My Silent Auction

There are two things you have to know about living in a small town. Everyone knows who you are and there is no place to hide.

It causes problems.

At the hardware store or the Quickie-Mart, someone will call my name and I will want to hide because I can’t recall theirs.

It happened again last week while attending a silent auction at the Legion Hall.

I headed for the two-dollar beer while my wife made a beeline for the bidding tables.  An hour later, she slid onto the bar stool next to me and fidgeted like a little girl. She wanted to tell me something – but didn’t want to just come right out and say it.

“Okay….what did you bid on?” I asked.

“A maid.”

“A what?”

“A day of house-cleaning services!!!!”

I told her it was the best idea she ever had – then excused myself.

In a panic, I located the bidding sheet and discovered she was engaged in a bidding war with one of her cousins.  So I found her cousin’s husband and since I couldn’t recall his first name, I winged it using his last.

“Anderson, we got ourselves a problem.”

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Your wife and mine are both bidding on an afternoon of Sheryl’s House-Cleaning Services.”

“So?”

“Ask yourself, what does your wife do before anyone comes over?”

“Uh, she cleans the house.”

I shook my head and corrected him.  “You both clean the house.”

“I once spent an entire weekend helping her clean because the furnace guy was scheduled for Monday,” I told him. “Tell me this, is your wife really going to let Sheryl see how messy her house is?”

“Good Grief!!” he said, suddenly realizing his predicament.

“I considered out-bidding them,” I said, “I figured that I would use a bogus name but since everyone knows everyone in the room, they would suspect one of us did it.”

“Since neither of us is into a weekend of deep cleaning,” I said, “what are we going to do about it?”

“Let me think…,” he said.

“Do you know anyone who actually needs their house cleaned?” I asked.

He looked down the length of the bar. A couple of stools away, two twenty-somethings hid under their ball-caps while suckling beer and staring at a basketball game on the big TV.

“Hey Doofus,” Anderson called to the nearest kid, “You want your apartment cleaned?”

“Huh?”

“We’re sending Sheryl over to clean your rat’s nest.”

“Whatever..”

“Alright Greg,” he said turning to me, “Use his name to double the bid and I’ll cover you for half.”

“Only one problem,” I said.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“I don’t know Doofus’s name.”

Anderson looked shocked.

Author: Almost Iowa

www.almostiowa.com

27 thoughts on “My Silent Auction”

  1. You can send the cleaning lady to my house. It can use some TLC. Small towns – sometimes people ask me why I never did the usual kid mischief. My reply – Everyone in town knew my dad and I would never get away with anything.

  2. I don’t clean the house before the housecleaners come. I just get things out of their way (like the clothes I didn’t hang up the day before or the laundry that I did but didn’t put away so that they can do their job…as for my hubby…he doesn’t lift a finger but grumbles and acts as if he is the one paying for their service. I actually started going to work years ago to earn the money to pay them so that I don’t have to do the housecleaning. It’s a fortunate boon that I quite enjoy doing my job.
    Loved the essay…and learned what to say when I forget a friend’s name.

    1. I can understand you hubby grumbling and grousing about money. It is what we do and after decades of practice, we are pretty good at it.

      Doing work you like in order to pay someone to do what you don’t like is not only sensible but wise.

  3. So true on both points! I lived in a small town for seven years, and everyone did know everyone else, at least by sight. The problem was, they also expected you to know them by name and I have a horrible memory.
    And as for the cleaning service, that’s also true: it would be a major sin to let the cleaning lady (or anyone else) see your house actually in need of cleaning. It’s simply not done. I’m ashamed to admit that I once spent an hour “straightening” the basement before the furnace guy’s appointment. And I live in a large city now, where I’ll never see him again.

    1. Not only does everyone know everyone else but they know everyone’s personal history back to kindergarten and not only that, but everyone knows the history of one’s parents and grandparents. It is one reason why fitting in is so hard. It’s like, “who ARE you?”

      1. Yes, it doesn’t matter how long you live there, if you weren’t born there, you’re always a bit of an outsider. We moved to a small town when my father took the position of minister at one of the churches there, which did help. I think there’s good and bad in small towns, but I am very glad I lived in one for a while growing up. I think it expanded my horizons, as odd as that sounds.
        PS: Thanks for this post, because it gave me the idea for the one I wrote about living in a small town!

        1. Oh my goodness, you are a PK. A pastor’s kid.

          Prior to my career building criminal justice systems, I worked in the IT department at the headquarters of The American Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Quite a few of my colleagues were PK’s (it is where I learned the term) and I developed a great deal of respect (and sympathy) for them.

          It is hard enough to grow up but it is a heck of a lot harder to grow up under the scrutiny of an entire town. The saving grace for a lot of kids, is that pastors and their spouses are well versed in human foibles and are better positioned to be good parents. Still, even with good parents, it is hard.

          I wrote about it a while back. See Sweetness With an Edge

          1. I’m sorry, I just saw this answer! I don’t know why, but when you respond to one of my comments, it takes a day or so before I can see it. (Yet another way that WordPress messes with writers.) And you are right, being a PK in a small town…particularly a new small town…was a challenge. It had it’s advantages, and taught me to be more compassionate, but dang…sometimes I would have liked to be just an ordinary kid and teen. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out now!

  4. A partial solution: the robot vacuum cleaner! They don’t care and they don’t tell. Just push it’s button and off it goes, merrily cleaning away while Peggy and I sit back and read. I do worry about the day Robota gains artificial intelligence, however, and begins to broadcast the condition of our rug to the world. –Curt

  5. It’s part of a pattern, you know. Clean house before the housecleaner comes. Wash and set your hair before going to the hairdresser. Deadhead the flowers and pull the weeds before the lawn guy comes. I finally decided it’s a (typically midwestern or perhaps generational) way to atone for guilt about not doing the work by doing three-quarters of the work first.

    As for name-remembering? I’ve long given up any pretense. I’m quite capable of looking someone in the eye and saying, “I can’t remember your name, but I’d rather embarass myself by asking, than not know.” It works like a charm.

    1. atone for guilt about not doing….

      Make-work is the dark matter that fills the universe of Midwestern life. It is 90% of everything but you can’t see it. In my humble opinion, the pancake breakfast was not invented to raise funds for church or charity, instead it serves to fill the gap of idleness that threatens to occupy our early Sunday mornings.

    1. And they do have a way of dropping a hint…..”I just spent a day and half at the Olsen’s. It’s not like the Jones, where you are in an out of there in half an hour.”

      In other words, “Nice little reputation you got there, would be a shame if something happened to it. “

  6. My mother always did that, clean before the maid came every other week. Thought she was nuts, but she also lived in a small town. Flash forward, I waited 40 years to relinquish that job to someone else, so it doesn’t bother me one bit to have my gal clean for me. She gets paid well and I enjoy watching her work!

    1. I can’t bring myself to watch anyone clean my house, even my wife. Whenever she starts cleaning, I become overwhelmed by Catholic guilt…even if I have spent all morning cleaning the garage or shed. I’ll start pushing a broom or a vacuum cleaner.

      It made sharing a place with someone like Stan hard. It was something out of the odd couple.

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