I do NOT want to look back on this summer and remember the toilets. Chic toilets, antique toilets, Leonardo da Vinci toilets, toilets with fancy wooden seats, toilets with raised seats, toilets with fluffy seats… I have knelt before them all, sweat pouring off me, plait dangling in the bowl, face to face with the most basic of functions. You can dress a toilet up all you like, but it’s still a place where you go to crap and pee.
It’s been fearsomely hot this week – 46 degrees out in the sun – and none of my clients’ houses are air-conditioned, although most of them enjoy sea breezes in this eyrie of a town. My uniform, apart from being daggier than sandals with socks, is pure nylon – it feels kinda like those gym suits people put on to sweat off the weight while they pound the stairmaster. My hair is a swamp, to say nothing of my underarms.
It’s on these occasions that I ponder the cleaner’s lot. People I know who’ve been doing this for a long time look old before their time. This is what hard manual labour does. Your skin acquires a scoured look, like a bath that’s been Ajaxed a few too many times. Your hair fades and coarsens (although you can always add bleach for that sandy straw look) and hard work carves permanent gullies around your forehead and mouth. On the bright side, you develop forearms you never knew you had.
I work for two outfits: one gives me as many toilets as I can handle – but I have to travel 60km (return) each day to work – while the other gives me fewer toilets but much closer to home. One day last week, Boss A tells me I can’t work for their competitor, so I must choose – further or fewer. I wrestle with my conscience for days but in the end I decide that there is more to life than toilets. Boss B, I’m all yours.
Yes I can make more money if I work from 9 to 5 five days a week slaving away over a hot bathroom- but that’s not why I chose to move here. I wanted to live in the country – actually LIVE in the country, not just CLEAN in the country. And I wanted to write, and to write I need time…time away from toilets.
Of course, I’d look pretty stupid (mostly to myself) if I gave up all that paid work just to potter round doing my OWN dishes – so now (like the ‘author’ who gets his wife to support him while he follows his dream) I have to produce something worthwhile with all this dearly bought time.