Thursday, March 14, 2024

Microstory 2104: People Are Animals

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My job is going well so far, but I’ve only been doing it for one day, so we’ll just have to see. This place is open 24/7, which equates to a crew of five janitors. Each of us works six hours straight with no breaks, except to use the restroom. When one leaves for the day, the next one comes in. A fifth person sleeps on location, and can fill in if someone is sick. We don’t get paid to take time off, though we can if we need to, but we have to coordinate with each other, and the fifth guy will substitute during that time too. In the meantime, he gets paid for the entire day, whether he has anything to do or not. He’s the one who trained me, because he’s been there forever. The job is simple and tedious. You start at the top floor, and work your way down. Different janitors have different methods to get the work done. Some use the carpet sweeper all the way through, and then go back up to mob the bathrooms, and other tile areas, and then go back up again to collect the trash. Others prefer to focus on one floor, and complete all of the necessary work at once before moving on to the next one. They may not do it the same way every time, and our employer doesn’t care. They want it to be as clean as possible as much as possible. The work that the regular workers do here requires concentration, which means that they require us to be quiet and out of the way, which is why we don’t use vacuum cleaners. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of collaboration, at least not in person, so we’re not constantly tripping over the staff, making it easier to stay invisible.

For one hour at 11:00, they are all having lunch together upstairs. We are not allowed to go upstairs. I’ve not even seen their cafeteria yet, because we’re expected to eat on our own time, but the other janitors have caught glimpses of it over the years, so they know that that’s where everyone is going. Apparently, a sixth person handles that entire area alone, and isn’t part of my team. I suspect that, in addition to eating, they’re having some kind of building-wide meeting. I still don’t really know what exactly they do there, but it must be pretty sensitive stuff. They lock everything up in their special desks, even when they’re only leaving for the restroom. I’ve yet to see a single piece of paper that isn’t still blank. The regular workers are usually really focused on their work, and don’t pay me any mind, not in a sort of disrespectful don’t fraternize with the help sort of way, but more like they’re trying to stay out of my way just as much. I think they’re aware that I’m on a schedule of my own, and they appreciate not having to worry about the mess. And when I say mess, I don’t mean that these people are animals. Honestly, I don’t think we need to clean up as often as we do. They don’t eat at their desks, or do anything else that would make my job harder. I barely have to empty the carpet sweeper, but that’s what’s in the job description, so I’m going to keep doing it until they ask me to do something else. I was under the impression that I was going to get a lot dirtier, but the really gross places, like the boiler room, are handled by a different team too. All in all, I think I’m going to be okay here. I know what I’m supposed to do, and how I’m supposed to do it. They even let us listen to headphones at a low enough volume to hear the environment. I don’t really report to a boss. My coworkers are treating me as one more person in the collective. The woman I’m replacing worked here for 48 years before she retired with six-figure savings. I’ve never dreamed of having that much money. I’ll let you know if anything changes, but I think I’m just going to stick around for now.

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