When my wife and I moved here from Brazil, jobs were bad there and better here. Now Brazil has jobs and here it’s hard. But we have been here fifteen years. We have our business and our daughter was born here. We are dual citizens but this is home now. (More)

Fixing Our Heroes, Part II – J.S., Cleaning Service

This week Morning Feature looks at maintenance and the people who do it. Yesterday we heard from L.F., who maintains computer systems. Today we hear from J.S., who cleans offices. Saturday we conclude with M.R., who maintains cable systems. Three ordinary people. Three ordinary stories. Or … three heroes of a sustainable culture.

“I was good but too small.”

Like every boy in Brazil, I loved football (soccer). I thought I might become the next Pele. I was good but too small. I also loved school and learning new things, like English. Brazil had military rule before, and was not a democracy for very long. Our country had terrible debt and there were not many jobs. My wife R. had family in the United States, so we moved here.

My wife worked for a cleaner and I did a computer job. It was okay but we could save only a little money. After a few years, my wife said we should start our own cleaning business. So we did. We started with a few houses, people we knew. There were many new neighborhoods, so we printed flyers and took them around. That got a few more clients. Some of them told their friends. That’s how our business grew.

“She went back to Brazil for the surgery.”

We were very busy and we wanted to have a baby. R’s back hurt by the end of the day, but we thought it was the work. Sometimes my back hurt too, but hers hurt every day. So we hired a friend to help her. That made it a little better, but she still hurt. Then she got pregnant and the pain got worse. The doctor said it was a problem with her spine. He also said she should not work with cleaners while she was pregnant. She worked at home, answering the phone and keeping our books. Her accent is less and she is so nice, so clients like her on the phone.

Then she had our baby. Everyone wanted to see our baby, so after a few weeks she brought the baby with us to show our clients. Even just that made her back hurt, so we saw another doctor. He said she needed surgery. It was very expensive. There was no way we could afford it here. But we are still citizens in Brazil and we can get health care there. She went back to Brazil for the surgery.

She was gone only a few weeks. She said I had to stay here for the business. She took our baby with her. Our parents got lots of time with their granddaughter while R. was in the hospital, so that was very good. But I missed them so much, and I was so glad when they came home. R. had to wear a brace for a few months, but she felt so much better. Our clients were happy to hear her voice on the phone again, too.

“I learn all the time.”

Having our own business is good, but it’s also hard. There is much more to do. We have workers now, so that is more bookkeeping and scheduling. There is enough now that R. still works at home. That was good because she could also take care of our daughter. She hides notes for me. In my pockets. In my schedule book. Anywhere she can think of. “I love you.” “Call me when you find this.” Finding her notes is the best part of my day.

I learn all the time. We also clean offices now, and that is very different from cleaning a home. It’s easier in some ways and harder in others. Every place is different, and the first time is slower because you don’t know the best way to do it yet. We split the work so we all stay busy and finish at the same time. That’s faster, and no one feels like they had to do more. It takes a couple of times in a new place to plan how to do that. If a client needs something extra, to take down window blinds and clean them or other things you do only a few times a year, we schedule that for a weekend. I also learned how to do minor repairs, things you wouldn’t call a repairman to do just that but I’m there anyway. Clients like that and I like doing it. It’s different and it’s a little extra.

Our baby started football this year. I practice with her in the driveway or the park. R. says she has my talent. I laughed and said I hope she’s better than that. I’m just glad she likes it. I thought about offering to coach, but I’m so busy. I don’t want to commit and not be there because I have to work. R. said we have good workers now and I can make the time. I think I will offer to coach next year. It will be something new to learn.


The Professor of Astrology Janitor has been busy with this week’s celebration of maintenance and the people who do it, so he asked the BPI Squirrel to fill in with the Kossascopes. They’re in today’s Campus Chatter. You may want the Janitor Professor of Astrology back….

Happy Friday!