ICS Magazine

Anchors Away and Other Paths to Disaster

January 15, 2004


A few months back, we discussed some pitfalls encountered during the course of a seemingly normal workday. The article was titled "When Good Jobs Go Bad." Many of the incidents alluded to in that particular article were unavoidable and could happen to the most diligent cleaner. In keeping with that theme, let's examine some other problems that can be avoided with a little forethought and common sense, beginning with a hard-learned lesson taught to us last month.

My company booked an appointment with the captain of a yacht docked at a marina approximately 45 miles away. The man had been referred to us, so we agreed to make the trip. Being a certified landlubber, I can't tell you how large this ship was. Suffice it to say, it was large and expensive. This floating castle was replete with a huge galley, four or five bedrooms below deck, an expansive dining area and so on. The bridge looked like something out of a "Star Trek" episode. Though we were able to park the van at dock's end, I still needed to run almost 200 feet of hose to the boat.

The carpeting was milk-white and heavily soiled. After spending nearly three hours on it, we had everything looking about as good as it could. The captain was thrilled and promised to call us again next fall. As we started to tear down, I stood a wand, which was now back on the dock, against the boat. Remember, I'm an admitted landlubber, and I didn't think for a minute about the possibility that this beast of a vessel, floating in the water, might at any time shift.

I heard my tech yell, "The wand!" coupled with a modest kerplunk. I now know the distinctive sound made by a 3-jet, double-bend, stainless $400 wand taking an unplanned swim, sinking like a lead weight right to the bottom of the bay. Twenty feet to the bottom, to be exact. I had to obtain the name of a local diver who came by that same day and retrieved it for us. Well, retrieved it for $100, to be exact. A careless mistake that cost us both time and money.

While this particular situation will most likely never happen to anyone reading this, there are some things you need to exercise care and caution with daily. Don't learn the hard way.

Do you stand your cleaning tools up against a house or inner wall? If so, don't! Always lay your tools down. Many years ago a helper of mine left a wand standing up against a living room wall. In passing I happened to notice the vacuum hose rub up against the wand, causing it to fall. I grabbed it just in time as it was on a one-way collision course with an antique grandfather clock! Had I not been there, it would have been a disaster.

When you've finished that flight of stairs, do you leave your stair tool (and possibly brushes) on the steps? The last thing you need is to have the client, or her children, thinking "all clear" and running down those same stairs. It's an accident (and subsequent lawsuit) waiting to happen. Always remove your tools and put them back in the van.

When running a PTO unit, make sure your exhaust is pointed away from any flower beds. I took out a whole section of pachysandra once, something the client (who, luckily, I can still count as one) still doesn't let me forget.

In short, perfect, well-executed and profitable jobs on beautiful sunny days can turn into nightmares without a little care and caution on your part.