Wednesday, April 04, 2007



The cleaners in our new office scare me

When I arrive in the building, usually just after 9 o'clock, they've almost finished their rounds and are stood around together with their tattoos and navy blue tabards, arms folded and looking surly near the entrance to the forth floor corridor.

There is this one particular cleaner, in her early forties who looks like she's the leader of the gang. She's tall and looks as strong as an ox. She has dark sun tanned skin, but unlike the majority of the women in this neck of the woods, it appears to be natural. With her shoulder length jet black hair she could easily pass for a Native American if you saw her from a distance.

I referred to her as Geronimo the other day on conversation, which got belly laughs from my co-workers.
The rest of the cleaners seem pretty standard really. Round friendly faces in jogging bottoms and cheap market style trainers. As I climb the stairs in the morning I try to say 'good morning' to the friendly looking ones, but avoid eye contact with the others.

It is when they are all together they look pretty damned fearsome. Several of these ladies have large visible tattoos on their upper arms and have their gold necklaces hanging over their institutional-styled tabards. They look like ex-cons. No doubt they see us office workers as "them" in a "us and them" divide. I've never been one of "them". I've always been one of "us". I now feel I belong to neither. Of course I was a cleaner for a while too, a long time ago. I cleaned a school every evening, my old school in fact. The cleaners there were a lot different. For a start there was only one woman who worked there and she was 17 and a stunner. We all fancied her. This lad called Will claimed to have been intimate with her, but I sincerely doubted it There was my friend Gibbo and some other guys of our age, an ex-squaddie in his mid to late fifties with a hunch back, blotted tattoos of naked women on his forearms and about a dozen ex-wives. He was the laziest man I've ever worked with. He taught me a lot.

Geronimo is the only one of our cleaners I have ever heard speak. Her voice is gravelly and quite deep. As time goes on, I can foresee her confronting staff on the mess they've left by their desk. If that's the case I'm a marked man. Yesterday morning Sean dropped my hole puncher, scattering the little white round circles of paper everywhere. As the day progressed, these were trod on and dispersed across the office. It looked a real mess. I half expected a severed head of a family member to be waiting for me on my desk when I arrived this morning.

There is this other cleaner though who I've seen speaking too. She looks by far the youngest- in her mid twenties perhaps. She has long ginger hair and is quite small, chubby and wears designer glasses. Infuriating I'm sure I know her from somewhere. I think she worked with me when I was an insurance advisor. The Insurance company ran two separate training groups for new starters. I was in the dull group with older recruits and it was boring. Several of these fellow trainees had barely used a computer before and were all in their late fifties and consisted of ex policemen, a vicar's wife and a housewife who hadn't worked since 1985. Progress in this group was slow. The group was so dull that when our wacky trainer Dave, gave us the opportunity to listen to the radio whilst we plodded through the simple computer test- I was the only one who wanted it on. The other training group on the other hand consisted of 7 young, brassy girls and two frightened geeky looking guys. They were always laughing loudly and we'd always hear them in our training room which was laughably referred to by the company as a studio.

Once we'd all completed our four weeks training we are assigned teams and started a 3 month probationary period. In the first week the brassy girls took turns ringing my phone and laughing every time I answered it and hung up. I wasn't amused. It was embarrassing. As our phones were monitored, my team leader or manger must have heard this and mentioned it to their particular manger. Their irksome phone calls stopped. Later that week I was accused in front of thirty new colleagues as being a 'grass'. I protested my innocence but to little avail. It took me years to repair the damage they caused.

None of these girls made it through the probationary period and were all let go at some point for being unsuitable or something- perhaps they felt it was because of these prank phone calls, and therefore my fault? I'm really sure she is one of them. She's evolved into the second in command of a militant group of office cleaners. That's more on a progression that I've made!

I hope that if it is her, she doesn't remember me.

Things could get awkward I suppose.

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