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!
Following on from the first burglary at work in early November events have recently been getting more and more outrageous, and in spite of various security measures being put in place the same thieves have continued to target the premises. At the beginning of this month, on the night before I went to Ireland, they broke the lock off the pedestrian gate and broke into the gas bottle storage compound, stealing three large propane gas bottles. Unfortunately the gate and the compound are out of sight of where the dog security guy is on guard so this wasn’t discovered until several hours later.
While I was in Ireland the place was hit again, this time in broad daylight and right under the noses of various people who work there. One of the guys in the main works had an accident which needed an ambulance to attend and while everyone was at the front of the building and busy concerning themselves with him the thieves drove their van into the car park at the side, lifted another guy’s motorbike into the back of their van and drove out again. It must just have been pure coincidence that the thieves were in the vicinity at the time, so when the ambulance arrived at work they saw a chance and took it – it was certainly a very risky but bold move and they were lucky to get away with it. They were captured on cctv however, and although the images of their faces weren’t completely clear they showed enough to identify them as the same guys as before, but so far the police have been unable to trace them.
Then a couple of days ago, again in broad daylight, an incident happened which showed that these guys will stop at nothing to get what they want. Across the corner from where I work is a tyre fitting and MOT garage and the guy from there was working on a car just outside it when the thieves pulled up; two of them got out of their van and while one distracted the garage guy the other jumped into the car he was working on. Trying to stop the car from being stolen he jumped onto the front of the bonnet but the thief accelerated quickly, causing him to fall into the road; luckily he fell sideways and not directly in front of the car otherwise he would have been very seriously hurt or maybe even killed. The car didn’t get far though as the thief was in such a hurry to get away that he smashed into another car further down the street, causing considerable damage. He mustn’t have been injured though as he jumped out, jumped into their own van and the three of them got away. The whole incident was captured on our works cctv which this time provided a clear image of the van’s registration, but when the police checked they found that the number plates are false so up to now they are no nearer to finding and catching these guys.
Needless to say the PA is extremely concerned for my safety, especially when I’m locking up the premises after hours, and I now have to ring the dog man to let him know when I’m leaving so he can accompany me while I lock up. I’ve never been a nervous or timid person though and working alone and being the last one to leave a building and lock up has never bothered me, so I absolutely refuse to start worrying now about something which may or may not happen. There are even more security measures being put in place now anyway, so hopefully with more deterrants the thieves will soon give up and move on.
Last night I got a text message from the boss at the place where I clean three mornings a week – “Can you please clean hallway tomorrow”. Now I also clean his house, which is currently up for sale, and when he has a viewing booked he’ll text me so I can go and do a quick bit of tidying up before the estate agent shows people round, so not sure whether his message referred to his house or work premises I replied “Home or work?” and the text came back “Work”. I thought that was rather odd as I vacuum and mop the hallway every time I’m there, though it doesn’t take much as it’s never normally messy.
This time however it was different – when I got there first thing this morning I found dirty footprints and brick dust, plaster, flakes of paint and bits of plastic all over the place. This is the only job I have where I’m not a key holder – I have no need to be – and the guy who opens up told me that in the early hours of yesterday morning the place was broken into for the second time in three weeks. The first time was put down to being an opportunistic coincidence as one of the window shutters hadn’t been pulled down and the thieves had broken the window to get in – they’d tried to rob the vending machine but only succeeded in damaging it, other than that they hadn’t taken anything even though there were power tools and other things lying around on various work benches.
They came prepared this time though – they’d drilled out the lock on the shutter over the front door and smashed in the large bottom door panel. The vending machine had been damaged again, and though nothing had been taken from the offices or the upstairs work area several power tools had been taken from the work benches – there’s no definite proof that this was the same people as before but it doesn’t take a genius to connect the two occurrences. So yesterday cabinets were installed to lock away the power tools, the front door and shutter were repaired and bolts which shoot into the walls and floor were put on the doors leading into the workshop, hence all the mess in the hallway – it took a while to clear it all up but once I’d finished it looked like nothing had ever happened.
One thing has just occurred to me though – I know it’s only a coincidence but that’s two places where I clean which have recently been broken in to, although neither incident has had anything to do with me. I hope it doesn’t happen anywhere else I clean or I’ll be thinking of myself as a jinx!
Fortunately not me personally but the place where I work in the evenings. There are three car parks on the premises, each separated by a high metal fence and heavy steel gates which are closed and locked in the evenings. The rear parking area is currently being used by a company working in conjunction with the company I clean for, on a major contract in connection with the disposal of nuclear waste. On Monday evening, just before 6pm, a white van entered the main gates, drove round to the rear parking area then drove out again; I didn’t see it as I was busy working in the upstairs offices but the works manager saw it as he was getting ready to leave the building.
On Tuesday when I went to work I was told that from now on the gates between the car parks would be closed at all times during the day to stop anyone unauthorised from driving straight through, and as I’m the last to leave the premises in the evenings I have to be extra vigilant when locking up the works, the offices and all the gates. Today when I went to work I was hit with the news that sometime during the early hours of this morning the premises were burgled – bolt croppers were used on the locks on all three sets of gates and the office and storage portacabins belonging to the company using the rear car park were broken into. Several thousand pounds worth of stuff was stolen, including laptops, power tools and a huge generator which could only be moved by being towed behind a vehicle, so it seems like the white van which drove in earlier in the week probably had something to do with it – it’s too much of a coincidence not to be connected.
So as from today, even though it’s rather like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, security has been stepped up and there’s now a dog patrol on the premises at night, with the first guy coming in at 5.30pm – I met him this evening, his dog is a gorgeous dark-coated German Shepherd called Rex. As part of my work involves taking several black bags of rubbish round to the skip at the far end of the middle car park (I drive round in the van as it’s quite a way to walk) it means that I now have to ring the security guy to tell him I’m driving through so I don’t unintentionally end up as a dog’s dinner – Rex is very friendly and playful when not on duty but I wouldn’t like to mess with him when he’s working!