The next day I am really productive in the office at BNP. During my coffee break, I make a few phone calls as the Wizard has advised me. It is not until my lunch break that my faithful cat appears again, first rubbing its head gently against my legs to catch my attention. I hide under my desk to have a one-on-one conversation with him.
“Ok first phone call to Acerta,” I inform the Wizard in a conspirational tone. “Indeed if I can’t give the Star other work, she should be removed and will fall back on the ‘ziekenkas’. Question is: do I remove her completely or keep her on for 8 hours to do admin work, reportings etc…? We also had a new mini project starting up this week. If I don’t keep her I will have to cancel this. What do you think? Before I talk about this to the Star… I currently employ her 24 hours per week. So keep her 8 hours or nothing at all?”
“Does 8 hours cost less?” the Wizard asks pointedly.
“Good morning by the way,” I suddenly remember to be polite. “Well yes, 8 hours is less than 24. And it would give me a certain backup just in case. Not sure about the car though.”
“Can you change her contract to part time or temp?” the Wizard reminds me to consider all possible options.
“If I cut her off completely I revoke the car… but then it will just be standing at my place,” I go over the consequences of each decision too.
“Do you really need her?” the Wizard is now getting to the point.
“She is part time,” I point out. “Now I know you are going to tell me I could do without her. And I do really need her for this last project. And I am very fond of my Star. She makes life a little bit easier. Not sure what to do now.”
“When she has her baby she will want to bring him/ her to work,” the Wizard is now also highlighting the negatives of my available options.
“I don’t think so,” I say as I remember how the Star envisions the future with her little darling. “It wouldn’t bother me if she did.”
“I think you should terminate after the project,” the Wizard gives me his blunt advise. “Save up to get an aupair from France or Holland who can look after kids and for a little extra money do your admin.”
“You think I should do what? No way! I still have many projects to do with her!” I shout a little too loud, still unsure of which decision would be best. “Ok I’ll see. I will call her later on. Anything specific I should say?”
“I have no idea,” the Wizard is suddenly evasive. “What project and what is its worth?”
“400 Euros one time only for making an email template,” I say as I realize my peanuts really are just that. “It is no big deal if I blow it off.”
“Call an aupair agency and ask what is involved,” the Wizard coaxes me to get all information first.
“Shall I first see how my talk with the Star goes?” I ask as this is the part I am dreading the most.
“What are the costs?” the Wizard builds on his previous suggestion.
“Then see what BNP says about my homeworking,” I continue building my own plan in my head. “And then see about a new aupair or nanny.”
“No first get info so you can make a qualified decision,” the Wizard corrects me.
“If I do an aupair I will have to stop the AirBnB. Because she will need somewhere to sleep. Ok I will make a few more calls.”
“Maybe,” the Wizard wants me to keep all options open until I am fully informed. “But you can reorganize your house. Office upstairs and maybe the aupair you choose is intelligent enough to teach. If it works you can extend her contract or employ her next year.”
“And make 200k travelling with the Butterfly lady from New Zealand,” I cheer as my prospects for the coming year are starting to look colourful.
“Yes,” the Wizard beams rather pleased with himself.
“If I get an aupair, am I not just shifting the problem?” I start questioning myself now. Self-doubt is a killer. I should know that by now. “One cost gone for the Star, a new cost for aupair. 450 euros per month for an aupair. That’s cheap. Still not sure about sleeping arrangements though. I have 5 bedrooms. 2 are rented out for AirBnB, then the other 3 for me, Winston and Lilly. Hmmm. Or I stop the AirBnB. Just reading about an aupair… Sounds super. She could drive the Mini. Bring and fetch kids from school. How trustworthy are they?”
“Think about it,” the Wizard is getting me to delay action until I have all information. “You could make more if you were more free than before. AirBnB is a stop gap. Something else will come along perhaps. Maybe less stress will help you find better paying contracts that the aupair can help with. I don’t know. I have to run. I have a meeting now. I will work on your Russian connection very soon. They are on holiday still.”
“Thank you,” I smile relieved that things are in fact unfolding nicely for me.
“You must interview a few before making a decision,” the Wizard tells me as he starts to fade away.
“Have a nice day!” I call after him.
“You too,” he grins and only his eyes and teeth are still prominently visible. The rest has faded out like tracks left in the snow.
“Hmmm fees for aupair,” I go on thinking out loud by myself. “A one time agency cost of 1.800 Euro, plus plane ticket of about 600 Euro, plus insurance 275 Euro, plus visa 350 Euro… And then a monthly fee for the aupair of 450 euro. So 3.000 initial cost. After that it is cheap…”
“You need to weigh up the pros and cons between the Star and an aupair,” the Wizard has suddenly reappeared again out of thin air. I am dismayed that I am still hiding under my desk. “Which will give you better value for money? Where is this aupair coming from?”
“Thailand,” I answer still a little surprised that he came back. “The Star is useless if she doesn’t do the baby, despite me being very fond of her. It seems 450 per month is normal. The insurance, visa and plane ticket too. It’s a one time cost. And still less than a year of the Star.”
“Indeed she is,” the Wizard nods solemnly. “Call a few other agencies.”
“I will,” I am surprised I hadn’t thought of that myself.
“Try and get one from France,” the Wizard winks at me with a funny look on his face.
“Ah,” I let out surprised. I haven’t come across any listings for aupairs from Europe I suddenly realize. How strange. “Shall I already talk to the Star? I said i would talk to her today. What s wrong with Thailand? Too different? Hmmm not so easy to find. Weird. They are all Asian or South American. So can I talk to the Star?”
“Know once committed you are committed,” the Wizard now warns me. “Nothing wrong with Thailand. You might need language skills. Plus they, including South America, are looking for a husband. Know it’s like having a teenage daughter living with you.”
“It suddenly sounds very unappealing,” I say as I curl up my nose. “Do you know anybody suitable? Someone with a driving license. Reliable. Trustworthy. Responsible.”
“No not off hand,” the Wizard becomes evasive again. “Ask the White Rabbit if she knows of a student who might be interested.”
“Good thinking,” I cheer climbing from under my desk. “The White Rabbit would have been perfect, but she doesn’t like kids and I am a lousy boss. I tried to tell my coach about the Butterfly lady from New Zealand, but my story sounds strangely off… I wonder why. When do you start tutoring maths again at university?”
When I look under my desk where the Wizard had been sitting, I now see an empty space. He has disappeard again. Now fully equiped with ideas and options, I can continue my research work.
* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.