September was not a good month around my house. It started with my jacking up my knee which caused me to fall out of the shower. It’s one of those stories that is so ridiculous it was even funny at the time, in a darkly humorous sort of way.
I had the bright idea to take a very hot shower to relax the muscles and joint of my left knee. As I turned around in the shower, my knee decided it didn’t agree with my course of action and gave out on me, causing me to fall backwards. In one of those arguments with inanimate objects that I invariably lose, the shower curtain decided not to hold my weight, so I fell out of the shower onto the bathroom floor, on my back, with my head narrowly missing the edge of the counter. That was the good part. The bad part was my head connecting with the tile floor, causing me to not-quite-black-out. I also landed on my right hip, and somehow managed to jam my left wrist. I still can’t figure out how I managed to hit opposite sides of my body and my back all at the same time. My lack of memory may have something to do with the aforementioned not-quite-blacking-out.
The end result was a trip to the emergency room, via ambulance. And yes, I got dressed first. Actually, my husband got clothes on me as I promised to kill him first then divorce his corpse if he called an ambulance while I was naked and wet on the bathroom floor.
The good news is I only had a concussion, a bruised ilium – which is incredibly painful but much less so than the broken hip we feared – and a hairline fracture in the left wrist. In other words, I’d heal.
But before the pain meds were even out of my system, my family decided to get sick. It started as just a cold, but when it hit my husband, we knew it was a nasty bug. He can measure the time he has been truly felled by a cold in nanoseconds, so for him to be in bed for two days was significant. It also meant that when I came down with the first symptoms, I knew it was going to be bad. Fortunately he is better, just dealing with a lingering, hacking cough. Unfortunately, in me it morphed into pneumonia. Like I said, September was not a good month.
Normally, September is a time I enjoy some of my favorite hobbies. With the cooling weather, I can get outside and start cutting back the garden in preparation for the fall blooms. I take this time to trim the bushes and trees, plant bulbs for the spring and enjoy the less is more look that is the unique beauty of a fall garden.
On those first cool nights, there is nothing like a fire in the backyard, with a hot cup of cocoa and maybe some roasted marshmallows. If I’m feeling decadent, I’ll even splurge on s’mores, calories be damned. After all, the hard work preparing the garden for winter burns lots of calories. This year the only thing I’ve been able to do so far is gaze forlornly out the windows at flower beds in desperate need of attention.
The easy answer would be to hand this task off to my husband, but we long ago figured out one of the tricks to a successful marriage is a hard and fast division of labor. He will do anything I ask and vice versa, but in the interests of marital bliss, we never ask of the other the thing they hate to do most. So, he never asks me to change the oil in the cars or rotate the tires or any of those things we have termed "fleet maintenance" and I never ask him to weed the flower beds.
Then, just when I assumed all hope was lost for the fall garden, I discovered something called TaskRabbit. It is an online service exchange where a person can request help with a specific task or chore, really anything you either can’t or don’t want to do yourself, and people ‘bid’ on how much it will cost you to have this task or chore done.
This type of thing already exists in the pages of other online market places, but this service does have a few unique features. For starters, those who are willing to do some of the things that are your less than favorite activities are screened and verified, as are those who are requesting the services. The "TaskRabbiters," as those looking to make a few bucks doing the things others can’t or don’t want to for themselves are called, actually have to go through an interview process including a criminal background check and have rules and guidelines they must follow in order to qualify. Likewise, the "TaskPosters" are also verified, offering at least some measure of security for the TaskRabbiters. All Tasks transactions are conducted online through the service where there is then a record of who posted, who responded, what was agreed to and when the job is to be completed, all of which are things other sites like Craigslist does not offer.
So, if you are laid up and simply can’t get to the grocery store, you can request someone do your shopping for you. You put together your list, say exactly what you need, from which store and when you want it delivered. You can even request the food be put away in your refrigerator and pantry, a part of the chore other services like PeaPod won’t do. You can also request someone come weed your garden and knock down that list of yard chores you can’t, because of a broken wrist and pneumonia, or won’t, reference the marital bliss inducing division of labor agreement, do for yourself.
The other side of this exchange is the opportunity to help someone else make ends meet. Many of those who are TaskRabbiters have credited the service with keeping them in their homes and putting food on the table. Regardless of what the political wonks say, the economy is not getting better for a lot of people and the jobless numbers don’t accurately reflect the reality too many or our neighbors are facing. Many of those who are no longer counted as unemployed have simply given up looking for work or have taken part time jobs for which they are grossly overqualified and woefully underpaid. Whatever the politics, reasons or fixes for this mess, in the interim there are families suffering, worrying about the mortgage and how next week’s groceries will be bought.
For many of these families, trying to balance a couple part-time work schedules with the demands of raising a family have put them in the position of not being able to earn as much as they need, and that is if they can even find a job. This is one of the ways in which TaskRabbit can be really helpful, as you control when and how much you work. If someone is looking to have their garden weeded and winterized, you could probably work it out to do the job while the kids are in school. For many TaskRabbiters, the best part of the system is choosing who you work for and how much your time and skills are worth. Those that have turned to this service as an alternative or supplement to other income say this is the best part of the service.
I am a firm believer that most people don’t want charity or a handout. They want to be self-sufficient and take care of their families, their homes and their obligations. Often, through no fault of their own, the paycheck they counted on no longer exists and there are few if any prospects of replacing that income, particularly in the short term. This is where I think this service and others like it can make a real difference in our communities.
Since many of the requests for services are the sort of things most anyone can do, like laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning out a garage or taking the dog to the groomer, specialized skills aren’t required. A quick look at some of the jobs posted in the Chicago area recently ran the gamut from moving boxes from the garage to the basement for an elderly woman to doing laundry for a single, busy bachelor.
That’s not to say that there aren’t other Tasks out there for those with skills honed over a lifetime of work and education. I saw a request for someone to install WordPress on a website for a start-up entrepreneur; another was for a handyman who has the tools to fix a fence and gutters damaged by a fallen tree. The site actually has a listing of the various types of tasks that can be accommodated showing everything from accounting to heavy lifting, landscaping to IKEA furniture delivery and assembly, and plumbing to IT help. There are also profiles for the individual TaskRabbiters, telling who they are, what they are willing to do and their ratings based on tasks they have completed for others through the site.
In all seriousness, I don’t think I’ll be using TaskRabbit to find someone to weed and winterize my garden. At least not yet, but that might change depending on how October goes. Then again, maybe I’ll see if there is a TaskRabbiter out there interested in taking dictation, as this one-handed typing is getting old.