"Social Q's" is Philip Galanes's advice column in the New York Times. Every Tuesday in Anti-Social Q's, I will answer the same questions as "Social Q's," dropping at anti-social cues.
This week Philip answers questions on financial and medical matters. Oh and some question about people plugging in a phone.
No Sitting Duck
I am a nanny and work full time for a single family. Occasionally, I take baby-sitting jobs for other families on my free evenings and weekends. On these jobs, I have been asked often, by several different parents, if I will lower my hourly rate because their children will be sleeping for most of the time I am there. I am inclined to say no. My fee is fair. But since I’ve been asked so often, I thought I might check with you. How should I handle these requests?
Rose, New Orleans
"Hi there factory workers. Seeing as you will now be merely overlooking robots manufacturing things, we will lower your salaries. Or better yet, we will just fire you all. LOL." Ah capitalism. Where the right price for anything is when all parties leave disappointed. No wonder the Germans are so good at it. You simply answer any such question with the following response: "Fine, I will take the lower rate, but if your children happen to wake up or are in need of medical attention, my new salary will restrict me from acting upon the situation. I hope you understand." You will immediately lose your job, but you will have gotten the point across. And is that not what is important? For these parents will never ask to lower a babysitter's salary again. And here we see the beauty of protest. Sacrifice yourself, so that others may earn a modicum of respect.
The Best Medicine?
I heard through the grapevine that a woman I used to work with for over five years is going through chemotherapy. We were never personal friends. This morning, I ran into her on the street. She was clearly wearing a wig (albeit a very nice one that many people might not have noticed). I didn’t comment on her appearance and wasn’t sure exactly what to say. So I asked how she was, and we chit-chatted about work. She never mentioned her cancer. But I couldn’t help feeling uncaring for not asking about her struggle with chemo. What was the appropriate thing to do?
Wow. How could you overlook that? That is the first question one asks. But in a weird way, you may have brought some normalcy back into her life, which she may have appreciated. It all depends on the person really. Some people would love to talk about their ailments endlessly, see David Sedaris, others just want to live a normal life. Without knowing your fleeting friend, it is hard to answer this question.
Papa Don’t Breach
My ex-wife and I had an extremely contentious breakup and divorce nearly a decade ago. Her court-awarded alimony and child-support payments will end this year, when our son turns 21. But he is still living with his mother and is not yet employed. Would it be rude to continue the child-support payments, but not her alimony? I will not pay another dime of that.
Anonymous, Westchester County
You need to spend some time with your son. That is the best form of child-support there is.
Saints Preserve Us
I went to a Roman Catholic Holy Communion reception. At one point, I noticed several waiters huddled on the ground beneath the next table. I suspected a calamity. But it turns out that one of the guests merely wanted to charge her cellphone, and that the waiters were all unscrewing the security plate beneath her seat. Thoughts?