While enjoying a snack with Carla in the nursing home where she lives, a custodian buffed the hallway floor adjacent to her room. I remarked that I wanted to take control of the floor buffer. Carla said I should ask the janitor if he wanted to take a break and let me polish some of the floor. I answered that I did not want to violate the nursing home’s employee rules and that it would be rude of me to interrupt the man’s enjoyment of his job. Carla looked at me quizzically and asked why the custodian would enjoy buffing the floor.
I explained that back in the day, I worked at Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, California as a building maintenace tech. I was tasked with performing minor repairs and routine building upkeep such as changing flourescent tubes in light fixtures. There are hundreds of light fixtures in HP’s offices and manufacturing plants, so we building techs were always busy replacing light tubes and sometimes ballasts.
Some of us were also assigned floor maintenance as part of our duties. The main office complex had acres of tiled floors. I was assigned a large area next to the executive suites where William Hewlett and David Packard worked when they were in town. The top floor of that building featured angled skylights that allowed daylight to illuminate the offices. Natural light is unforgiving to the appearance of light-colored floor tile. Scuffs and marks are readily visible, so daily buffing was required.
Most days, I would dry mop dust from the floor, then damp mop it to remove coffee stains and residual dust. The next step was to place a fine-grade pad onto the buffer machine and guide it across the floor’s surface–occasionally spritzing the floor with a soapy water solution as a polish lubricant. The end result was a mirror finish to be proud of. The floor polishing time of the day was the most pleasurable one. If management would have assigned me to polish the floors on both building levels, I would have gladly done so.
Buffing to a brilliant shine is something I enjoy greatly. I love to wax and polish my car’s paint. It’s fun to make my kitchen appliances gleam like new. Anything with chrome plating is a target for my polishing cloth and compound. Buffing watches and small artifacts is something I like to do when listening to audiobooks. You could say that I’m attracted to shiny objects.
Anyhow, Carla mentioned my love of floor buffing to the custodian when he paused for a short break. He winked and gave me permission to try my hand at it for a few minutes while he supervised. I braced my arms for the motor’s torque and started the machine in the middle of the floor. Muscle memory did not fail me. The knack of floor polishing returned almost instantly. The custodian let me work for about five-minutes then I reluctantly surrendered the buffer back to his control. Now Carla has a new story to share with her fellow residents.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 12th century Persian polymath, Al-Ghazali. “Dear friend, Your heart is a polished mirror. You must wipe it clean of the veil of dust that has gathered upon it, because it is destined to reflect the light of divine secrets.”