The time I tried to be a cleaner. And failed.

For most students who have come to the end of their degree, thoughts of impending debt upon leaving the university bubble are somewhat frightening. With a nomadic lifestyle on the cards for me over the next few months (I’ll be splitting my time between Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and New York from now until Christmas), I needed a way to make money, and fast. With that in mind, I decided to take up a job that could not be any less suited to me – being a cleaner. Given that I don’t clean my own crap, let alone someone else’s, this was always going to be a bit of a challenge. But what I perhaps didn’t account for was that the challenge would be quite so severe.

After two days spent flyering that had me near crippled, I got up at 6am and enjoyed my cornflakes with a cocktail of pain killers, ready to embrace my new life as lady of the lavatories. When I arrived bright and early at 7am I was welcomed by the leader of the cleaning team and my tutor for the morning, diminutive Romanian Silvia who I initially believed was the boss’s 11 year old daughter. I set about following the tiny child as she informed me that today we would be cleaning the stairs, all four, three floored sets of them. Yay.

As it was only my first day, I couldn’t be trusted to actually operate the hi-tech machinery (a mop and bucket) myself, so instead I watched as Silvia mopped the stairs and loaded infinite pearls of hygiene related wisdom unto me. She told me how glad she was to have me with her, which automatically pressured me into actually speaking instead of bumbling around in a sleep deprived haze, much to my disappointment. While her English seemed to be pretty good, she responded to every fact I indulged about my life with ‘that’s great!’ I.e ‘You’re from London? That’s great!’ ‘You’ve finished you’re degree? That’s great!’ ‘You’re into pseudo sexual cannibalism? That’s great!’ (NB the last one may be fictional). Anyway, after a while I tired of her telling me how great my life was because it was 7am and it didn’t feel that fucking great inhaling bleach fumes at that ungodly hour, so I tuned out and contemplated the social stigma of my new profession. Would my friends abandon me? Would I get pointed and laughed at in the street? Impossible to say.

After I’d finished my riveting task of watching Silvia clean, I was given the important job of carrying the caution cones. So I did what anyone with an overwhelmingly ironic subconscious would do and slipped in the very wetness I was warning against. It would have been a rather amusing moment, had I not burst into uncontrollable tears just moments later. I’d like to blame the copious amounts of ibuprofen I took beforehand for my unprecedented and utterly ridiculous over reaction, but I think i’ll just have to accept that I am in fact pathetic.

Silvia set about doing what I’ve noticed all good cleaners do and blaming herself for my little accident (if the roles had been reversed, of course, I would have told her to man up, get up, and stop bloody bawling). I maintained that I was fine, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop crying, and was eventually led to a safe area where my howls would not terrify nearby children. After some more tears, the supervisor came to enquire about whether I’d hurt myself (although I suspect my mental state was a greater source of confusion for him at that point), and I had to recount my sorry tale amidst more blubbing. I showed him my various battle scars in the hope he might forgive my apparent emotional instability, but the damage was done, to both him and I. I’m fairly sure I saw him stifle a laugh, but I guess we’ll never know.

Thankfully, everyone had eventually had enough of my meltdown and sent me back home to ponder my idiocy in private. As I limped feebly to my car, I decided the cleaning industry might just be over and above what I can handle. I mean, tasks included walking whilst holding an object, and that was clearly too difficult for me to manage. So my time as a cleaner came to an abrupt end (without me having done any actual cleaning, I might add), and as I later lay in bed feeling sorry for myself, I briefly chastised my incompetence, before realising it was probably a gift in disguise. Indeed, if any had doubted the existence of a deity beforehand, I think this mini debacle has proved that there is a God, and that He doesn’t want me to fall over again, which is nice. I’m yet to hear if I’m due for another induction session (I’m told number two might include actually touching, as opposed to observing, the mop), but I think for all our sake’s, abstention might be the best cure.


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