The timid young man in the wide spotless mirror was diligently mopping the floor and then quietly wiping the sink. I closed the tap and walked to the side to dry my hands under an automatic hand dryer hanging on the wall. He looked up and caught my eyes watching him. I said, “Hi!” and asked, “Do you like your job?”
He smiled and said, “Yes Sir,” and then began wiping the sink that I had just wetted.
Pulling my trolley bag, I walked towards the toilet door. Suddenly, I stopped and quickly fished my wallet out of my pocket; pulled a one-dollar bill and handed it to him and said, “You’re doing a wonderful job.” He was surprised by the unexpected compliment and generosity. He hesitated a bit but he took the small gift anyway and quickly shoved it into his pocket.
He said, “Thank you Sir. And I thank God that my supervisor isn’t around,” and then resumed his work.
I walked out that airport toilet feeling happy. I floated towards the duty free shops and killed two hours, window shopping.
At a perfume shop, I pulled a tester bottle of Polo cologne from one of the racks and sprayed its fragrant liquid on my neck and shirt. I then proceeded to the departure lounge and settled down in an empty chair. I yawned, ignoring the buzzing of people and the jazz music from the pipe-in speaker. Few moments past, I closed my eyes and my mind drifted back to my freshman year in Engineering ten years ago...
One morning, I paced back and forth at the bus stand, wondering how my workplace would look like. A green shuttle bus slowly emerged from the end of the road and stopped in front of me and fellow passengers about my age. We hopped on the bus and I managed to sit comfortably by the window. The bus glided up the winding road as it transported us to the top of a hill and then it stopped in front of a building.
The muscular bus driver rose from his seat, stood before us and spoke: “Please collect your timecards at the Personnel’s Office. It is behind the white door right at the end of that path on the left,” he said pointing at the office that was visible through the windscreen and then he quickly stepped out of the bus. We all followed suit and marched towards the white door.
The beautiful structures and landscaping took my breath away. A grandiose cluster of four-storey apartments surrounded the gigantic Recreational Center of The Green Valley Country Club.
Waiting for my time card, my eyes read a note on a brass plate on the wall outside the office: “The Green Valley Country Club is an idyllic, exclusive residential community with complete recreational facilities. It is situated at an altitude of 1500 meters in a moist tropical pine forest. It is always eight degrees Celsius cooler than any place in the lowlands. The temperature seldom exceeds twenty six degrees at its warmest. Tourists flock the city to enjoy the cool breeze of summer. “
Holding my timecard, I followed the crowd and observed how they would punch in their cards.
“What’s that?” I asked the guy behind me.
“That’s a Bundy clock.” he said.
I punched in my card into the machine and it printed 7:30 AM under the IN column on my card. I smiled and put it in one of the pockets labelled “Housekeeping Department.”
Donned in my uniform, I glanced at the serene and pristine view of the mountains and pine trees and then I rushed to my workplace -- The Main Lobby.
My supervisor reminded me what to do: “Everything should be spotless. You’ll work your heart out mopping the floor and then start dusting the furniture and all the leaves of indoor plants starting from the front door to the farthest corner. I don’t want to catch you doing nothing.”
Guests started trickling in, and then suddenly the lobby was full of activity --- not to mention my mopping and dusting.
When summer had ended, I scribbled a note on my diary: “Working as a janitor has given me fresh perspective on work and a deeper understanding on the value of hard-earned money.”
A lady’s voice coming from the loud speaker aborted my reminiscence. “Flight number 9W274 Jet Airways from Dakka to Kolkata is now ready for boarding. Passengers, please proceed to Gate two for boarding, thank you.”