A First Experience of the Golden Rule

In my junior year of high school, I needed money to buy some ham radio equipment, so I put an ad in the Waukegan News Sun, advertising myself as a handyman. One of my first calls was from a woman in the ritzier part of town, who wanted me to come over on Saturday to weed her hedge. I rode my bike over. It was a big brick house on a corner near Lake Michigan, with a hedge that ran all around the sidewalk. My client, a large stern woman, walked me around to one end of the hedge, handed me clippers, a trowel, and a hand rake, and said, "Do a good job!"

I did a good job. I clipped the hedge to a perfect rectangle, I picked all the weeds out of the soil underneath, I raked the soil and discarded the dried leaves and the twigs and the pebbles, and I cut the edge of the lawn to a micrometric line. By noon I had reached the corner. At that point my client came out of the house, saw what I was doing, and said, "What, you've only gotten this far? You're fired!" Then she stopped, looked at her immaculate hedge, and hesitated. Her lips thinned. "No, you took too long. Come around to the back door and the maid will pay you off." She walked away.

At the back door, the maid looked at my face and said with amusement, "You poor kid. Haven't you ever heard of the golden rule?"