/ 2 December 2011

A match made in need

My house mate and I are redoing our flat. We are reupholstering furniture, acquiring new pieces, buying some art and getting rid of the television.

Like anything worthwhile, it has taken some time and it is costing us money that we don’t have at our immediate disposal.

We were inspired to see the truth about our shoddy place when a new friend invited us over for dinner. The Killarney apartment he shares with his wife is of superlative standards of magnificence, filled with Art Deco furniture and original works by some of South Africa’s more revered artists, including William Kentridge, Nandipha Mntambo and Zander Blom.

We have “employed” our new friend to fix up our house in his spare time. We like nice things but we are not rich. In fact, we had to start a business to finance this project. Three months ago we started selling cocktails at various markets and to our friends. We recently spent our chunk of change by giving our part-time ­decorator the first down payment.

One morning, while packing our stock into the car and ­complaining about how heavy a crate was, I ­suddenly realised that we had started something from nothing and shared my realisation with my friend. At that point the crate didn’t seem so heavy.

During this renovation process, we needed a painter. I called three handy-men who had gone to the trouble of making flyers and placing adverts on the internet — but none of them returned my calls.

My fourth attempt was a man whose advert I found stuck to a robot on Corlett Drive.

He picked up the phone on the third ring. The conversation was quick and easy. He showed up at my flat the next morning, eight minutes early and dressed in a suit jacket and jeans and wearing sunglasses. He ­carried a map book. He quoted me much more than I was willing to pay but I did not argue because it was time-consuming to find a reliable person and I liked the fact that he carried an additional notebook for ad-hoc notes.

I recommended the painter to a friend with whom I was having lunch. She has three children and she and her husband have demanding jobs. For reasons she did not share, she had fired her nanny. Throughout the lunch, she was eating fast, like somebody in a rush, and seemingly taking gulps of guilt with her water. I offered to help her find an au pair. To my disappointment, Gumtree had significantly more classified adverts for people looking for au pairs and nannies than for those service ­providers offering them.

Sometimes the point to a story is not as necessary as the need to tell the story.

Unemployment in South Africa is as ubiquitous as the opportunities that exist. There are people who need things to do and money to make and then there are people who have money to spend and who need things to be done for them. If we could just matchmake the two entities we’d have the makings of a perfect world.