You just can’t get good help these days

Only in the La Jolla could one get away with a column whining about the help. Earlier this year, our wonderful gardener guy became ill and temporarily (he hoped) bequeathed his customers to a 20-something relative who was perennially undecided about careers and overdue for a job. Raised in La Jolla and a graduate of La Jolla High, “Bentley” mentioned when I first met him, that he’d grown up with affluence and that despite his relative’s hope that he would ultimately take over this successful landscape maintenance business, he planned to do something different.

That’s the best news I’ve heard in years.

Bentley, alas, had a world-class inattention to detail. His style was to turn up his iPod and kind of get into the Zen of gardening. Unfortunately, whatever garden he was servicing didn’t appear to be in our galaxy.

He was, for example, a holy terror with a leaf blower. I’d be puzzled as to why my kitchen was full of leaves and dirt. With his iPod turned up full blast, Bentley failed to notice that he was blowing all the detritus from the patio through my kitchen window. One has to admire the technical skill that got so much lift in those leaves that he could get them up and over a 4-foot-high pass-through. The stuff that failed to achieve altitude settled like Mount St. Helens’ ash on the plants.

“Sorry,” said Bentley, when I went out and used sign language to get his attention over the iPod. “I have ADHD.” Which might (but probably doesn’t) explain why this happened 10 more times. And why some 14 decorator flowerpots were slain on his watch.

I learned to keep the house closed up tight when Bentley was around, no matter how hot it was, after I found water cascading through my office window onto my hardwood floors. Bentley was zapping the white fly on the hibiscus with the hose but didn’t notice the open window next to it.

I suggested that his ADHD might be at least ameliorated by the removal of the iPod headphones. But the next week the headphones would be back on again. He forgot, he’d say, reminding me he has ADHD.

On several occasions I returned home and concluded that he’d severed a digit with his trimming tool and fled the scene to the nearest emergency room. It was the only explanation for the fact that only half the lawn was mowed, his tools had been left all over the front yard, and the gates weren’t locked. But there was no sign of blood.

I gave Bentley a list of what needed to be done every week so he wouldn’t have to remember. He had to check off the items and put the list in my mailbox. Usually the list was checked off in my mailbox, most of the items undone.

“I was like totally meaning to do them,” he’d say apologetically later. “I just forgot. I have—“

“ADHD,” I said. “I know. But the whole idea is to not check them off until you do them. The list is supposed to help you. I really do want you to succeed.”

Two hours of gardening generally stretched into a whole day as Bentley would leave ostensibly to get gas for his lawn mower and not return for three hours. Or at all.

It was only out of loyalty to his wonderful relative that I persisted. It was quickly becoming apparent that a successful gardening business had probably dwindled to five customers, especially after Bentley lost the entire customer key ring, including some $75 security gate keys.

Ironically it was Bentley who threw in the towel. This just wasn’t a job that interested him, he said, returning my (replacement) keys. But he’d had a lot of time to think about what he really wanted to do during his long dreary months in the landscape maintenance biz.

He’s going into the medical field.

* Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life every other week in The La Jolla Light. Reach her at