This afternoon while I was in town I decided to go and clean at the accountant’s offices just on the outskirts as it would save me going in first thing on Monday morning. Now to put you in the picture the building is in a long row of what were once Georgian-type terraced houses which have all been turned into offices, and where each enclosed back yard would have been is now an open parking space for two cars. Four steps go down to the back door which leads into the kitchen and the kitchen window, protected by a wrought iron grille, looks out onto the parking space which, because of the steps, is almost at my shoulder height.
So there I was, minding my own business and washing up some mugs at the kitchen sink when a movement outside caught my eye and I looked up to see a scruffily dressed young man walking along the back street beyond the parking space. He disappeared from view, obscured by the dividing wall between the accountant’s and the offices next door, then a few minutes later I noticed him walking back the other way, but again he disappeared from view. I carried on with what I was doing but when I looked up again I was confronted by a face staring straight at me through the window – it was the scruffily dressed guy, bending down to look inside, and if it hadn’t been for the grille over the window his nose would have been right up against the glass.
Now I consider myself to be fairly unshockable so I wasn’t shocked to see the face, nor was I scared as I was safely inside with the door locked, but I was rather surprised to say the least. I just stared straight back at him though and after a few seconds he moved away and wandered off back along the back street. It was when I left work a while later that I realised something – out of all the offices in that row my van was the only vehicle parked along there so I can only assume that he was going to try breaking into it, and seeing lights on in the building was looking through the kitchen window to check if there was anyone inside who would see him.
A quick check all round the van showed me that everything was okay so if the guy had thought about breaking into it he obviously thought again – I don’t think he expected to see me staring straight back at him! I know one thing though – his face is now firmly implanted in my memory so I would have no hesitation if I ever had to pick him out of a crowd!
Some of you may remember the post I wrote a while back about the slide-out shelf falling out of the kitchen cupboard at the boss’s house while I was doing the cleaning, resulting in several mugs and glasses being broken. Well since then I’ve been extra careful about using that shelf, to the point where sometimes I’ve actually held my breath as I’ve pushed it back in – in fact to be honest I would rather have not gone near it at all but so far it’s been okay, however….
When I got there to do the cleaning this morning I was confronted with a couple of mugs, a few small tumblers and some shot glasses on the worktop above the cupboard; they were all clean so I thought it rather strange that they’d been left there but then I saw the shelf. It was minus its wire front and sides and the whole lot had been dumped on the floor in the corner of the kitchen – it didn’t take a genius to work out that it must have fallen out of the cupboard again, but again it must have missed the plates and bowls in the bottom as when I looked they all seemed to be intact.
It was when I emptied the dishwasher and put all the crockery away that I realised just how much had obviously been broken as the number of mugs and glasses was greatly reduced compared to previously, though with nowhere else to put the clean things I just had to add them to those left on the worktop. I won’t see the boss until Friday so I don’t know if he intends to fix the shelf and use it again or get rid of it completely and find another home for the mugs and glasses, but I’m just so glad that this latest disaster happened to him and not me!
Today I was cleaning at the boss’s house when I had the mother of all disasters.
Four months ago he moved from a modern detached house with a large kitchen and modern units to an old bungalow with dated kitchen units and nowhere near as much cupboard space as in the previous house, but as the bungalow will eventually be demolished and an ultra-modern eco-friendly house built in its place it’s not worth him replacing the units. One of these is a cupboard with a drawer above it and a slide-out shelf inside, with the shelf having plastic-coated wire sides and front rather like a freezer shelf, and it’s this cupboard where the crockery is kept – plates and bowls on the bottom and cups, mugs and glasses on the slide-out shelf. I’ve often had my doubts about putting breakables on that shelf but with limited cupboard space there’s nowhere else for them to really go.
So today I emptied the dishwasher, put all the pots and pans in their rightful places and the mugs and glasses on the shelf, and it was when I pushed the shelf back in that disaster struck. Somehow – and I really don’t know how as it happened so fast – the shelf came off its runners, tilted forwards and crashed down into the bottom of the cupboard, depositing most of its contents in a heap on the kitchen floor. Fortunately most things survived the drop but several things didn’t, the breakages totalling 3 tumblers, 2 mugs, 2 large cappuccino cups, 2 beakers, an espresso cup and a half-pint beer glass – luckily the shelf had missed the plates and bowls in the bottom of the cupboard otherwise the damage would have been a lot worse.
It was while I was surveying the carnage that my phone rang – it was Michael with the immortal words “Are you busy Mum?” “Yes Michael, I am a bit – I’m standing in the middle of Andy’s kitchen wondering how the hell I’m going to tell him that half his pots are in the bin”. Now when Michael starts a conversation with that sentence I know he wants something, this time he wanted me to check online for flights to Ireland so I told him I’d do it when I finally got home and I set about clearing up the mess. The front and sides had also come off the shelf so I fixed those back on, checked that the runners weren’t broken and put it back into place, then with the surviving mugs and glasses also back in place I gingerly pushed the shelf in and closed the door on it.
I was just about to ring Andy to tell him what had happened when someone else rang me; the conversation was long and tedious so I decided to see Andy in person instead and I called up this evening after work – and the conversation went like this – “I’ve come to confess my sins and I just hope you won’t kill me” “Why, what have you broken?” “Well let’s just say you won’t have as much washing up to do now”. When I explained what had happened with the shelf he told me that he wasn’t surprised as it’s been playing up for a while, and there was still lots of stuff that hadn’t got broken so not to worry about it.
Breaking things belonging to other people isn’t something I make a habit of doing, especially not on that scale, so I’m glad Andy was okay about it. And just for the record, when I finally got home this afternoon I checked the flights for Michael and he’s off to Ireland again tomorrow, coming back next Thursday – it’s alright for some!
In my years as a commercial cleaner I’ve come across all sorts off different signs and notices stuck up on the walls in various parts of various buildings. Mainly they are informative or instructive but sometimes amusing, and one which always made me smile was above the staff signing in/out log at the local advice bureau – ‘If you are coming in please sign in, if you are going out then sign out – if you don’t know whether you’re coming or going then join the club!’
The most recent one to make me smile was this one which I found stuck to the wall in the works canteen yesterday –
Self-explanatory really. I know who recently left the firm, a nice guy in middle management who divided his time between the offices and the works. I can understand him being a bit narked, I think I might be too, but maybe the note was a bit too strongly worded? Whether it was or not, it still amused my quirky sense of humour enough to take a photo of it.
While cleaning in the kitchen at work this morning I moved the large kitchen bin to mop the floor underneath and saw what I thought was a small bit of paper down in the corner. I was just about to bend down and pick it up when it moved – it wasn’t a bit of paper at all, it was a tiny baby frog not much more than in inch long and so pale that it almost blended in with its surroundings. How it managed to get there is a mystery as the kitchen is quite a distance from the works entrance and it was so small it could easily have been trodden on by someone’s big work boot. I couldn’t leave it where it was though so I caught it and took it outside.
The works building is surrounded on three sides by woodland and on the right there’s a bank sloping down to a stream, so I thought that would be an ideal place to release my little friend. Walking halfway down the bank I placed him gently on the ground near the base of a tree then waited and watched – sod work, I wanted to make sure he was safe. He stayed still for a minute then with a couple of hops he was gone, disappearing under some damp leaves a few feet from the tree. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of him as I didn’t have my camera with me, which was a shame as he really was the sweetest little thing – fingers crossed he stays safe, finds some friends and lives a long and happy life somewhere in the woodland.
Although I’m not sure if ‘joy’ is always the right word.
Over the almost thirty years I’ve been a commercial cleaner I’ve worked in many different offices and premises for a very diverse range of businesses; these have included bookmakers, solicitors, surveyors, builders, private nurseries/kindergartens, insurance brokers, dental practices, a textile manufacturer’s, an advice centre, a health and fitness club and a cosmetic clinic. Currently I’m working at a steel works, a sign makers and an accountants, with a couple of house cleans thrown in. All of these places have, at some point, thrown up various problems and situations, some surprising, some amusing, some mildly irritating, some very annoying and some downright disgusting, and I’ve dealt with them all as part of my job. So here are some of the things I’ve encountered in my working life –
The bookmakers premises which was raided during the night. The thieves disabled the outside alarm, broke into the disused upstairs offices and hacked their way through the floor into the shop below. Unfortunately for them they couldn’t hack their way through the safe so they left empty-handed the same way they got in; when I arrived to do the cleaning the following morning I found a chair in the middle of the floor surrounded by lumps of broken ceiling tiles, a big hole in the ceiling above it, and the back of the counter a total mess where they’d tried to break into the safe. The police were called and were busy for quite some time but the culprits were never found.
The dental practice where the hard vinyl floor in one surgery was bordered on three sides by carpet. It sometimes happened that while I was vacuuming I would hear the faint rattle of something being sucked up the vacuum cleaner pipe; I’d been cleaning there for a while when I realised that the various rattles were fragments of patients’ teeth which had landed on the floor during treatment.
The cosmetic clinic where the staff would practise giving Botox injections to each other after hours. If the various squeals of “Oww!” and “Aargh!” were anything to go by it certainly wasn’t a painless process, and I decided there and then that I would never subject my own face to such procedures.
And the dental practice which had suffered a break-in over a weekend. The alarm code was changed as a result but no-one thought to inform me, so when I let myself in on the Monday evening the alarm was activated and I couldn’t stop it. As it was linked directly to the local police station I soon found a couple of policemen hammering on the door ready to arrest me for being a burglar – I had to phone the practice boss and get him to confirm who I was before they were satisfied that I wasn’t raiding the place for drugs.
Annoyances and irritations in my working life come in many forms so here are a few which have bugged me on a regular basis –
Waste paper bins in inaccessible corners which I can’t reach.
Staff members walking over a just-mopped floor before it’s dried, leaving it looking like it’s never been mopped at all.
Crisps and other bits of food dropped on and trodden into the carpet by members of the public when there are notices saying food and drink isn’t allowed in the waiting area.
Staff members who use the vacuum cleaner in my absence and don’t put it back where I keep it, usually meaning I have to search an entire building before I find it.
Cardboard box lids shoved into waste paper baskets, with bits of food and waste paper dropped in afterwards, meaning that when I pull out the lid to put it in the recycling bag the bits of food and paper go all over the floor. And I long since came to the conclusion that many office workers are complacent and lazy, probably because they know there’s always someone who will clear up their mess. Their antics include – spilling coffee/sugar on the kitchen worktop and not wiping it up, which leaves a sticky mess; heating uncovered food in the microwave (very often soup) which boils over or explodes, leaving a complete baked-on mess inside; stirring a brew and just throwing the used teaspoon into the sink instead of washing it, and dropping the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls on the floor underneath/behind the loo – why?? These people are adults, not children.
As for the disgusting, I once came across a pool of vomit in a client interview room at one of the places where I used to work, and I regularly encounter various staff toilets where the contents haven’t flushed away properly, though a bucket of water poured from a dizzy height in conjunction with another flush will usually be enough to make things disappear. The most disgusting of all my encounters though was what could only be described as a ‘curry explosion’ in the toilet at one place where I worked. The huge mess wasn’t only in the loo, it was round the bowl, on the seat, the cistern, the walls, door and floor – I think the only place it didn’t reach was the ceiling. I never knew who was responsible for that lot but it was certainly a mammoth task to clean it all up.
So there you have it – a brief insight into my life as a commercial cleaner. Definitely not a glamourous job and certainly not without its problems; it also has its responsibilities in that I’m a key holder for wherever I work, and as I’m usually the last person on the premises it’s up to me to make sure everything is locked up securely when I leave. The job does have a lighter side though and also a few advantages, reasonably flexible hours being one of them, and because I work at both ends of the day it gives me plenty of time to get out and about with the dogs and the camera when the weather’s nice. And if I ever want to go camping for a weekend I only need to tweak my work round a bit and I can have Saturday, Sunday and most of Monday to myself – and I’m certainly not complaining about that!
At work today I was emptying the office waste paper bins, and under the bosses’ desk was the large tubular steel leg which supports the centre. The desk itself is part of a large unit and is rectangular where it meets the wall and circular at the other end; both bosses share it and the leg is supposed to support the centre of the rectangular part but it’s been loose for a while and often falls down. So not wanting to leave it lying on the floor I crawled under the desk, stood the leg upright and jammed it back into place There wasn’t much room under there for me to turn round though so I crawled out backwards, making sure I was out far enough not to bang my head as I got up – and when I looked up, standing behind me with rather a quizzical look on his face, was one of the bosses.
So did I feel silly? Not at all! I know this particular boss reasonably well as I clean his house every week, so I just told him that if he fixed the table leg properly I wouldn’t need to crawl under there every so often to put it back. Thinking about it, I suppose it’s not every day that a boss walks into his office and finds a small person in a turquoise tabard crawling out backwards from under his desk – he once told me, during a conversation ages ago, that he thinks I’m bonkers, so today has probably just confirmed it!