide young women who aren’t interested in me to care for my daughter and remain uninterested in…well me.