A bit more respect would be nice, then I would be happier with my job.
I work half-time as a cleaning lady in the biggest shopping center of my town.
In 270 ships on four levels, well-known brands sell their products.
Most of them are clothing brands. But apart from them, our center has a big bookstore, ten jewelers, two banks, five perfumeries, a big supermarket, electronic shops, — well, every kind of store you may need. Alongside the shopping area, we have a big food area, where 29 restaurants offer food and drinks.
My colleagues and I do not have to clean inside the shops; this task belongs to the shop owner. What we need to clean are the corridors, the food area, and the toilets.
The corridors most of the time are no big deal and easy to clean. Every member of our cleaning team has a specific area. It can vary from shift to shift.
Sometimes you are lucky and need to clean an area where not many clients are shopping. That means, on the one hand, it is easier to carry the heavy trolley with cleaning rag, cleaning powder, hand broom and garbage bags.
All things we need to do our job.
On the other hand, fewer clients mean less dirt and garbage to cope with.
When I am unlucky, I have to clean several parts from different levels. Then I need to take the elevator a lot what is time-consuming and makes it more challenging to clean everything in time.
The shopping center has ten elevators. On a busy day, that means I have to share these ten lifts with 1000s of clients.
All of them I have to treat friendly, even those who don’t treat me friendly.
Those who don’t get that I am doing my best to make their shopping experience nice, unforgettable and clean.
Those would not be happy if trash would lay on the floor in front their favorite store, they would not be satisfied if the garbage flow over.
Those get angry when they wait for the elevator.
The doors open and they see the elevator filled by a few other clients, myself and my heavy cleaning trolley. No room for them to get in. Before the doors close, I get angry looks as if I am the evil and as if it’s too hard to wait for other five minutes to catch the empty elevator or find nearby rolling stairs.
Let me tell you, what you may know by experience: cleaning toilets is no fun.
What you may not have experienced is cleaning public toilets on a busy Saturday afternoon. What you get to see there sometimes equals hell on earth. In your interest, I spare you with the details. It’s just ugly and disgusting.
But it’s part of my job.
The job I need to support my family so that my children have food to eat, cloth to wear and a few toys with which they can play. I had had a better job in my life, but at my age with no university degree and without work experience during the last years, I couldn’t find anything better that aligns with bringing up my kids.
I am proud of my job. I don’t expect to gain recognition. Almost anyone can do my job. But what I do hope and wish for is more awareness of the job I am doing.
I cannot understand people who throw garbage on the floor instead of opening their eyes and look for the nearest garbage can.
What I do not see by any means, are teenagers who see me, look at me carrying the cleaning trolly and four full garbage bags attached to it, and through their empty pack of cigarettes on the floor in front of me.
I just cannot understand them.
Would they do the same if their Mom was cleaning up the dirt of thousands of people?
As I said, I don’t expect that you applause that I am a cleaning lady, it’s an easy job, I get it.
But what I hope is that you will be a bit more aware of the work I am doing and what it takes to keep a big public place clean.
Wherever you may be, in a shopping center, at a library or just walking through the streets of your city.
Behind every clean place, some cleaners do their best to give you a clean environment so that you can enjoy your stay.
If you see a dirty place, think of us who will be making it clean again. The most of us will do that to have a house, to have food, to support their families, to live.
When I see people throwing garbage on the floor of the shopping center I think of a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.
It is that easy to create a clean world. Apparently, the quote does not just aim at cleaning per se but wants to give the big picture of everybody taking care of themselves and not harming someone else’s life.
It makes me sad that almost all humans are far away from adding their part to create this ideal world.
If they would, then there would be no need for me to work as a cleaning lady, I would need to find something else. I would be more than fine with that.
Till then it would be good if people would be aware of the work behind it and pay a bit more respect.
Originally published at Jan Stetzka.