Friday, 14 October 2011

Cleaning Up Our Act

I’ve got a question for you, one that I’m almost certain you won’t be able to answer. No not “Where are your house keys?” or “Why is it that people actually like listening to Chris Moyles?”, but something far more taxing. Ok, ready for your starter for ten?

“What is the name of the cleaner(s) in your office?”

An innocuous little question, but one that I’ll wager you probably can’t answer, I know I can’t. Oh and by the way it doesn’t count if you are the office cleaner, or you are their direct manager (in which case chances are you probably call them Scum A and Scum B anyway) – that’s cheating.

This problem was bought to the forefront of my mind when I was in Sainsbury’s the other day and heard the following announcement “Could the in-store cleaner please come to aisle four.”, two things initially sprang to my mind. One that something incredibly grim has occurred in aisle four hopefully involving a pot of Chicken Arrabbiata pasta sauce rather than a small child not making it to the in-store toilets in time – there’s something to put you of your purchase of HP Sauce. Secondly, was the fact that the cleaner wasn’t named, I’ve often heard calls for Steve, Shelia or whoever to come to the Customer Service Desk, or I’ve heard calls for generic people “could a manager come to the tills” for example. But in the above case we’re referring to “the in-store cleaner”, so presumably there is only one, therefore why doesn’t the person giving the announcement refer to them by name? Why are they just called in like some electronic slave? Although saying that in this case the in-store cleaner has been treated worse than an electronic slave, R2-D2 was always called R2-D2, he was never summoned with the phrase “Could the droid that looks like a kitchen bin on wheels grab his mop. Spillage in spacedock three”.

As an overly self-critical, slightly egocentric, madman these comments made me look inwards and examine my relationship with cleaners. I can only judge others when I have judged myself. Actually this is a lie, I’m almost certainly judging someone right now, probably you for reading this blog – don’t worry it’s a nice judgement (unless of course you’ve got those hideous piercings– you know the ones where you have your ear hole-punched. And then you gradually force the hole wider and wider with a ring until you can hang a towel through it. In that case I am judging you. And I’m judging you as a moron). Anyway back to the point, and I realised I don’t know the names of any of the cleaners in the office building where I work, in fairness much like the Tooth Fairy and rapists they tend to work in the wee hours when I’m not in the building. But occasionally due to unfortunate “excrement thrown in the air-conditioning” disasters I’ve had to work in these obscene hours and thus have seen them. Yet I have no idea of their names. We’ve never even engaged in anything approaching conversation, admittedly this is probably not unusual. I often avoid conversation with people, as they often avoid conversation with me. But in this case it feels somewhat disturbing – they don’t even know I’m the kind of tedious person not worth talking to. Of course there are other people in the office I’ve pretty much never spoken to, but I have an idea on their names or I’d at least be happy to ask them their names should the need for contact arise. But not cleaners, for some reason I don’t feel there’s a need to know their names. Which is not only rude and unfair, but also odd because of all the people in the office they are one of the most critical if the manager of such and such a department didn’t come in I probably wouldn’t notice, if the cleaner didn’t come in I’d notice within seconds when I discovered the office kitchen looks like a student bedroom that’s been inhabited by fifteen boys all manically studying for their final year exams who have yet to discover the joys of bin bags or washing-up liquid.

In fairness it’s not always easy, I’ve noticed (with the cleaners that I’ve worked with anyway) that they seem to have an inbuilt repulsion to engaging in conversation – more so than the usual repulsion of conversation that people have with me you understand. But they seem to have had the mantra beaten into them, that somehow they are second class citizens and everyone else who works in the company they work for must be treated like royalty. I think they’re taught this at the same place that anyone who appears on Britain’s Got Talent is taught that the judges must be screamed at and respected at all times as if they represent the reincarnation of the Messiah (which for the avoidance of doubt Amanda Holden certainly doesn’t). For example early in the morning the cleaners often use the lift, if it stops and as they board they find I’m already in it, they apologise to me. Why? Who the hell do they think I am? They clearly have far higher esteem of me, than I do.

Of course, they’re perfectly welcome to travel in the lift with me. I always reply with “It’s fine”, but they still sheepishly board the lift as if the knowledge they’ve just accidentally thrown up in the managing director’s face. If I’m in the kitchen and they walk in to clean it, again they will apologise to me – despite the fact that I’m clearly the one in the way, they’ve come in extra early to clean so they don’t disturb the other residents of the building and I’ve rudely come in at this god-forsaken hour and thrown their plans into chaos, yet they still apologise to me. It makes no sense, unless they revere me as some kind of hair gel based God, which actually still doesn’t make any sense - but does give me an amusing image of myself sitting on a throne entirely constructed of VO5 tubs. It floats my boat, ok?

Perhaps the answer as to why the office cleaners consider themselves beneath us all lies in the way they are managed. In a previous job, in a supermarket as it happens (yes once upon a time I had to work in the lower classes too!), again I didn’t know the name of any of the cleaners. I did however know the name of the manager of the cleaners, who was perfectly nice… when she spoke to myself and other members of staff. When she spoke to the cleaners, (when she thought we were out of earshot) she screamed absolute blue murder at them – like a satanic version of Jeremy Kyle, without the reassuring knowledge that at any point you can save yourself and switch over to BBC One. This combined with the fact the cleaners were given their own staff “room” (read hovel) and weren’t allowed to use the normal staffroom – is probably enough to give anyone a complex about being a second class citizen. Well that and earning less money an hour than the average set of “weigh yourself scales” on Brighton seafront.

So my call to action for you to is to get to know your cleaner, say hi, learn their name, go for a drink with them, invite them round for dinner. Who knows they might even whiz the vacuum round for you? Ok so we both know it’s never going to happen, but at least by thinking you probably should do it, you can alleviate some of the guilt faced when you next hear the announcement “Could the in-store cleaner please come to aisle four.”. Or alternatively be an uncaring bastard, that works for me too.

Speaking of “uncaring bastards”, sadly I am forced to briefly turn my attention to The X Factor, I know I lured you in with high class philosophical debate in the earlier part of this blog, I can only apologise. I tried my best to avoid it, but sadly I became subject to a portion of this weekend’s show, not all of it you understand, else I wouldn’t have had time to live my life, write this blog, or even get washed. Two and half hours!! I mean seriously! Who can stand it? Especially given it feels like a hell of a lot longer. Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity states that time appears to pass more slowly for an observer who is stationary. I can only presume that during the average edition of The X Factor I become frozen in the exact spot I was sitting, with even the movement of the tiniest molecules in my body completely curtailed thus forcing me to sit through the maximum possible duration of the programme. I mean perhaps if the programme makers had made the programme slightly shorter than an eternity, it would have actually been physically possible for Simon Cowell to appear in both the US and the UK versions without having to violate the laws of time. And after two and half hours, is there really anyone who can stomach the thought of “turning over for more with The Xtra Factor” – seriously are you on some kind of suicide pact?

Fortunately I only caught the result show, of which approximately 75% is a recap consisting of pretty much all of the original show bar the advert breaks. But this week the “big twist” was the fact that rather than us voting, the judges were each forced to evict one of their own acts. The Sun said “X Factor contestants and judges wept last night as four acts were dumped from the show live on air in shockingly brutal scenes.” Shockingly brutal, really? I don’t remember that bit, were the losers savaged by a pack of wolves unleashed by Caroline Flack over on ITV2? In which case I’m disappointed I didn’t turn over to The Xtra Factor. Obviously these “shockingly brutal scenes” were completely different to the previous week’s exceptionally similar scenes where multiple acts were also jettisoned from the show by individual judges – but as it happened in the sunshine it’s clearly not brutal (despite them being thousands of miles away from the support of any family and friends, unlike in the studio). Even poor old Dermot was shocked as Digital Spy reported “O'Leary described the changes to the opening live show as the "worst thing we've ever done",”. Conveniently forgetting the fact The X Factor has previously mocked the mentally ill, exploited children as young as 14 by entering them in the show and worst of all given birth to Chico –  an act for which surely everyone involved in the entire production should rot in hell for, for all eternity as penance.

Thankfully unlike pretty much everyone else on the planet, I’ve managed to maintain my sense of perspective by remembering it’s only a bloody reality show – these people would probably have been voted off anyway, and harsh as the “big twist” is, the only purpose it’s really served is to save a lot of morons a fortune in telephone voting. That and I’d say that anyone who goes on the show deserves what they get, but perhaps it was the only way to escape the commands of “Could the in-store cleaner please come to aisle four”, in which case who can blame them for wanting to escape that?

Anyway I’m off to wash my mouth out with soap and water for discussing The X Factor – again my heartfelt condolences.


Holly said...

Very good point! My office cleaner at the moment is technically my mum... although come to think of it, I'm pretty damn rude to her.

Anonymous said...

We missed this week's blog!! *sad*

Matt said...

Holly - I hope you at least know your Mum's name that would be terrible!

Sorry for the lack of blogging this week, illness and long work week conspired against me!