August 31, 2015

Joburg Traffic: What Do You Do in a Traffic Circle?

Something moved me to re-post an old blog post of mine, DOs and DONTs in Joburg Traffic, on my Facebook page the other day. In it I speak of potholes, street vendors, robots (the working and the non-working kind), minibus taxis, and yes, protecting yourself against smash-and-grabs.

It instantly became one of the most-viewed posts that week. Perhaps it's not surprising that Joburg Traffic evokes such strong emotions - after all, as a Joburger, you spend half your life in it!

Then it occurred to me that there was actually one thing I missed about the dreaded Joburg traffic: traffic circles, or roundabouts.

I don't know if it's an African thing, or a South African thing, or just a Joburg thing, but traffic circles there work very differently - and, once you get the idea, better - than in the rest of the world. Noisette still doesn't understand it to this day, but it is a brilliant concept. Because, you see, you don't indicate with your blinker that you intend to get ONTO the traffic circle, you indicate which way you're going to turn OFF of it.

Let's say the traffic circle has 4 exits, 1 being the one you're using to get onto it, 2 being the next one to the left - after all, you're driving on the left side of the road - 3 being the one straight ahead, and 4 being the one turning to the right after you've made a three quarter turn. It's exit 4 that I'd like to talk about. In most other places where there are traffic circles, you'd blink LEFT to get onto the circle (or right, in right-side-driving countries). You'd go around as far as you wished, and then you'd blink LEFT again to indicate where you're getting off, just before you're getting off. Not really much help to the people waiting on the outside wanting to get on.

In South Africa, in this particular situation you wouldn't blink LEFT to get onto the circle. Duh, everyone knows you're gonna get onto the circle, why should you have to indicate this? No, what you do if you intend to take exit 4 is you turn your blinker to RIGHT as soon as you drive onto the circle. Why? Well, this way the person waiting opposite from you will know that you intend to make the three quarter turn and pass him on your way, therefore making him wait. If you intended to take exit 2 instead (the left turn one), you'd blink left, thereby indicating to the person opposite that you are going to leave the circle BEFORE passing him, therefore allowing him to get onto the circle. Even if you're using exit 3, going straight and not using your blinker, the person opposite could drive onto the circle while you get off at the same exit. Brilliant concept, speeding things up just a tiny bit in a place whose roads are clogged up all too often.

Because I know this all sounds crazy, here is a little back-of-the-envelope (literally) diagram I drew for you while sitting through yet another endless parent night at school:

Joburg traffic circle. Now it all makes sense, right??

I do hope you get it, or I will seriously doubt my artistic prowess.

The person who first introduced me to this novel idea was, unexpectedly, my domestic helper. She was sitting in the passenger seat one day when we were running errands, and suddenly spoke up:

"You should have indicated to the right!"

We had just gone through the Dainfern Valley traffic circle coming home, and the above was the situation I faced multiple times every day. I had dutifully used my blinker as I was taught in my German driver training, which as you can imagine has rules for just about everything. "What does she know," is what I was thinking at the time, "she probably doesn't even drive." But over the next few weeks, going through the same circle day-in day-out, it suddenly dawned on me: She was absolutely right! It made a ton of sense! Just as you would blink right when turning right at a regular intersection, why not blink right at a traffic circle too? It's such a huge courtesy to the other drivers entering from different directions.

I have no idea why I felt so compelled to write this much about one silly such little thing, but somehow I wanted to share. In closing, there is another thing I miss about driving in South Africa: The warning-light-courtesy-blink-a-frenzy. Say you are on a long stretch of country road with a slow-poke car in front of you, and they see you behind them and pull over to the far left so that you can overtake them easily. You pass them, veer back over in front of them, and the first thing you do is fumble for your emergency lights so you can blink them a quick "thank you!" Typically, in response, they will then blink "you are welcome" back at you, and if you want to really be thorough, you might blink a quick acknowledgement of their reply to indicate you appreciate their politeness. This could go on and on except for the fact that you did overtake them for a reason and are probably by now out of sight so that the blinking may have an end. It can be quite distracting but I've found it to be such a feel-good thing to have this visual conversation with strangers on those lonely roads. It's quite the opposite of road rage, isn't it?

I've been told there are other countries where this happens too, but I can tell you this: It NEVER would happen in Germany. The only flashing lights you get in Germany are the headlights from the person behind you who is telling you, no DEMANDING, that you better move over from that left lane of the Autobahn to make room for his fancy and powerful Mercedes or he will climb RIGHT OVER YOUR CAR AND PULL YOU OUT FOR DARING TO BE SO SLOW!

Read more on Joburg traffic here

August 24, 2015

First World Problem: How to Spread Two Cars Between Three Teenagers

Every once in a while, as an expat blogger - especially an expat WIFE blogger, also known for sipping mojitos by the pool all day while the domestic help works her magic around the house - I'll get a comment from an outraged reader. He - it's almost always a "he" - will accuse me of being privileged, of whining about my "hard" life of having to deal with pool maintenance guys and temporary power outages in my luxurious mansion, and often he'll follow this up with the admonition to "shut up" and take my First World Problems elsewhere if I don't like the life I lead in my guest country. Any attempt to reply with some kind of explanation about the nature of my blog - it's like having to explain the punchline of a joke - usually falls on deaf ears, because said accuser will have already moved on to another blog to wag his self-righteous finger at.

This blog post will be right up his alley.

Because what screams privilege louder than indulging your three teenagers with not one but TWO entire cars at their disposal?

But if you live in America, that is exactly the kind of situation your typical suburban mother will wring her hands over. In her defense, she's kicked those three teenagers in their collective butt to go and be responsible and find jobs, and now they need to have transport to and fro. And of course the mother can't provide it, because she's got other sh!t to do. Like sipping mojitos by the pool. Also, she's done a fairly good job raising kids that don't feel completely entitled. If they were, obviously there'd be THREE cars, not two.

This is the situation a good friend of mine found herself in. I've always admired her for her organizational parenting skills - she has taken "color-coded" to a whole new level - and so I was curious as to how she had solved the car conundrum once her three teenagers were of driving age.

Her plan is absolutely brilliant:

  1. There are two cars, both old, but one slightly nicer than the other
  2. The nicer one is the "master" car, the other one the "slave" car (if you are the blog commenter mentioned above, you have permission to now be rightly be indignant about my use of the word "slave.")
  3. The cars alternate between the three kids on a weekly basis
  4. Whoever has the master car may do with it as he/she pleases
  5. Whoever has the slave car gets to drive it but is also responsible for providing rides to that week's car-less sibling
  6. Every driver is responsible for paying for their gas
  7. The car's inside has to be cleaned up before hand-over to the next person

The reason this works so well is that people, like elephants, have a long memory. If you so wish as to totally abuse the poor slave driver, he/she is sure to remember and pay you back handsomely when the positions are reversed the following week. I've tried to poke mental holes into this but couldn't come up with any. It sounds like a sound plan. Lucky for me, I haven't had to try it out, as in our family there is "only" one car to share between two teenage drivers, making the math somewhat easier. I do recall some big eyes the first day son #1 realized that he'd have to share the car with his younger brother. What do you mean, SHARE the car? OMG Mom, I can't be asked to TALK about this with him every morning! Like, I'll have to take him there AND pick him up again? No way, I can't do THAT! 

Needless to say, a way was found. There is nothing like the prospect of walking - or, for that matter, being late to something your mother doesn't care about - to provide an incentive to make a plan.

What are your first world parenting problems? Do share!

August 17, 2015

About Cecil, Cute Baby Lions, and American Dentists...

Lions have been much in the news lately, as in the story of the American tourist who was killed by a lion in Johannesburg's Lion Park, and more recently the killing of Zimbabwe's beloved Cecil the Lion by an American trophy hunter.

It came as no surprise to me to witness the public shaming of the dentist who is now in hiding after being outed as Cecil's killer. After all, he did set out to kill a lion, even if not specifically that one. If you abhor the hunting and killing of animals, especially endangered ones, then perhaps you have reason to be indignant.

But what surprised me when the first story hit, the one of the woman mauled by the lion through her open car window, was the likewise vicious response condemning the woman not only for being stupid enough to roll down her car window but also for visiting such an immoral and vile place such as the Lion Park in the first place. Surely it was an accident, even if caused by carelessness and a disregard for the rules? Surely wanting to see lions on your African vacation - something all of us lucky enough to have traveled there are guilty of - cannot be construed as an immoral act in and of itself?

There are so many angles to this newfound spotlight on the African lion that I've put off writing a blog post about it until now, and I certainly don't claim to have all the answers. I'll try to organize my thoughts below and hope that you'll read to the end before chiming in on the debate.

Canned Hunting

I can honestly say that I never heard that phrase until a few months ago. I had shared an innocent picture of someone petting a lion at the now infamous Lion Park - barely 20 minutes from where we used to live - on my Facebook page, and woke up to my own version of public shaming the next day. "How could you?" was the consensus of several animal rights advocates who'd discovered my post and appropriated it for their campaign. But it was effective. I followed up on all the links they readily supplied and tried to educate myself about what it was they deemed so reprehensible to prompt such a - so I felt - vicious attack.

"Canned Hunting," according to Wikipedia, is "a trophy hunt in which an animal is kept in a confined area, such as in a fenced-in area, increasing the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill." That this happens never really occurred to me. I was aware that lions are hunted, in some countries only and in exchange for large fees, but I thought they were wild. The thing is, there aren't that many truly wild lions left. According to the World Wildlife Fund, around 30,000 African lions remain in the wild today, with a sharp decline seen over the past 20 years. And while the wild lion population is dwindling, the canned hunting industry has grown at an alarming rate. Semi-tame lions are bred and raised in petting zoos all over South Africa (and, I suppose, other African countries too) and then sold off, once they become too big and dangerous to handle, to places that cater to trophy hunters who hail mostly - but not exclusively - from the United States.

Is Hunting Immoral?

Animal rights activists decry the practice of canned hunting as shameful because it gives such a huge advantage to the hunter versus the prey. The lions are confined to a small area, and they are also not adapted to live in the wild as they've been reared by humans. But honestly, doesn't the hunter, with his gun or even crossbow, have the advantage anyway? It's really just a matter of time, even if you're going after a truly wild lion. If you're going to be outraged about canned hunting, shouldn't you be outraged about all hunting? And it doesn't even stop there. In my research for this blog post, I came across the excellent headline Eating chicken is morally worse than killing Cecil the Lion. While no doubt controversial, the author has a point. Unless you are a vegan, you are contributing in some shape or form to the breeding of animals purely for our consumption. Und unlike the cute lion cubs who at least get to have fun and play outside while they're little, the chickens might never even see daylight.

It reminds me of the scene in 7 Years in Tibet where Brad Pitt as Heinrich Harrer despairs, when supervising a building project for the Dalai Lama, because the workers he employs make no progress and instead are busy digging up worms so as to relocate them, lest they be hurt by the construction. It strikes you as ridiculous at first, but what truly is the difference between a lion and an earth worm? They are all God's creatures.

While I could never shoot an animal for sport and don't understand what makes hunters tick, I also find that I can't wholesale condemn those who can. I do believe there is a place for hunters where wildlife populations need to be controlled, and it is also true that large fees levied on trophy hunters can help pay for conservation efforts. Yes, we humans are the reason that wildlife populations are out of whack in the first place, but that debate leads us nowhere. We can't turn back the clock, and even if we were able to stop all hunting overnight, we would create other problems.

However, do lions specifically need to be hunted? From what I gather, lions, as the top predators, are the ones already doing that job for us - controlling wildlife populations to preserve habitat. With their numbers dwindling so alarmingly, it's hard to make a case that hunting them serves any purpose other than the hunter's ego.

As I said, I'm no expert, but I have learned that nothing is ever black and white. There is a huge grey area in these testy debates, and I for one need to read much more about it before I can form a firm opinion. From what I've learned so far, I can't support the practice of canned hunting, and will never again walk into a petting zoo such as the Lion Park so innocently, now that I know what is the likely fate of those cute cubs. And I will do my best to warn my readers about what's going on. Scroll to the bottom and you will find a list of links to articles about canned hunting and animal protection websites.

Public Shaming

It's so easy to do. Someone says something inopportune online or commits what you deem an inexcusable crime, and you go and publicly shame that person, setting off an avalanche that might result in them going into hiding. Easily done, since you don't know him or her. I recently read an eye-opening article about this. A writer had actually tracked people whose lives had been ruined by such public shaming campaigns, and I couldn't help but think "what if that had been me?"

We all make mistakes. It behooves us to think long and hard whether we really want to be the first ones to cast the proverbial stone. I have no particular love for the dentist who shot Cecil, but does he deserve to lose his livelihood over it? To receive death threats that have forced him to go into hiding until further notice? And not just him but most likely his wife and kids as well? Does the family of the woman who was killed by the lion deserve to be told, over and over again, that she was stupid and deserved to die? Where is our empathy?

I've never liked self-appointed vigilantes, and that is precisely what the Internet shaming crowd seems to be. Like a posse, like a lynching mob, they move on from one victim to the next, not bothering themselves too much with nuance and second-guessing.

Perhaps there is some good to be found in all of this. Zimbabwe, I've heard, has placed a moratorium on certain hunts and put long-missing rules in place - though I'm sure in the end the lure of big money will continue to prove too enticing for officials of such a poor and corrupt country. Delta Airlines has announced that it will ban the transport of animal trophies. And, as this New York Times editorial so aptly points out, perhaps the recent spotlight on a single lion will rub off on the much larger issue of poaching endangered species such as rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks.

If only we could publicly shame entire countries, like Laos, Vietnam, and China, into submission to stop their insatiable and misplaced hunger for African animal parts.

Further Reading and How You Can Help

An excellent article by Dereck Joubert on not only the morality but also the economics of hunting; National Geographic - Hunting Lions for Fun

To learn more about African lions, why they are vulnerable, and how you can  help, read: World Wildlife Fund: About the African lion

To find out more about the practice of canned hunting, read: Canned Lion Hunting - Mass Commercialization of Trophy Hunting in Africa and 'Canned hunting': the lions bred for slaughter

In case you've found yourself - like me - enjoying the interaction with cute lion cubs at a petting zoo, read: Five lies you need to stop believing about the lion cub petting industry

If you're seeking a ban on the captive breeding of lions for the canned hunting industry, join: Campaign Against Canned Hunting

If you'd like to see all animal trading banned, support: Ban Animal Trading South Africa

If you're looking to visit an animal park but are unsure whether it engages in ethical practices, check out: WASP International - Ethical Wildlife Sanctuaries

If you're looking to volunteer at a place but are unsure whether it truly promotes conservation of animals, see: Volunteers in Africa Beware Facebook Page

No doubt the story of Cecil the Lion has pulled at our heartstrings so much more than the countless statistics of slaughtered rhinos and elephants ever can, because it allowed us to put a face to it. If you can stomach it, here is another way you can put a face to the killing:

Perhaps we can all take this message beyond one lovable lion and do our part to educate the world about other endangered species targeted in senseless killings. While remaining professional and polite about it.

You might also like:

Shark Fin Soup and Rhino Horn
Save the Rhino... By Shopping?

August 10, 2015

The Essential Expat Support Group: Trailing Spouses Johannesburg

After "How dangerous is Johannesburg" and "Which is the best school for my child," one of the most-asked questions I get when people contact me is whether I know of any support groups for expats. Until recently, this was also my most-dreaded question, because I didn't have a good answer.

Somehow, Joburg seemed to be lagging behind other major cities in this department. There used to be the Dainfern Social Club, but I don't know if it still exists. In any case, it never had a website that I knew of. Then there is the International Women's Club, but the one time I went to one of their presentations, I stood out like a sore thumb as everyone else seemed to be at least 70 years old. Not quite my crowd - yet. Not that I mind standing out like a sore thumb, but I just didn't see myself engaging in nature walks and swapping recipes with this bunch. The one group I'm always happy to refer people to is the American Society of South Africa, but it's a bit less support network and more something you join for Cocktail Hour.

In any case, imagine how happy I was when I stumbled across the Trailing Spouses Johannesburg Facebook group the other day, quite accidentally, when browsing reader comments on another expat forum. I commented back, was put in charge with Nicola Beach, the founder of this group, and solicited a guest post from her, which you will find below.

P.S.: If you are in Pretoria, you're in luck: Nicola also just founded a Trailing Spouses Pretoria Facebook group (scroll to the bottom for all the links).

THE Facebook group you need to know about if you are heading to Jo’burg on an expat assignment: Trailing Spouses Johannesburg

by Nicola Beach

There’s nothing worse than starting a new expat assignment and no sooner have you stepped off the plane than your partner disappears on a business trip and your child comes down with a mystery malady in the darkest, most hopeless hour of the night. It’s an unwritten rule of expat life: Things always go utterly pear-shaped when you are at your most vulnerable, when the sole member of your support network is out of town. So, what could be better than a real-time interactive group of expats in the same leaky boat as you, helping you to navigate the choppy waters of your new posting and keeping you afloat throughout your stay?

I couldn't find a lifeline like this when I arrived in Johannesburg, so eventually, while cooking dinner one evening and perhaps emboldened by a sip or two of wine, I decided to set one up. I added around 10 friends. I panicked a little bit. I sipped a bit more wine and then started telling people about it. Over the ensuing weeks it gained momentum and took on a life of its own. I realised that it was really catching on when total strangers started asking me if I had heard about the group, recommending that I should join.

It’s an online group so there are no meetings or committees and yet it has been a catalyst to bring people together. For example, a cycling group has formed, play-dates and coffee mornings have been arranged, expat events and volunteer opportunities have been advertised, and there is currently tentative talk of setting up a knitting club!

The group has frequently come to the rescue of people who have locked themselves out of cars or garages and had flat tyres or car batteries. Members have been able to get hold of out-of-hours doctors and dentists in emergencies.

There is no such thing as a stupid question and we've had posts on a wide range of topics. Aside from practical queries regarding visas and the new travel regulations for travelling in and out of South Africa with children, one of the most popular threads to date covered where to buy the best birthday cakes. Cake is important. So is wine. That’s another hot topic.

All new members are screened to weed out the spammers, scammers and other dubious individuals. Plenty have mistaken ‘Trailing’ for ‘Trading’ assuming that we are some kind of wife-swapping group. (We're not, just to clarify). We’ve had the occasional individual thinking we were a running club. (We're not one of those either, although if you were looking to set one up, it’s a great place to do so). We’ve also had plenty of South Africans wanting to join because they heard “it’s a good place to find reliable house help or sell a sofa.” It is, but regrettably we only accept expats who land up here without friend or foe and desperately need to learn the ropes in a brand new place.

New member requests are checked regularly. However, if you haven't heard anything after couple of weeks, please make sure you have checked your “other” inbox before contacting us. It’s next to your regular Facebook inbox, but a lot of people have never noticed it. As well as messages from long lost loves and school friends you had intentionally lost touch with and forgotten about, there should also be one from us, checking your eligibility to join our merry crew.

The "other" Facebook inbox for your Trailing Spouses notification

If you are a current Trailing Expat Spouse in Johannesburg or will be one soon, you can find us here: very great pleasure, I look forward to welcoming you to our group, helping to smooth the waters and make your stay in Johannesburg plain sailing.

Trailing Spouses Johannesburg’s founder, Nicola Beach, is originally from the UK, but she has also dodged stray bullets in Lagos and stray cats in Istanbul. She is now getting cosy in Jozi and blogs about her expat experiences at

August 7, 2015

Join Me for a Live Interview!

Mark your calendars:


The thing that's so much fun about being a new author is that there is a first time for everything, much like milestones in your child's life. First sale, first time someone leaves a review for your book, first time you get fan mail, first time you do a book signing. Oh, and the not-so-coveted ones, like the first time someone leaves a one-star review on Amazon. That's kind of like the first time your toddler poops without his diaper but not into the potty. All the same, many tell me a scathing one-star review is when you know you've truly arrived.

Today's milestone will be my first live interview. No, not on the Daily Show, I'm afraid. Jon Stewart managed to be leaving just before I got famous enough for him to come knocking at my door. All the same, I'm very excited about this interview. Especially since I won't have to speak in front of people or a camera. For those decrying our modern times and social media, please pause a second to reflect on all the good it has brought into the world. Like giving us introverts a chance to do an all-day interview without having to break out in cold sweats and stammer and be at a loss of words, and without spending the next three days thinking up ways one could have said everything much better.

Instead, I get to do what I love best: Sit on my couch in my pajamas all day and type on my computer keyboard. I'll have time to come up with witty comments and anecdotes and can still get up every once in a while to reheat my tea in the microwave or steal to the pantry for a handful of Lindt balls (psst: have you discovered the coconut ones yet?), which I can stuff in my mouth three at a time and still answer the latest question without a hitch.

Except, what if no one has any questions? So... if you have nothing else to do on Sunday and want to keep me (and my Lindt balls) company, please stop by between 8 AM and 8 PM Central Time and ask away. All you have to do is join the fabulous We Love Memoirs Facebook group and visit their page on Sunday after 8 AM. I promise you won't regret it. WLM has some wonderful fun-loving members who have one thing in common: They all love to read books. Memoirs in particular, but I suspect everyone sneaks in a few Gone Girl's and All the Light We Cannot See's on the side. I get a good chuckle almost every day when I scan the page, I've gotten some great book recommendations, and I've gotten a free book bargain out of it more than once.

Speaking of which, I'll be giving away two ebooks after the interview.


Chat with you Sunday!

August 3, 2015

How I Got My Kids to Pay Me to Do Their Laundry

I have made a sad progression. I went from being an employer of paid (and therefore professional) domestic help to hiring the new free (and slightly less professional as well as reluctant) domestic help. And now, the final stage:

I AM the domestic help.

Remember the Zits cartoons? I feel an affinity to Jeremy's dad. He, too, is the domestic help.

But in my case it's not really as sad as it sounds. Because, everyone, I'm now getting paid! I have a regular income doing my kids' laundry! Together with my book sales that pays for about two Starbucks runs a week.

So how do you get your kids to pay you for doing their laundry? Here is what I did:

I announced I would no longer provide laundry services. Surprisingly, this elicited no tortured wails whatsoever, not even the slightest complaints. They were probably all thinking "I can't believe she hasn't caught onto that before now." Here is the letter my four kids got delivered to their doorstep one morning:
Dear Children:

This serves to notify you that I will no longer wash and pre-fold your laundry. Pre-folding suggests a follow-up act of actual folding and putting away in your closet, which I can see you have decided to give up on altogether, all my nagging notwithstanding.

I have decided to give up on the washing (as well as the nagging).

As of now, should you wish for clean clothes, you need to wash and dry them yourselves. The hours for the washer and dryer will be 7 am to 9 pm.

Whether you team up for your laundry or each do it on your own is up to you. And whether you end up folding your clothes or just dumping them back into your bin and living out of that (as you have been already, except that they were nice and pre-folded) is also up to you. 

I will be available to teach you how to use the equipment.

Your very loving and housework-tired Mom
I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to see kids scurrying around the house with laundry bins the following week. I'd walk by the laundry room and hear the washer spinning, and say to myself, "how nice that there is work being done in this house, by other people than me, without me having to tell them."

They figured out pretty quickly that if you don't fold your sh*t as soon as it comes out the dryer, it gets more wrinkly than elephant skin. So they each developed a routine:

Zax (18) - had to be reprimanded a couple of times for midnight use of the washer but now washes his laundry during daylight hours as needed (and often) and uses his bin as his portable closet, because God forbid, putting away clothes on closet shelves is just SO YESTERDAY!

Living out of - admittedly orderly - bins

Impatience (14) - being the most compulsive planner among the kids, immediately designated Saturday morning as laundry day and efficiently dispenses of the task. Washing, drying, folding, putting away, boom!

Sunshine (12) - as picky with her clothes as she is with eating, only ever uses about 2 shorts and 3 t-shirts out of her limitless assortment; her laundry pile is so tiny that Impatience, being the nice sister she is, most often just washes it along with her stuff. But Sunshine is our best (if also slowest) laundry folder. In painstaking labor she folds everything down to razor-crisp edges, even - especially - the underwear.

Sunshine's closet. I suppose it's easy if you only ever wear 2 of those t-shirts.

Jabulani (16) - hates, just HATES folding laundry. Mail-ordered a contraption once that he thought might help with the folding but realized the folding still had to be done. Then noticed Sunshine's folding acumen and decided to hire her as laundry folder for $6 a load.

As these things go, Sunshine got through folding half of her first load after she was hired, then got called for a sleepover at a friend's house, leaving behind a dryer-full of Jabulani's stuff. You have to understand, Jabulani's laundry loads are huge. Leaning once more on the Zits cartoons (I couldn't find the exact one I was looking for), Jabulani's room looks exactly like Jeremy's:

Don't you love the pants still in the shape of exactly how they were dropped?

So I casually inquired as to who would be folding the rest of the laundry now that Sunshine had left the premises, and would the payment by chance be transferable to a subcontractor? Yes, was the answer, it was. And thus I earned my first $$ folding my son's laundry.

Now we have a routine: He leaves his laundry bin in front of our bedroom when it has become absolutely impossible to squeeze even one more piece of clothing into it. Again I refer to Zits for an illustration:

I then take his bin and pry out solid blocks of the sweat-soaked-then-dried-into-cement-like-substance out of it - this is by far the most labor-intensive part of the process - and proceed to wash, dry, and fold, then go up to him to collect my $6 payment for a 15-minute job.

Considering the state of the bookselling market and by extension my opportunity cost, I would have done it for less.

Pssst, don't tell anyone.