A Very Springy Short Story about Time Exchange

I recently posted a Request on our network for original writings, either fiction or non-fiction, on the subject of Time/time exchange.  This was the first response I got, and it is a fun and inspiring short story that I hope will spur you to action!    -Amanda J.

Practical(ly) Neighbors

By Margarita Navarrete-Hutchinson

Dawn breaks, the birds are singing, and, “Oh! (Hack hack sniffle sneeze sneeze SNEEZE!) I feel terrible, and the sun is finally shining, so I need to mow the lawn before it AHH-CHOOO! Rains again…grumble grumble…”

Susan lays in bed, weak and weary, and thinks to herself, “I need medicine, but I don’t even feel like I can make it to the pharmacy…what do I do…ah, yes!  ATEN!”

She grabs her phone, and pulls up the Next Door app.

“Maybe I have a neighbor nearby who is a part of the network.  I’ll put out a post that I’m an ATEN member in need of assistance with my lawn getting mowed, and maybe they wouldn’t mind running to the pharmacy, too…I have plenty of hours.”

Two blocks over, Jennifer is sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine.  “Ahhhh!  It’s so lovely to be out in the sun after all that rain.  Makes me wish I had more yard to mow just because…Hey! Notification on Next Door, what’s happenin’?” she asks herself.

“I see, ‘ATEN Member looking for a hand with lawn and maybe a pharmacy run (?) if willing.  I have $ for the meds and ATEN hours for your time.’  It looks like she’s only two streets over, and I was totally wanting more lawn to mow, plus I needed to make a run to the store anyway—may as well make it the pharmacy.  I’ll post back.”

Jennifer joined the network a couple of months ago, when she attended the orientation at Cherrywood Coffeehouse, and doesn’t have any hours yet.

Susan is dozing in between sneezing fits when she hears the *DING* she’s been hoping for.  “Yes!  Thank you!” and proceeds to text Jennifer what cold medicine she needs, and that she has a lawn mower for Jennifer to use.

Thirty minutes later, Jennifer arrives with boxed tissues, cold meds, electrolyte water, and a smile.

“Seriously, thank you so much,” says Susan.  “You look familiar.  Did I meet you last month at the Austin Sustainable Swap at Cherrywood Coffeehouse?”

“Yes!” exclaims Jennifer, “I was sharing a beading demo, the kids really liked it.  You made a bracelet too, I remember.  Glad to know we’re neighbors.  I’ll get started on your lawn;  you go rest and feel better.”

“You are phenomenal, Jennifer.  The lawnmower is already out back.  Let me know when you’re done, and I’ll log your hours.”  Susan returns to the comfort of her bed, medicated, her symptoms finally abated.

When she wakes up, hours later, she sees a text from Jennifer:  ‘The mower is under the deck; it took less than an hour, plus the store; maybe 1.25 hrs?  Hope you’re feeling better!’

“Well,” says Susan, “I think she deserves bonus time; she was so helpful.  I’m going to give her 2 hrs.”

The next day, Jennifer checks her e-mail and sees she received 2 hrs from Susan.  “Awesome!  After all that mowing I’m going to use those hours to schedule a massage.  Super win!”

Jennifer checks the network listings, finds a massage therapist nearby, and sends her a message….

Editors Note: “Tipping” is not generally suggested or expected for Time Exchange transactions, because we believe in keeping the Hour=hour standard strong. That said, donating Hours is also perfectly acceptable; you can do with your Hours whatever you want! In this hypothetical situation, Susan was feeling super-grateful for Jennifer’s incredibly quick response time. Another way she could have recorded that appreciation could have been 1.25 Hours for “Mowing and Errand” + .75 Hours for “Gift” or “Being Amazing!” 🙂

About the Author


Margarita has practiced massage therapy professionally since 2003; she also teaches couple’s massage and infant massage classes.
For 3/4’s of the year she facilitates the Austin Sustainable Swap every 3rd Saturday of the month, 12-4 PM, Sept-May; and also enjoys volunteering with The Thinkery Austin, Hospice Austin’s Christopher House, and as a Transitional Travel Agent (what is that? Ask her sometime…)
In 2014 she self-published her first two books, Your Body is a Spaceship! and The Pressure Rainbow; both are available for purchase through blurb.com.
Margarita is a doodler and a dabbler; she sporadically enjoys drawing, ukulele strumming, poi swinging and hula hooping, poetry/song-writing, cooking, nature walks, reading, and quality time with her dear husband.  Oh yes! and kitties–through the allergies, loving the kitties

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