Anyone who has done the grunt work – whether it be washing dishes in a restaurant, making the coffee in an office, or doing the housework at home – you know that it is all too often the most under-appreciated work. There’s little to no reward and it sucks. It’s usually unpleasant and almost always taken for granted by everyone around you. Worst of all, it’s often only noticed when you don’t do that work.
But much to my surprise I have found that the work I do here at the park – at least at Vogel – doesn’t always go unnoticed. In fact I’ve been rather delighted to regularly receive anything from a brief “thanks” in passing as I’m lugging a mop bucket around, down to a heartfelt “thank you” for my hard work and a lengthy praising at how clean and wonderful the park is.
On my last rotation I was lucky enough to receive 3 heartfelt thank yous from campers as I was hard at work scrubbing bathrooms while simultaneously singing sea shanties to Junior who was growing impatient in his stroller.
The first was a middle aged woman looking to use the bathroom block that I was cleaning. She courteously asked which of the 4 bathrooms was best for her to use to avoid walking all over my freshly mopped floor. I think I visibly sighed with relief as she asked me this, for I had twice re-mopped floors that morning after ignorant campers had walked straight past the “wet floor” signs and muddied my pristine floors. I told her that there should be one almost dry on the other side that she could use. She told me that she was happy to wait for it to dry, then proceeded to thank me for working so hard to keep the bathrooms clean. “It’s really wonderful to have such nice bathrooms to use, we sure appreciate the work you do.”
The next was a middle-aged man tending to his tent pitched on a site near the bathrooms I was cleaning. He stopped me just to say thank you for volunteering and doing what I do. He said it was “refreshing” to see someone as young as myself getting my hands dirty for free (figuratively speaking, that is – I do wear gloves). He seemed to really mean it though, not just an off-hand “thanks” but more of a “hey, THANK YOU”.
The third was a woman who had just gotten out of the shower and was headed back to her camp when she noticed me and said “thank you for keeping the bathrooms so clean, I just had my first enjoyable shower in a campground and didn’t feel disgusted by the bathrooms at all.” Anyone who has had the displeasure of using campground bathrooms knows what she meant by it.
It’s a really nice feeling to be appreciated, even for such menial work. It irks me sometimes to know that I worked my butt off for a law degree and fought hard for years, giving so much of myself to the cause of justice – long hours, evenings and weekends, not to mention the emotional toll – just to now be slinging a mop and cleaning poo off of toilet seats. To say that this work is as fulfilling as capital defense would be a lie, but I’m also at a point in life where I need to do what is best for my family. So if peeling used sanitary pads off of walls and digging out ash pits will give my family a better life and my son a better start then I’m game. Sure I miss a good courtroom brawl now and then and occasionally I’ll sneak a peek at court dockets to see how my old cases are doing, but I’m glad to be where I am in life right now.
Occasionally there are days where I mutter about those darn kids that throw toilet paper on the floor and day dream about days where I used to put on a suit and got to use my creative intellect to solve a problem that could actually save someone’s life as I hose down some lad’s ill-fated attempt to reach the urinal from 10 feet back. And who wouldn’t resent the work they do when it involves scrubbing shit stains off the underside of the front of a toilet seat – because HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?? Seriously, if you are pooping on the UNDERSIDE of the FRONT of the toilet seat then you need to revisit toilet training 101 and have a SERIOUS talk with your mother about why on earth she skipped the part out where she teaches you to poop IN the toilet.
But I digress.
My point here is that we should all take a minute to appreciate the grunt workers. I have to admit, even as someone who does such work, I am particularly bad about this. In the last couple of months it has occurred to me that I am one of those people that almost never even acknowledges the cleaners, the janitors, the custodians, the “little people” whose work I benefit from but rarely say thank you. Paid or unpaid, these people weren’t born thinking “when I grow up I want to clean up other people’s trash for minimum wage or less”. Some may be trying to work their way up, some may have disabilities or personal circumstances that leave them with limited employment options, some may be former-lawyers who are doing this work for the betterment of their family life.
So the next time you use a public restroom or a go to a park: pick up your litter, leave the bathroom as clean or cleaner than you found it, treat the facilities with respect. And if you encounter the poor soul charged with the arduous task of maintaining the facilities then take a second to thank them and squeeze out a smile – it won’t kill you, and it’ll probably make their day. And for god’s sake, try to aim INTO the toilet.