Archive for institution

Deep Cleaning

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2012 by javedbabar

The annual deep clean was planned for March 21st. It always fell upon or around the Spring Equinox. Dust had been building up all winter, with bugs scuttling, and mice cuddling, in the hidden corners of the Lucerne Valley Hotel. It was time to blast away cobwebs and welcome in the sun.

Thoroughly cleaning a fifty room, hundred year old hotel was a big job, too much for the regular housekeepers. The solution was to close the hotel for the day and bring in an external crew called LDC: Lucerne Deep Clean. They must be cost-effective, thought TJ, otherwise the Lifetime GM, Mr Kazantzakis, would not have employed them. In spring LDC vans were everywhere, but what they did for the rest of the year was anyone’s guess.

TJ saw twenty people in orange jumpsuits milling around in the dark car park, before a stocky, blonde haired woman entered the hotel and said, “Hello, I am Lucinda Smart, project manager for LDC. We are contracted to clean your building today between six a.m. and six p.m. I make it exactly six a.m. now. Shall we begin?”

“Hi, I’m TJ, the night-receptionist. I’m only on for another hour, but I can get you started.” TJ had met her last year too, but she didn’t seem to remember. She probably met many night-receptionists.

“I think we know what we’re doing. Are all fifty rooms open? Good. We will follow the usual procedure: dust, polish, hoover, wash, recycle, trash, check.”

“DPHWRTC – very catchy,” said TJ, and then wished he hadn’t.

She looked at him blankly, and then smiled. “Are there any rooms that require special attention? We can start on those first.”

“Yes there are.” He scanned the booking sheet and marked some room numbers. “These were in use during the scientists’ convention, and seem like they were shaken about. I don’t know how else to describe their state. And this one,” he couldn’t help blushing, “was used for my stag party last week. The less said about that the better.”

His friends had given him the choice of being entertained by male or female strippers, both wearing lipstick and leathers. When he chose the female, they vetoed his decision. They said it was good training for marriage. After that they brought in a donkey, and he chose not to remember the rest. However he did wonder how they got it up there.

Lucinda said, “Well, let’s hope there’s not too much of a mess. Our process is the same as always but the intensity is different. We won’t be cleaning as deeply as before, and in fact, we will soon be changing our name to LSD: Lucerne Supply Duties.”

TJ was surprised. That was a good acronym, but did they really wish to be associated with psychotropic drugs? All he could say was, “Why is that?”

“The Authority has complained that we make things too clean. It conflicts with their Health and Safety policy. Over-sanitization reduces natural resistance to infection. Also, on a practical level, dust just comes back again, so why try too hard? They also make an aesthetic argument; having no stains seems characterless, and no mess gives an institutional feel. So we will only be shallow cleaning today. We will be done in two hours.”

“But you said you would be working from six to six.”

“Oh yes, we will charge you for twelve hours, but only work for two. You will benefit from this more advanced process.”

TJ had never heard such hokey reasoning in his professional life, and he protested. Lucinda Smart pulled a gun out of her pocket, and said, “Look, I’ve cleared all this with your boss, Mr Kazantzakis. We will leave supplies in each room as we clean. It is an additional income stream for both parties. Now please let us get on with the job.”

Master Plan

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2012 by javedbabar

Mr. Amin was away for a month, having gone to visit his family in India. Open Hearts seniors daycare centre obviously couldn’t run itself, so The Authority had sent a temporary replacement, forty years younger than most of the clients, and sixty years younger than James. Everybody loved Mr. Amin, but a change would be refreshing, especially this smart girl up to date with all the latest developments. They awaited Shazeen Simoninian with enthusiasm.

Her arrival at the Centre was unforgettable. Sharp fragments of light flashed through the lounge. Her silver sports car’s reflections illuminated everyone present, and seemed to form a bright fabric clinging to the roof. A little tune played when she locked the car doors. “Beethoven’s Fifth,” said Gemma, knitting.

“Sure it wasn’t his sixth?” said Albert. “Or maybe his fifth-and-a-half? I’ve heard its one of his better ones.” Gemma shook her head.

Both lounge doors swung open – people usually opened only one – and a silver-suited woman of medium height and slim build appeared. There was a heady waft of jasmine and pomegranates. “She’s Persian,” said Gemma. “You can tell by the features.”

“Good morning everybody,” said Shazeen Simoninian. “I’ll be running this Centre for the next month while Mr. Amin is away. We didn’t get the chance to perform a formal handover. Would someone please show me the Master Plan.”

People stared blankly. Ex-cowboy Albert said quietly, “Yez, de Master Plan. Maybe she iz German.”

She pointed to him. “You, what did you say?”

“That your name is Persian. Am I right?”

“That’s very presumptuous of you to say that. We live in a multi-cultural society. My name is Canadian. Now can you please answer my question about the Master Plan.”

“Er… this place sort of runs itself, Mizz. Mr. Amin has a hands-off approach to management.” He looked around and raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t that right?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Shazeen Simoninian. “No institution runs itself. I’ll need to see the Work Schedules and Food Plans, Exercise Policies, Conversation Structures, Dispute Resolution Frameworks, and everything else required by The Authority. Now where will I find those?”

Nobody spoke. “You, in the blue uniform. Where will I find them?”

Zoe, the cook, couldn’t help smirking. She said, “In Mr. Amin’s head I think.”

“What do you mean by that?” Shazeen Simoninian looked around to ensure equal eye contact with everyone present. “You mean that none of the daily procedures are documented? You just make them up as you go along?”

“Pretty much,” said Albert. “It’s really not that hard. You just see what the day brings you, see what needs doing, and do it.”

“Sir, what’s your name? Albert? Okay Albert, from your attire I gather that you’re a cowboy of some sort. Am I correct? I thought so. Your duties would include, I imagine, riding horses and moving cows.”

“That’s pretty much it, Ms. Simoninian. You seem to know the job pretty well. Which ranch did you work at? Or are you a rustler? You can tell me, I promise I won’t tell the Sheriff. Most of the…”

“That’s enough Albert. My point is that you are a cowboy and I am a professionally trained facility manager. We don’t ‘just see what the day brings’. We bring things to the day. We don’t just ‘see what needs doing’. We do what is planned. That is why I have asked for the Master Plan. It provides the essential rhythm of every facility. Now if we don’t have one here, my first job is to create one.” She left them alone for the rest of the day.

The next morning began with the Seniors Song, composed by Shazeen Simoninian. “It is vital to share our vision daily,” she said, passing out song sheets. The song began:

“We arise each morn with the gift of life,

As an ex-husband or as an ex-wife,

We sit neither alone nor bearing strife,

For today our Hearts are Open to life.”

Albert didn’t sing, just shook his head. Then Shazeen Simoninian announced the 28-day menu rotation. On Tuesday when there was an unexpected cold snap, they ate fair-trade salads rather than the harvest stew suggested by Zoe. No external food was allowed, as Shazeen Simoninian said “it could be unhygienic.”

Albert said, “I’ve been unhygienic all my life. That’s how I…” He stopped when given a vicious look by the acting facility manager.

They were made to watch one hour of TV daily for “asymmetric socialisation,” and were discouraged from wearing brightly coloured clothes as they “created disharmony” within the “decor-neutral” facility scheme. They were allowed only one toilet visit per hour, and if they needed more than this, Shazeen Simoninian suggested adult diapers or urinary catheters. All talk of religion, sex, and politics was banned in case other people were offended. And of course Albert was not allowed to tell jokes as these could lead to over-excitement and heart attacks. The centre was suffocated by jasmine and pomegranates.

Mr. Amin was shocked when he returned from India. The vibrant seniors community he had nurtured now seemed like a mortuary. He unbuttoned his yellow shirt, put down the pakoras he’d brought for everyone, switched off the TV, and threw on a Bollywood CD. When the guitars and sitars started up he called out, “Everybody, I’m back! Let’s do some dirty dancing!” Then realizing that his stomach was unsettled he ran to the toilet, but didn’t have time to close the door. His holy vibrations resounded around the centre. They blew out Shazeen Simoninian’s heavy fragrance and returned the Centre to life.