Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Holy Boundaries, Catman!

A few years ago I was really hurting for clients so I took on a charity case of sorts. A retired widower called, saying his litter box hadn't been scooped in weeks since his wife passed. He was on dialysis and physically unable to reach the box. He needed someone about once a week to stop by and completely change out his cat's box until he came up with a more permanent solution.

It was Christmastime and I needed the cash, especially in the next couple of months when no one would travel. I cut him a deal, a half price visit since it was only changing the litter, as long as he paid cash.

At first, this worked out great. I could come in the morning when I had few clients and felt good about being so helpful to someone in need. The widower was enjoying our arrangement as well. He started to become more talkative and to try and get his Maine Coon to be social with me. Pretty soon, my quick in-and-out litter box visit took a full 30 minutes.

Spring turned into summer and I noticed that the widower's son was home from college. His son took him to appointments and such but, strangely, I was still needed to scoop the litter box. I'm not one to point out when I'm not needed, but as summer travel picked up for my clients I started to get a little short with this guy when he wanted to talk and have me brush his cat. Instead of feeling proud of my good dead deed, I reluctantly headed to his home once a week wondering how much longer our temporary situation would drag on.

As is predictable with boundary issues, it got worse, not better. The widower, after dumping lots of personal details on me about his deadbeat daughter and need of a new kidney, would start to pry and ask questions about my personal life. Did I have any dates over the weekend? With whom, a vegan? How does that work? Where did we eat? And then, super creepy red flag, if that restaurant is good maybe he and I could go sometime!

Just as I was starting to get grossed out by this guy, he would do something equally pathetic. He called me one weekend, terrified that his cat was sick. I came over to check on kitty and spent two hours helping to herd him to the vet. Then, once at the vet's office, I witnessed this guy's manipulation in action. Everything he told me, about the dead wife, the horrible kids, the need for a new kidney ... got repeated to the reception staff, the vet tech, and the vet. His pity party clearly took up too much of everyone's time, and I would interrupt and interpret for him: "The cat is breathing harder than usual. She was hiding, which she normally doesn't do." Finally, I rounded up kitty and widower and dropped them back at home. Lucky me, I got an extra $5 that week.

Then, he thought his cat needed a friend. A kitten, could I recommend a breeder? This was completely out of the question as far as I was concerned because the vet said that his other cat hadn't been in six years and didn't even have a rabies vaccination. And how could I recommend a "good" breeder when there are so many homeless cats at the shelter? Yet the widower wanted to know if I would go to a Maine Coon breeder with him and start coming twice a week. You know, for the kitten.

As I stalled on the kitten issue, we got to the last straw. The widower had "lost my email address" and told me he tried to find it on facebook but couldn't. Odd, because all my contact info is on my business facebook page. Then he said, "And I don't know why you're single when you look so cute in that yellow sweater."

Huh? What yellow sweater? Then he showed me ... he didn't find my business facebook page. Dude was creeping around on my personal page without sending a friend request. And then telling me how cute I look.

I started to make myself scarce. I told him I needed two weeks off because business was getting slammed (it was). I made one last appearance and he told me that he had a blow out with his daughter, who happens to have the same name as me. Then he told her -- sarcastically, I can only hope -- that he wanted to change the last name on his inheritance. Meaning, he wanted to will it to me.

Then it all clicked into place. The widower most definitely had boundary issues, but not of the sexual nature. He saw me as the daughter he wished he had. I spoke to my friend who is a licensed clinical social worker and had been through chemo. She explained to me that the dialysis was probably messing with his head big time. Oh, and get the hell outta there!

I did. It broke my heart but I sent him an email saying that business had picked up so much that he had better find another litter box scooper. And I gave him the name of one in his neighborhood. He didn't understand and continued to try to manipulate me. I blocked his email, phone number, and facebook. This was years ago, but just the other day he wanted to add me on linkedin.

My boundaries are much better now. I'm grateful for this lesson and that the worst that happend to me was I got grossed out. I'm not sure what I could have done differently in the past, but now I know not to take any client that makes me feel even slightly uncomfortable. It's never worth the cash.

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