Khaya Dlanga

My helper used my shower

2015-07-07 13:39

Khaya Dlanga

I remember the first time I told people that my helper uses my shower when she is done working, they expressed shock, dismay and horror. Mostly horror.

A relative who was visiting me and staying over at my place while I was in the office informed me that my helper had used my shower when she had gone out.

My relative realised that my helper was showering when she returned from her shopping.

"Did you know that your helper uses your shower when you are not here?" I was asked.

"Yes I do," I replied.

"Oh? And you're ok with that?" was the next question.

"Yes. I guessed because I haven't told her to stop," I said.

I was met with a skeptical and confused, reproachful facial expression. It seemed to me that this was not something to be permitted to happen. And I began to doubt myself. Was I supposed to be outraged by the fact that she had showered in my house? Was there something wrong with my lack of reaction?

I certainly thought that it was far better than catching your helper having hanky panky in your bed as I once heard someone tell me. With the security guard.

I found it hilarious, probably because it did not happen on my bed. I hope. Because you just never know. I'm sorry for putting those images in your head...

I mentioned on Twitter that my cleaner showers at my place when she is done cleaning. The reactions and responses were none other than horror.

What was even more intriguing were some people who would descend with vengeance whenever they saw someone call their helper, a cleaning lady or maid.

The bastions and guardians of all that is politically correct, and those who want to police what black people should find offensive and be offended by.

It was interesting to watch their reactions because they were mortified by how one's helper can just shower at your place. It was very clear that what one is academically comfortable with becomes very different when put in practice.  

A few weeks ago I was at a function and someone was complaining about their helper. Then I told them of an amusing incident about how an acquaintance's helper had used her olive oil to make amagwinya - vetkoek.

She complained and said she was going to deduct the bottle of olive oil from what she paid her. I told her that that's not fair because she has to realise that her helper probably has no idea that that was olive oil, and even if she knew what it was because she must have read the label, that didn't mean she actually knew how expensive it is.

To her, it simply looked like cooking oil in a bottle. "You can’t punish her for being less fortunate and less informed about certain things than you," I said.

Anyhow, people started complaining about the various things their helpers have done. Some funny, some not so funny. Then I brought up the subject of my cleaner who uses the shower at my place. I explained that it's not like she uses the one in my bathroom, she uses the spare shower and even if she used the main one, I would have no issue with it.

My argument was that if I am happy for her to hand wash my clothes, I should have no issue with her using my shower.

As I explained to people who were debating the matter around a dinner table, who were overwhelmingly offended by the idea of their helper even considering showering in their place was deeply offensive to them. Many said they would fire their helper immediately for doing so.

The thing about some of the people who work as helpers is that some of them might not live in houses but in shacks instead. And some of those who may have houses they live in might not have baths in their houses.

They might be using those light-portable-plastic bathtubs to clean wash. So, for some of them, a shower and a bath are luxuries. If you live in a shack, when you see a shower, you see a chance to clean yourself properly.

I think we have to remember that they too are people. Some of our mothers and grandparents too were helpers who too were treated unkindly, there is no need for us to be treating our black sisters poorly for simply using a shower because they don't have one at home.

I was horrified when I heard how little some pay their helpers, yet they won’t even let them use a shower. Sometimes we are so hard on people who have the least when they take the least from us. Just because we have a little bit more does not make us better or superior.

We are just fortunate to have more. They too are working hard to make sure that their children can have the opportunity to have just some of the things that you have.


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