Work Ethic

I’m constantly amazed at the sheer stamina the tea ladies at school show. They’re always on their feet, making coffee and tea and delivering tösts around the school, wiping things down. They mop the whole fricking school like, seriously three times a day. But there’s something sort of off about the timing. I’ve found that in general, Turkish people have an incredible work ethic, especially when it comes to cleaning, (one would have to, I suppose, in a city this dirty) but there’s no… how does one say this? There’s no economy of motion.

Figure 1: Upon exiting the classroom at the appointed break time we find that the whole stairwell has been squirted with cleaning fluid and one of the tea ladies is patiently mopping her way back up four flights of stairs to the canteen, seemingly completely unconcerned that hoards of students are leaving muddy footprints on the newly cleaned stairs, and will do so again in ten minutes when break time is over. She nods pleasantly and keeps mopping. This happens every day.

Figure 2: When class lets out I put my books in the teacher’s room and go to the canteen to see if lunch is ready. I am the first one here, but within about ten minutes the canteen will be full of teachers looking for grub, and students who want to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes on the balcony until their next class starts. This is very predictable. It happens every day. The head tea lady has just put all the chairs on top of the tables in preparation to do the floors. In an hour and a half, the students will have gone home or to their next classes, the teachers will have eaten and decamped to the teachers’ room or the balcony off the teachers’ room. There might be a few office staff straggling in for a late lunch but for the most part the canteen will be empty. I grab a bowl of food and watch her squirt down the floor as the first wave of students comes in. I watch the students take the chairs that she’s just put up off the tables . I watch them track dirt through the cleaning fluid on the floor. I watch her run back and forth between the counter, serving coffee and sandwiches, and the half of the floor she seems bound and determined to mop RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Mop for half a minute, completely unconcerned that someone has just walked through the part she just mopped, run all the way back around behind the counter to serve four students (who are standing IN cleaning fluid) tea, wipe down the counter, back to mopping.

Figure 3: While I was waiting my turn at an ATM, I watched as a man carefully, meticulously washed and squeegied the outside of the plate glass window of the adjoining bank, marvelling, really, at the care and attention he was lavishing on it. There was quite a long line, and the person in front of me seemed to have never used an ATM before, so I had a good ten minutes to watch him soap the window off, wipe, and then ever so ever so carefully, delicately, lovingly almost, run the squeegie slowly in perfect rows over the window.

It was raining.

Pretty hard.

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