I’m a fun guy who likes to have fun. That said, I’ve always considered myself the most in my element and at my very best when I’m cracking jokes and making people laugh, and vice versa. It’s always come easy for me and it’s pretty much my my happy place. There’s nothing better than getting the good times rolling with oodles of belly laughs. Of course, there’s always something really great about pulling off a quality quick-witted zinger on a stranger (e.g. a server at a restaurant), but all of that is the most fun when it involves family, friends, and girlfriends.
Yet ever since I moved to Minneapolis to start law school 10 years ago and started living on my own the only people that have been a constant, daily presence in my life have been my personal care attendants, who come in every single morning for at least two hours. Moreover, to accommodate my work schedule they have been coming in every other night for up to 3 more hours. Therefore, I spend more time with my PCAs and talk to them more than anyone else I know. In that span I have seen plenty come and go, that were both good and bad. And over the span of that decade I’ve found that the biggest key to a great client-PCA relationship is working with those that get my sense of humor, and can dish it back. In steady doses. That is essentially for two reasons: 1) it gets me in my aforementioned element, which is at the core of my essence, and 2) when we are doing the kinds of things that I need help with-the kinds of frustrating, humiliating, and downright difficult to deal with stuff that most people couldn’t even imagine having to go through every day-bringing a touch of levity to the situation can be a necessary coping mechanism at times.
That situation rarely played out for most of the first 8 or so years that I worked with PCAs here. The PCA that I worked with the most-who came in five days a week plus every other weekend (i.e. 12 out of every 14 days)-was a nice lady in her mid-40’s who was a very qualified PCA, but she was really quiet and no fun. I think the latter was more a function of our age difference than anything. But more often than not I found myself avoiding certain conversation topics and censoring my language (I can be a potty mouth fairly often-but a sweet, nice guy potty mouth). In other words, I never felt like I could truly be myself around her. And I can’t really remember a time that I got her to laugh at anything. But like I’ve written before, good help is hard to find, so I wasn’t about to fire a capable PCA just because the relationship lacked a much more frequent humor factor. Therefore, when she quit last December I wasn’t too broken up about it because I was ready for a change anyway. I mean, when you can’t fully act like yourself in your own home then where can you?
Aside from her I had every other weekend PCAs, but they were mostly hit and miss. When I did find a good one that I jived well with it seemed like it rarely lasted for long periods of time before they moved on-mostly on account of them leaving the personal care company for other opportunities. There were plenty of others that I got along with, and I even became friends with a handful, but they were mostly fill-ins or on-call PCAs that weren’t able to work my every other weekend shifts on a permanent basis.
But the tide turned with the first every other evening PCA that I hired last June. She was 20-something-year-old nursing student with a bubbly personality that gave the PCA side of my life the shot in the arm that it needed. As we got to know each other it didn’t take long before there were no language barriers and very few topics were off-limits. It was both refreshing and the missing antithesis to my quite meek morning PCA. On New Year’s Eve last year she stopped by to pop the cork on my champagne bottle for me and we hung out and listened to hip hop tunes before her ride came back to pick her up again. It was fun.
When she had a falling out with the company and quit this February it was a bummer and left a decent void. Plus it opened the door to PCA upheaval that took months to stabilize my Monday through Friday morning shift, every other night shifts, and weekend shifts. During that span I worked with a virtual revolving door of temporary fill-ins. Some came in much more often than others, and they either couldn’t or didn’t want to do the permanent gig. But we had fun, and I established that early on. Take me as I am.
Finally, in late spring I got all my shifts staffed with good people who I got along with really well. My new evening PCA quickly emerged as one of my best. We have fun and laugh a lot almost every time she comes in. She recently mentioned that her boyfriend asked her why she never complains about work and she told him that was because she loved her job working for me; I’m her favorite client. I think the fact that I crack wise jokes and keep things light has brought that about.
So, humor: it does a PCA relationship good.
Photo credit: eleanor ryan