Tuesday, April 03, 2007


In the UAE the cleaner is a ubiquitous, low-paid worker. Unfortunately they and what they do are taken for granted by many. The squad of young men we see doing such jobs in the UAE stand in contrast to the elderly men--sometimes women--going about their work in solitude in the US, from where I come. Even so, buildings are just as clean, likely due to people doing their own share of cleaning up and a more judicious use of machines.

We encounter these squads of cleaners in the UAE in our work places, in retail and commercial establishments, on the streets and even for some in our places of residence. Even cleaners will have a designated person, to clean their shared accommodations.

The only parallel to this that I can see in the US is in hotels, and even there housekeepers and janitors are comparatively few in number. Of course, to a large extent this difference is due to economics. In countries where there are minimum wage laws, janitors and cleaners of any kind cost a lot of money. It is usually more economical to buy expensive machines--vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, etc.--than to hire sweepers, gardeners and the like to do the menial tasks.

In Japan, where I once lived, the cleaner was indeed a rare breed. People actually swept the streets in front of their own homes and shops. The students were assigned to clean the school themselves--though they rarely did a good job of it. Of course, technology and gadget-driven Japan had its fair share of machines to do the task, as well. Where human labor was involved it was usually an elderly woman. She might be found, for example, busily cleaning a bathroom basin while a male patron relieved himself at an adjacent urinal.

Personally, I like to acknowledge and voice appreciation to the cleaners I meet everyday. While I often feel they are doing the things that I and others should be doing ourselves, I recognize that for many it is an opportunity to earn a wage they otherwise might not.

I wouldn't rate myself a more sensitive or generous person than average, but it is just ingrained in me that a person should dispose of his or her own garbage and clean their own mess. While it might be OK to live it up while vacationing in a posh hotel, even then it would be fair to at least express a measure of gratitude to those cleaning up after you.

I once worked as a cleaner myself, in my college days. It was a short 6-month stint, but it was a job that left me with fond memories. Whether vocalized or not--and it often was--I always had a sense that people appreciated what I was doing. It was a grimy 12-hour shift, on a job I did 7 days-a-week, for up to 4 weeks without a break. It was worth the overtime pay. But, beyond that it really wasn't hard. I felt productive and and the job was rewarding.

Moral of the Story?

Just say hello and thank you to the cleaner. And deposit your rubbish in the trash bins yourself! I know some think, "They're getting paid to do their job... I get paid to do mine." But the little things we might do can make a big difference to them, in making them feel more appreciated. There will always be enough big jobs on hand to keep these workers busy. They don't need to be tied up with all of our basic chores.

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BTW: This post was inspired by the tireless service of Mohammed and Marif, two cleaners in my office, one always ready to flash a broad smile and the other who has to be coaxed to get all but the slightest of smirks.

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silen-ce said...

This is true. I mean most ppl wont even look at them as they pass by.

I would like to add gardners too, for our colleges very kind hearted sudaniese gardner who does every hard work and keep a smile all day long...

Humayun Kabir said...

Exactly this true.Masurity people dislike them.They would happy if anybody talk with them friendly.