There are few things in life that will give you the same sense of futility and hopelessness as cleaning a public bathroom. Seriously, want to feel like nothing you do matters in the long run? Grab a mop and get started, only to watch your work deteriorate within minutes!
The first source of the feeling of hollow uselessness comes from the thought in the back of your mind that, no matter what happens, no matter how good or bad a job you do, in just a few hours, somebody else will be cleaning the bathroom again. Miss a spot? Who cares, the next guy will get it. Do an exceptionally good job? Good for you, but somebody else will still need to repeat your work soon. Feel appreciated yet?
The feeling only got worse the other week. You see, I had set up the little “restroom-closed-do-not-enter” sign, blocking the little alcove with the entrances to the male and female restrooms. I had finished cleaning the men’s room, and went on to clean the women’s room. By the time I was finished with the women’s room, I heard the sound of a flush. I looked out the door across the alcove, and noticed somebody exiting the men’s room. Apparently, the “do not enter” sign did not apply to this particular fellow. It’s no use telling him not to enter. This guy will enter wherever and whenever he pleases, and the rest of us had better just get out of the way, or pay the consequences. All hail the Great Enterer!
Okay, maybe it’s not that big a deal, since I was in fact finished cleaning the men’s room aside from mopping the floor, but still, it’s the principle of the thing. And even if the restroom hadn’t technically been closed, it still demonstrates how quickly one’s work in this arena becomes undone. But it gets worse! This particular morning, somebody came in to use the men’s room while I was still in there, cleaning it. Yep, he just walked in while I was spraying things down with chemicals, and proceeded to attempt to use a urinal I had just sprayed but had not yet wiped off. Now, granted, this was a café employee, so it’s more logical for someone of his ilk to assume the “do not enter” rules don’t apply to him, but still, the fact that I had a cart full of cleaning supplies and was spraying all the urinals and toilets with disinfectant should’ve given him a clue that the already-cleaned employee bathroom might’ve been a better venue in which to carry out his business. I don’t want to be too hard on the guy; he was polite as anyone attempting to use a bathroom in mid-decontamination, it just struck me as an odd thing to do, and only went to reinforce the idea that my work here is undone before it is even done to begin with.
On the plus side, it’s easy work for easy money, and it doesn’t take up any time in the day that I’d actually use productively, anyway. Still, not exactly a job I’d recommend to anyone desiring to retain any modicum of self-worth.