Pedro for President!

No, not that Pedro.

I live in a smallish building on the Upper West Side — five families, 6 floors and a basement. Each of us lives on a separate floor, but we all share some common areas in the building, like any other condo. We have a small garden out front. We take turns taking the trash to the curb; we take turns shoveling the walk. We all pitch in to tend the garden and clean up common areas. ‘Tis a harmony of the highest order, 4th Nephi-style.

Or so it should be. Some of us are more lazy than others, which means every once in a while, the snow doesn’t get shovelled or the trash builds up. When there are only a few families, and we all take turns, a particular family’s failure to contribute becomes extremely obvious. We all come from very different backgrounds, so some of us have never performed this type of manual labor before, while others had several crappy jobs through high school that their mother got for them that made them do all kinds of junk like this for the worst pay imaginable and you had to work with total coke fiends.

Anyhoo… enter Pedro. One of the families knows a super from down the street, named Pedro. For $150 a month, Pedro has offered to shovel our walks, take out the trash and periodically clean up our sidewalks. Pedro does a very fine job at his other building, and has enough spare time to work on ours, too. $150/month, $30 per family, seems a reasonable amount. But I have a weird aversion to hiring Pedro to do these tasks for me. I’m worried that it will fragment the culture of our building, making us rely on others to do work which is rightly our own, while causing each of us to participate a little less towards the common good. This all seems to cut against the grain of my pioneer blood and the spirit of the mormon work ethic. Isn’t it good for me, in some way, to get out there and shovel my own walk? What are the effects of hiring people to do our work?

Pedro would be a good President. We have a contract with Pedro to perform services, and he fulfills these tasks gladly as promised. We have him work for the collective good, and in exchange we each work a little less. Pedro is the central government executive branch, performing our work in exchange for our money. We all participate a little less, and pay a little more, but the tasks get done more efficiently and we live worry-free. Pedro is Big Government. Vote for Pedro!


  1. “what would President Hinckley do”

    Thanks, Rusty. Well, I guess he’d get the Church to pay for the whole thing, deservedly so. I don’t have that luxury.

    Oh, you mean, what would he do if he lived my life? Hrm. I dunno. He’s a spry ol’ fox.

  2. The image of President Hinckley taking out the trash and shovelling his drive is hilarious to me…

    A few months ago a friend of my mom’s was at her checkstand at the Home Depot in St. George, UT, when she looked up from her register to see Pres. Hinckley standing there. He was in town for a regional conference or some such, and had also stopped to visit a grandson or granddaughter who lived in town. While at their house he had noticed that a faucet was leaky or a piece of trim was loose or that some similar little task around the house needed doing. So, he headed to the hardware store to get whatever supplies he would need to take care of it.

    File under: modern faith-promoting apocrypha

  3. Aaron Brown says:

    But will Pedro protect us from the terrorists?

    Aaron B

  4. Dave, you’re right that it’s more efficient. Pedro will doubtlessly be better at those tasks than our little commune. But is efficiency the primary objective?

    We could theoretically take that extra time and channel it into, say, keying cars or cruelty to cats. But that won’t happen — it’s the chores together that bind, not the fun, playtime stuff. I really believe that gardening together has been a better way to bring the Collective together than playing mailbox baseball or whatever.

    The efficiency argument is the reason why we probably will hire Pedro, so you have clearly hit on a major issue. But somehow, knowing that these tasks will be completed in a timely manner is not my primary concern. I like Peggy’s point — that’s the best pro-Pedro argument I’ve heard — but efficiency arguments don’t convince me, for some reason.

  5. Hey, at least you had a job! “to the manor born” hmmm.
    P.S. What “total coke fiends”???

  6. Hmm, my income has gone up, my wife decided to cancel the lawn service and do the lawn herself….which meant that I mowed the lawn the whole summer (with a couple exceptions).

    All in all I’m pleased with it and plan to repeat next year.

    It has been good for me to be back to mowing the lawn myself (I’ve yet to mow over a tree or the garden) ….


  7. Rosalynde Welch says:

    Housework and yardwork, together with caring for our own children, are basically the only forms of unalienated labor in which Americans engage–that is, labor of which we enjoy the direct fruits unmediated by wage compensation for labor hours. I think there’s something bad for the soul in being so alienated from the results of our efforts; it would be a shame to alienate yet another task.

  8. I can see two sides. If one set of people does not hold up their end, it isn’t going to build group unity to carry them. It will only breed resentment, and harm the group. Thus, you should hire Pedro.

    OTOH, if you don’t MIND carrying them, and you find it a worthwhile team-building exercise, then you should NOT hire Pedro.

    If I could find somebody to do my trash and my yardwork for $30/month, I’d be all over it. We don’t have snow removal here, but yard work in Louisiana in July is downright dangerous.

    I’m assuming that all the people in your building are not LDS. I think the “work as play” aspect of LDS culture is unusual, and not something one would often find in the city.

    Perhaps you could take advantage of the extra time to encourage the neighbors to expand the garden.

  9. D. Fletcher says:

    I suppose it’s a very old-fashioned liberal argument to suggest that these jobs are needed, that somebody who doesn’t clean your bathroom might go without a job. If you can afford to hire people to do “living” tasks that you might otherwise do yourself, pay them well and treat them right, but don’t feel guilty about giving them the work they want.

    My cleaning woman of 15 years decided to take a full-time job as an administrative assistant. She lasted 3 days in the new job before she was fired. She was very grateful to be received back in her old spot by me. She cleans my apartment once a week, for $75. Every other week, she does the laundry, and she’ll happily do anything else for me, like shop for groceries.

  10. I’m sure Pedro Martinez is very grateful for your support, since he is starting tonight in Busch stadium.

  11. Maybe the lesson is that if you’re too busy to shovel your own walk, you’re too busy for your own good?

  12. Maybe this situation is not about you, but about Pedro. It sounds like an additional $150 per month would really help him and his family and would not be a financial burden on the residents.

    P.S. Please tip Pedro and Luisa librally at Christmas.

  13. My father definitely feels there’s something spiritual about getting your hands dirty doing menial tasks in and around the house. I think that comes from reading King Benjamin’s talks in Mosiah where he says he worked for his own upkeep and sustenance.

    That doesn’t stop my father from hiring a Mexican gentleman to help prune the trees in the yard each year. This man works very hard, does a great job and is a real help since my father has a bad back.

    But I think the ailment might be my father’s escape from any moral predicament that comes from hiring someone to do a task that he couldn’t safely do himself anyway.

    I like doing things like washing dishes, mowing a lawn … maybe weeding a garden. For some reason I really hate folding clothes and putting them away. Hmmmm ….

  14. My rant would probably be a little more effective if we didn’t already hire Luisa to come and clean our apartment twice a month.

  15. Out here in CA..I would be told that to hire Pedro will only cause more Pedro to cross the border..and open the way for Terrorists!

  16. Pedro does not believe in the politics of fear! Pedro can run from his record, but he cannot hide!

  17. Steve,

    Sounds like you’ve got a lot of UWS white liberal guilt made famous by Woody Allen movies. I guess the only thing you can do now is marry your step-daughter. The heart wants what the heart wants.

  18. Steve,

    You are the person who once lectured me for sending my shirts out to the dry cleaner instead of washing and ironing them myself (my total dry-cleanign bill woud come to about $20-30 a month). Now, in addition to your maid (whom, due to your inability to admit to having hired domestic help, you called your “friend who comes over and helps with the cleaning”) you want to hire a gardner. A little hypocritical IMHO. What’s next, a personal assistant? You’ve begun to act as if you were to the manor born.

  19. Steve,
    Actually, it was a joke. The image of President Hinckley taking out the trash and shovelling his drive is hilarious to me… “No, Honey, I will do it myself, don’t you know that we’re supposed to be self-sustaining…now where’s my cane?!” I’m sure the deacon’s quorum has that covered or something.

  20. Steve,
    I see both sides. I’m not comfortable having someone else scrub my toilet or do my laundry, because I do think that it is important to take care of my own physical needs and my own messes. On the other hand, it all depends on perspective. As my mother always says, there is nothing sacred about housework. Doing all or most of our physical labor may help keep us humble, but it also can keep us away from more important tasks. For instance, let’s say I decide to have a child and still work full time. If I hire someone else to do the cleaning and laundry, then I can have more time with my child and husband while still maintaining my work schedule. Unfortunately, time is a zero-sum game, despite those people who do seem to have 30 hours in their day.

  21. Steve, I think the question you must ask yourself is “what would President Hinckley do?” and do accordingly.

  22. Steve, it seems to me what you and your Collective are doing is simply outsourcing Collective services (your scaled-down version of government services) to a more efficient private service provider, Pedro. Members of the Collective should simply take the time and money saved by the “hire Pedro” decision and shift them into other teambuilding activities, like a rooftop barbeque or a game of stickball out in the street [I’m kind of guessing about what a group of New Yorkers would do for fun ;

  23. You think the deacons are hustling the Prophet’s trash? Nah, I always thought he lived basically a hotel lifestyle, with paid staff that took care of those kinds of things. Interesting….

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