Thursday, January 13, 2011

Politics at work...

Okay. The shooting in Arizona happens. The only channel we get at work is CNN, so it is an all day coverage event of a very real tragedy. A couple of days later, I am in my building, pushing my janitor cart and mop bucket through the garage.

One of the guys comments about the Arizona tragedy, and how the talk radio hosts are not to blame for the acts of one nut job. True, I say, but it's awfully nice of Sarah Palin to finally shut the Hell up.

Oh, no! He says, You're not one of those people, are you? No, I'm not. I'm just me, I say. Sarah Palin is not a commentator or a politician. She just talks and talks and talks, and I'm just tired of hearing her talk about momma grizzlies, don't get mad - reload, and her trip to Haiti while everyone is dying of cholera and she tweets or talks about how lucky we are to be Americans and how the Haitians are so happy. She just needs to shut up. America, or at least me, need to hear more intelligent conversation. That's all. The woman irritates me, because I know smarter women, and I'd like to hear them talk for a change.

Well, he says, you know she's not a Republican. Really, I say. Didn't she just run for Vice President as a Republican? Yeah, he says, but now she's a Tea Party candidate. Fine, I say. I have no argument with Republicans or Democrats or Tea Party people. It's okay to disagree, as long as it's civil. I tend to think we agree on most things, as Americans. I mean, we all live here and like it, right?

 Yeah, we're all Americans, he says. We all believe in America. Yes, I say. We do.

Except for what's going on in Howell, he says. Did you hear about that? No, I say. What's that all about?

He then relates how they had an anti-bullying day. One of the teachers is gay, so students wore T-shirts with rainbows on them. One girl came in with the Confederate flag on her belt-buckle. The teacher told her that was unacceptable, and asked if she knew why. She said she just wore it instead of the t-shirt, and doesn't go for the gay-pride thing (or whatever). I guess another student spoke up and said something about how we have freedom of expression. The teacher asked the kid if he was against gays, and the kid said he was devout Catholic and believes homosexuality is a sin. The teacher kicked both of them out of class.

He, now the kid's parents are suing the school board and the teacher. And, he says, there's all kinds of FAGGOTS (his words, not mine) from Ann Arbor demonstrating in front of the school board offices. But he says, the rainbow is a symbol of Fags. The Confederate flag is a symbol of where people are from, the south. So what's the big deal?

I'm looking at him like he's from Mars. The Confederate flag isn't associated with bullying in any way? He works with people from every ethnic background, including several African American coworkers in his garage. I'm thinking to myself, so the Confederate flag is just a southern thing? Like the whole reason the southern states ceded from the Union had nothing to do with slavery? And the Grand Dragon of the KKK used to live in Howell, and none of this is offensive?

And Bill O'Reilly isn't offensive? Or Rush? Or Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter? I think for a moment. And I say:

How about this...maybe it would be smarter to institute school uniforms? Like get rid of Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, purple t-shirts with rainbows, and Confederate flags all together and just stick to being good citizens in school and getting grades so you can go to college. Wouldn't that be great?

Then we'd all be the same. Nobody would know if you were rich or poor, or whatever our clothes say and all this kind of stuff wouldn't happen. (I am thinking the Communists did this a long time ago, and it didn't work either.)

Yeah, he says. We should all be the same. Uniforms are good! He is wearing a blue work shirt with his name embroidered on the pocket with the company logo.

I'm're a BIGOT. I feel sorry for him. But I don't hate him. "My fellow Americans...." black and white film runs through my head...every presidential speech.....Fellow Americans. How can we change the dialogue? Will the media ever stop drumming up their updated brand of yellow journalism that makes us all so sick and tired of being angry over...what? And then, I stop my mind from thinking anything at all.

Time to get back to work. The trash cans are full and need to be emptied.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I learn so much at work. We have chemicals that clean, degrease, disinfect, polish and scrub all kinds of mineral deposits and scum. We are the contracted sanitation company, so we all work for a very large corporation. Or at least, one corner of the planet they do business in. Quite a corner. There are 106 buildings on the site, some of them are the size of a large suburban mall. It's a big place!

Most everybody has their own building. Some buildings are so large, there are five or six of us and we still never see much of one another until it's time to punch out.

So the chemicals have to be approved by a committee. Health and Safety. Health and Safety means being as screaming cheap as possible, and still managing to disinfect everything people touch or sit on with their bare skin. We call it Hell and Save Me. We used to have chemicals that would kill every germ known to man, including most prionic stuff. Prionic diseases are like Mad Cow stuff. Can't be killed, really, which is why they are so dangerous. Even if you cook a cow brain and douse it with bleach, you're screwed.

Now, the Company is pinching the Bottom Line, by limiting the stuff we can use on the toilets. Sucks, really. We had a great germicidal aerosol, but it was decided by Hell and Save Me that it cost too much to use. We are stupid janitors, after all. We were somehow wasting it by using it to clean greasy fingerprints, pee, shit and boogars (welcome to the corporate bathroom) off the stainless steel. God, it worked great! Spray it on, wait five minutes - BAM!!! Clean stainless steel, ready for a re-coat of polish.

We are using this crap that is basically peroxide. Doesn't clean a whole lot. They tell us it is a disinfectant. For what, exactly, I don't know. We all hate it. During breaks, we sit together and talk about our chemicals. There are all kinds of tricks of the trade. One guy mixes the industrial degreaser, floor wax stripper and window cleaner in a spray bottle and uses it to get the heavy grease and tire marks off the mechanic's bays in the large garage. It smells particularly awful, but it leaves the floor paint looking fresh. I am quite sure it will eat through just about anything.

We've got a girl who mixes the heavy virucide (disapproved) with the orange cleaner in her mop bucket. She once cleaned a three story stairwell with this stuff. She took it up to to the top flight, kicked the bucket over so the stuff ran like a waterfall down the stairs and swept the linty, gray puddles to the bottom tier. All the office workers freaked out. She didn't close the stairwell to traffic, so people were coming up when she kicked the bucket over.

I personally, have my own method of cleaning the stainless steel. I spray my crappy toilet de-mineralizer (it doesn't work on hard water stains, even though Health and Safety lies to us and says it works fine), scrub gently with a scrubby-sided sponge, and wipe it off. I follow up with the window cleaner to rinse. Then I am ready to polish the stainless. It looks great.

We have one product that works really, really well. It is an acid-based toilet bowl cleaner. Similar, but more potent than the stuff on the grocery store shelves. I think it is Sulfuric Acid. Smells like death, for sure. It does wonders on the toilet bowl hard-water and rust stains. If you get it on chrome, it will EAT the chrome off and leave you with a lovely pink. The pink is the freshlly exposed brass. We aren't supposed to use it. But we do. It makes the porcelain white and shiny.

But the disinfectant sucks. We are supposed to use it on EVERYTHING, including the mirrors. We sit and compare it to using water. Water with orange smell. So, when we eventually run out of the other stuff (mentioned above) we have to use the disinfectant. Oh! How we complain! LOL!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Clean Underwear

Topic of the day is accidents. Everybody has accidents; we fall, we wreck cars, break bones, trip over shit on the sidewalk. Favorite accidents are those that aren't very funny at the time, but we all laugh about later.

I had a pony as a kid. All girls want ponies. I got one. He was mean, and not properly saddle broken. His name was Cocoa. My mom got him from a woman who purchased a broken-down Thoroughbred mare from the racetrack. The pony was the thoroughbred's companion. Once upon a time, according to the story that came with Cocoa, he was a cart  pony. A cart pony. No idea of what do do with a rider, except his own ideas of what to do with a rider. If I was a spoiled little companion to a large Thoroughbred race horse, and being a pal to a larger, nervous animal was my sole purpose - would I want an eight year old pushing me around? Hmmmm.

I fell off a lot. The saddle would slide under the pony. The pony would be galloping and stop and drop his nose, causing me to lose balance and get thrown over his head. He bucked, he bit, he ran away from me. I can't believe I didn't break anything. The whole time I owned him I had accidents, bruises and a sore ass.

It was a pony. Little girls dream of having a pony.

But, we were talking about accidents. I can relate to an ill mannered pony, falling into a lake, not getting home in time and peeing my pants, scraping my knees - childhood stuff.

The Sanitation crew had other tales of other accidents.

So, you're six or eight. It's summertime. You are one of ten kids, so it's easy for Mom to overlook the fact that you've been stubbornly wearing the same underwear for weeks. Everybody knows you smell, but the truth is that no matter how hard you scrub a six-year-old boy, he's gonna reek again by the next day. Nobody thinks to ask why this boy smells. He smells like a boy.

This boy is climbing trees, playing in the sand, chasing frogs, running in puddles, riding his bike and building forts. His underwear is paper thin and it smells. He might get chased away from the dinner table or front room sofa - get outta here, boy. Go wash that nasty smell offa you. Oh, something smells like it died - son, when's the last time you washed up? The boy gets indignant - I washed this morning, dad! I'm clean! Yes, he might be clean, but that underwear is rank. He puts another pair on over the dirty ones. They are clean, he figures, so it's all good.

He and his friends are riding bikes. The older boys make ramps, pretending to jump the Grand Canyon. Everybody is Evel Kenievel. They dare one another to see who's got guts. Who gets the most air? Who falls, and isn't a sissy about it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Eulogy

We are sitting at lunch, in the cafeteria. It is time to enjoy the only half-hour of the day we get to wolf down some kind of lunch. Maybe, between bites, we get to hear some gossip, theories on management, or just complain about the cruel hand fate has dealt the sanitation crew.

All of us have issues. Nobody is immune.

My dad died a few months ago. This is hard, we all agree. Some have already lost parents. Other have parents who live in different states. A few have parents they never got to know. As one of the janitors tells me, his dad went out for milk and he still hasn't found his way back home. Somebody else pipes up, and aks how many times his momma has moved since his daddy went to find milk. She probably had the other car all packed with their stuff the minute the man went to the store. We all laugh a little. Another janitor wonders if this person's daddy had the good sense to know his way to the grocery store. Maybe he's still lost? Finally, somebody suggests that this man's daddy probably is still in front of the dairy case, trying to decide between 2% and skim milk. His daddy's so dumb, it's probably a good thing he couldn't find his way back. Hopefully, this missing-daddy's progeny hasn't fallen to far from the tree....we all laugh. We are janitors, after all. It's not rocket science. But we can all read a milk carton and a map.

The talk turns back to losing a parent. My friend says he'll be happy to give the eulogy at my funeral, if anything ever happened to me. He just loves me that much, it would be an honor to stand up in front of my laid-out, bleached out, very deathly white body and tell everyone how much I meant to him - and everyone else, of course. Like he remembers the day I walked in. My first day on the job here, and I was a heavenly vision placed here to clean toilets. An angel sent to ease his soul (in an ugly t-shirt and stained jeans).

I imagine what my parents would think. It would be funny. My mom, the university professor, has an awesome sense of humor, so she would get the joke. My sister, in her Ralph Lauren, Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, Rich and Thin world, would be horrified. If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I would definitely love to have this co-worker give my eulogy. Simply because it would be awesome. It would be the best eulogy in the universe.

We all listen at lunchtime to the eulogy. He says he will tell my family what a hot momma I was, my hips swaying gently along the office aisles in those tight jeans (he pantomimes a very CURVACEOUS set of curves in the air in front of him). And those brown eyes, just a hint of gold in them and they sparkle in the light (he looks skyward, pauses for effect and continues). She was an honest and caring person, giving me quarters for a Coke. I could just stare at her all day in wonder....

She came to us and I fell in love the first day, he says. Like a dream - an angel sent from Heaven to lighten the weight on my weary soul. So it is with a heavy heart, a heavy soul, that we are here today to say goodbye to this girl, this hot-damn momma who knew sacrifice, and yet had the strength to persevere (pound on the table, pretend to cry, sob, wipe his eyes....pause for effect, and continue).

May the damned bus.... (his voice a dramatic crescendo, pause to check the gallery).....
That hit this Poooooor bitch (another loaded pause)....
Go straight to Hell!!! (end with Go Straight...fist pound on Hell - final fist on table, like a gavel)

Everybody laughs. I laugh. All eulogies should be this colorful. Every funeral I've ever been to has had AWFUL eulogies. Stiff, formal, not very fun, awkward and clunky delivery - most everything dependent on the reporting of who-this-is by a grieving family. I want this man to give my eulogy. It doesn't matter what I've done, or not done in my life. And I want a barbeque afterward.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Best Janitor in the Whole Universe

We have a young man working with us. He's a janitor in one of the large garages, and he takes care of the bays. He mops, runs the floor scrubbers, cleans the garage restrooms, empties trash, etc. Because it's a really HUGE garage, these activities basically take up the entire day. Secretly, I think he hates it very much. But he hates it in the most wonderful manner.

He's a boxer between "contracts." I'm not sure what this means, but I think it means the gym lets him train and fight for a portion of the proceeds. The gym sets up the events, and then the boxers train. They lose weight, the lift weight, they starve or eat, jump rope, run, wear stuff that makes them sweat. Then the photos are taken for the fight posters or online ads. If he's lucky, the boxer is on TV, HBO or some other big network. If he fills his contract (so many fights, so much time) and wins, the gym gets a HUGE cut, and the boxer gets to keep the rest.

So, this janitor is between contracts. He just landed the job to keep busy. He was living the high life - fancy cars, clothes, girls, parties...but lost everything (clothes, car, apartment) when he decided to try and buy out his contract. Whatever. I don't understand it, but it sounds a whole lot like being owned by someone. Funny, though, that the gym is mostly black owned and operated, with promising young black fighters. Probably, this tradition of being owned or under contract goes back a hundred years or more - it's just ironic.

The janitor introduces himself as the Number One Janitor in the Universe. I am just some lame-ass girl cleaning toilets and coffee areas in the office area (which is a virtual ocean of cubicles). I am NOT the Number One Porcelain Queen of the USA or anything. Not like him. He's clearly Number One - and he'll tell you that every time.

It's a lot of work, being Number One, he explains. Tough job! Lots of competition out there, but he's managed to beat them down with his superior skills and downright awesome talents. And, he says, it helps to look as good as he does while killing the competition every day.

At lunch time, this lame-ass white girl who is Number Nothing sits with the other janitors, including Number One. I am eating something stupid, like peanut butter and jelly. They are eating cold pizza with hot sauce, ramen noodles with hot sauce, red-hots with hot sauce, pork steaks with hot sauce - everything with hot sauce. Jokes are made about my sandwich. They ask me why I didn't bring anything smothered in mayonnaise. I said I brought yogurt, which is close enough. We laugh.

Number One tells us he stays number one because he stays clean and pressed all day. No pressure, he says. I keep deodorant, after-shave, cologne and an extra pair of socks and underwear in my bag. Lots of giggles about body spray. Like, he goes into the bathroom and sprays himself down in the mirror like a porn star, or
some googly commercial where the girls go wild in the office area because he smells like a real man. More giggles and laughter. Somebody pantomines the whole affair - lifting his face to the sky like Adonis and striking a pose while spritzing his hairy underarms with body spray....ever hopeful that the women will stay off of him long enough, just long enough (girls, please! Really, I have a job to do!) for him to peel them off like a sweater so he can get the mop buckets from each garage bay and refill them. Just think how lonely Number One would be without his body spritz. He'd be treating those new mop heads like dumb blondes. Hay baby, what are you doing later? Someone else says - washing my hair in this mop bucket! Everybody breaks out laughing- washing my hair like back-in-the-day.

Number One says he carries fresh underwear, in case of an accident. Like, when he was a little boy - eight years old - he broke his leg. They took him to the emergency room. And he was so poor, he wore the same underwear all summer long and never changed it. Nobody noticed until they got him into the emergency room. The nurse had to cut his underwear off with scissors - which was bad enough, Number One says. The face the nurse made while she was cutting off his skiddy-mark drawers that hadn't been washed was so embarassing it ruined him for life. Now he has to have clean underwear.

Everybody laughs. Skiddy McSkidmark drawers. BVD's. Not so whitey-tighties. Kind of gray and brown, smellin like a eight year old boy with a pissy-shitty ass. So poor he should've used Bounty, the Quicker-Picker-Upper, or gone up to the McDonald's and used that cardboard paper towel like a diaper sitting on that baby-changing station. Again, actors take the stage,  narrating a colorful tale. We watch as one Janitor stands up like a child, checking his backside. Somebody else pantomimes the look on the nurse's face - boy, them is some shitty-ass drawers - as the invisible scissors cut the air, big eyes looking way down from a face that is trying to keep it's nose away from those nasty summer underwear. You want these back, son?

Number One is serious, though. Everybody laughs, but he's for real. He didn't cry over the broken leg, he says. It was the damned underwear being cut off his body, and him having to lie down naked on the cold paper of the exam table so they could check his leg, put a cast on it, and send him home. I know that's what it was. I'd keep clean underwear around too, after that.

Besides, Number One says. Didn't your momma tell you to keep clean drawers? What if you had an accident? I'm here as a living example, he states, of why you should never have a pair of shitty-ass drawers. He stands up and puts his arm across his chest, fist clenched - like a Spartan giving a salute, banging his fisted arm across his breastplate. He looks up while he does this, with great drama and says - yes, never leave home unprepared. Always keep a spare pair. We all laugh so hard tears are coming down our cheeks.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Saving money on supplies.

Number one stupid thing to do as a cost-saving measure in a large corporation? Cut back on Paper Towel and Toilet Tissue. Well, that and coffee. Cutting coffee, towel and tissue are stupid things to eliminate. Nobody can live without caffeine or some form of stimulant. God knows, I can't. And Mr. Bean-Counter, you can't run a large, multinational company without friggin' toilet paper or towel.

Don't cut back on it. Order more of it. Often. Just because you use three squares of Charmin at home, doesn't mean you can get away with asking EVERYBODY who works for your company - all over the WORLD - to reduce their toilet tissue usage to a mere three sheets of the cheapest, flimsiest toilet paper on the planet. Which you order all the friggin' time, exactly because it is so cheap.

Mr. Bean Counter might use Charmin at home (all three squares at one sitting), but Mr. Bean Counter orders the tissue that falls apart the moment human hands come in contact with the stuff.

Other cost-saving measures that don't work? How about switching to cleaning products that take twice as much spraying and wiping as the stuff you used to order that worked on the first wipe and spray? If you have to use twice as much of the crappy, inexpensive disinfectant to protect everyone from is money being saved if you have to order twice as much becuase it takes two times the product to achieve results?

I suppose, it's a good thing Corporate America isn't using outhouses and asking their janitors to put up fly strips and lime the shit-pits to kill the flies and kill the smell. Oh...did I just put that out there? Bad move. Mr. Bean-counter will see this post, and get ideas!

Here are the keys to the company privvy, Mr./Ms. Corporate Contract Worker of America. Remember, three squares and you're out. Note the soup can filled with powdered lime? Use that to kill the smell. Watch you don't get your hair stuck in the fly strip. Now, go back to work! Ha HA!

Paper Towel and Toilet Tissue

After a week of working as a janitor, something incredibly foreign to me, it has occured to met that there are a few basic needs everyone has. A toilet, number one. Toilet tissue, number two. Soap and Paper Towel. These are the basic elements of running a large corporation. Without Paper Towel and Toilet Tissue, you can just about forget running much of anything. You could shit in the woods, yes. But you'd still need toilet tissue and eventually, paper towel.

Men use more tissue and paper towel. At first, I wondered why, because there are a lot of men who don't appear to wash their hands. They are busy doing business on their cell phones, while they are in the bathroom doing their business. So, why would they use more? Women are always wiping something...noses, eye makeup, the counters, toilet seats before they sit, lipstick, wrapping up feminine products. Women are tissue and paper towel people. So why do men use more?

Their asses and hands are larger than a woman's. Believe it or not, even though they may not actively participate in good personal hygeine each and every time, they sure as hell use the majority of tissue and towel. Men's rooms clog faster, thanks to overuse of tissue and underuse of the flush valve. Never the less, they use more and run out of tissue and towel faster.

Secondly, a men's room in corporate America is still used more often than a women's room. The truth is, there are less women working in large companies than there are men. Men dominate corporate culture. Most of the cubicles in cubicle-land are male. So they use more stuff than women, becuase their hands and asses are larger - and because there are two to three times as many men in the Company than women.

Congratulations ladies. You not only earn less than a man, there are fewer of you, and your restrooms are cleaner and better stocked with tissue and towel.