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My First Day as a Housekeeper

When I was asked to be responsible for Facility Services, I had to admit up front that of the skills I bring to the department, one of them is most certainly NOT a deep understanding of the department's internal operations and the day-to-day functions of each crew. If I'm going to lead that group, I'd like to know what they do every day. Maybe if I go through their workday with them, I'll have a better understanding of how Graceland looks to them. With that perhaps I can provide better leadership for them and a better interface with the campus.


So I asked the crew supervisors permission to plan to join them for a day. First up was a day as a housekeeper. I asked to start work when they do (many of them start at 5:00a). And I wanted to go through an entire day working side-by-side. That happened Friday, February 21.


I started the morning with Chris Cougill in the Helene Center at 5:00a. We started by splitting up so I swept the upper floor hallway and work room and emptied that trash. Then I started sweeping out the classrooms. I'm usually able to solve problems on my own (computer work is largely troubleshooting, or investigative work to track down solutions), but I found myself stumped fairly quickly. Students had paintings mid-progress on easels. Do I move that stuff to sweep the floor, or just sweep around it? I wanted to do a good job for Chris (I figured he could possible get credit or blame for my actions), but I didn't want to mess up any student work either. I finally settled on sweeping around the easels. But that took me by surprise.


After almost 2 hours of sweeping and vacuuming classrooms, labs and the lounge, as well as cleaning the upstairs restrooms, we moved over to Graybill Hall. Chris and I emptied all the trashcans on all 5 floors of the buildings. That takes longer than you think it might. There are sometimes 5 trashcans per floor and sometimes students don't get all their trash quite in the can. We took care of that and Chris did it with a smile and cheerful conversation. My takeaway was he realizes he's there to serve the students and make their experience at Graceland as good as he can.


Five per floor is a lot. There are usually 2 or 3 in the hallway, one on each end and one in the center (or maybe in the lounge). Then there are two more in the restrooms. Some floors have more trashcans in the stairwell landings, just in case someone is on the stairs and can't wait to drop trash in the next can.


That day happened to be Chris' new employee orientation, so I was handed off to Dennis Lisle, who normally just takes care of Gunsolley. Dennis and I then cleaned restrooms in both Graybill and Gunsolley. I'll be the first to say there are a lot of stools and a lot of urinals and a lot of sinks and mirrors in those two buildings. There are about 25 stools in both buildings. There are about 25 urinals in both buildings and there are close to 50 sinks with mirrors in both buildings. That's just those two residence halls and they get cleaned every day, 5 days a week. Kudos to all the housekeepers because that is a lot of porcelain and glass! And that doesn't count the showers and floors to go with it, or the special messes that are sometimes there to be cleaned.


Cleaning restrooms led me to my next moment of frustration. I sprayed a bottle of "blue juice" on a mirror to clean it. After all, the Windex I use at home is blue. I was on my second mirror trying to figure out why they were hazing over when I was informed that wasn't for cleaning mirrors. The glass cleaner is purple. Note to anyone wishing to clean a window or mirror. Find the bottle of "purple juice." It works very well! :-)


I'm really looking forward to the next time I get to work as a housekeeper. I found the work quite rewarding and I really enjoyed watching Chris and Dennis interact with the students who have come to know and appreciate them for the work they do.


But next time I hope to be in a different building that has different needs. After all, a residence hall is but one type of building on campus. The Library's needs are different, and so are Closson Center's needs and the Commons and so on. I'm sure I have a lot more to learn. I've always had a healthy respect for housekeepers, and an appreciation for them and the work they do, this made it more real to me. And although it was just one day (so far), I hope I can stop saying "they" and begin thinking "we."


Jim M

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