Whack the Mole

The longer I stay here, the more I begin to realise that working in a cinema screws with your head. You begin to do the strangest jobs just out of a sense of pride and, even more bizarrely, you actually start to enjoy them. Take the foyer bins, for example. They have a plastic outer shell with a steel bin inside and, over the course of a day, one of those bin-bags will slip out of place. This is inevitable. Also inevitable is the fact that people will keep putting rubbish into the bin regardless of this. They also put half-full drinks cups into bins when everybody surely knows that the average bin-liner isn’t exactly water-tight.


So it will fall to one of the floor staff to rectify the situation. The inner bin must be tipped upside-down into a bin-liner, then the inner bin and outer shell must both be removed to the sluice room to have the coke-saturated bits of rubbish scraped from the bottom.


Before I go any further, I ought to explain the sluice room. It’s a glorified cleaners’ cupboard with a knee-high sink and a special pump for mixing floor degreaser with water to fill the mop-bucket. Down the sink we tip dirty water from the mop and the soft drinks we collect in a bucket from the cups abandoned in the screens. Inevitably (and, yes, a lot of things in cinemas are inevitable), there is the occasional blockage which requires the judicious application of a sink plunger…


Even though the sluice room is something of a crammed environment, it can’t change the fact that emptying and cleaning bins that can just about fit a (small) grown woman in them is a two person job; my companion on this particular (mis)adventure was the younger of The Brothers. (There is no euphemism intended, they really are brothers; I just don’t want to refer to anyone by name here without their express permission. I got to know the Brothers during the two-week training course we took before the Cambridge site opened, by virtue of the fact that we ended up on the same bus a few times on the way to the scout-hut that the company was using as temporary offices.) The younger Brother and I began the painful task of removing the junk from the bottom of the bin. As ever, there is an easy way and a hard way. The hard way is to tip oneself upside-down in the bin and scrape the stuff out by hand before using the spray cleaner to finish off. We chose the easy way, which involves filling a quarter of the bin with degreaser from the mixing hose, swilling it around, then tipping the bin upside-down into the sink, hopefully taking the cola-ised rubbish with it. Where this plan falls down is the fact that the rubbish goes into the sink and still has to be taken out by hand. Inevitably (that word again!) some of it goes down the plug-hole.


In this case, it was a series of drinking straws that made their way into the plumbing. So out came the sink plunger. Now, the effective part of a plunger’s use comes when you pull it away from the hole. The suction you created by pumping decides how effective that final pull will be. Of course, a jet of water will come out of the sink along with the blockage and in a glorified broom-cupboard, there is no escape as the geyser from the plug-hole you’ve been labouring at splatters the walls, floor and, of course, you. And the drinking straws didn’t actually come all the way out: they were too long for that. And so began the most surreal game of ‘whack the mole’ ever devised.


The younger Brother pumped the plug-hole with the plunger. I stood at the side of the sink, watching and waiting for when that final pull would bring up enough of a straw for me to grab and pull clear of the sink. Sometimes, when we were lucky, the suction of the plunger would provide enough force for a whole straw to spring from its hidey-hole and lie in the bottom of the sink, looking for all the world like a panting salmon that had pulled itself from the shallows of the U-bend with its own exertion. But, hard as it was, the younger Brother and I emerged, spattered with the blood of our enemies (alright, alright; it was foetid drain water…) and bearing the carcasses of five straws in our bin-bag. And we cleaned the bin too.


~ by Scary Rob on 10 August, 2004.

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