|Blind and Shade Operation Team members John J.P. Pittman, left, and Robin Bowerman place a set of blinds in the cleaner.|
With hundreds of buildings on campus, the squad works on a rotational basis, determining which blinds are in the worst shape and tackling those first. The team can face some tough challenges, since many of these blinds have been around since World War I.
During the past four years, the groups responsibilities have increased. Not only are members responsible for cleaning, repairing, ordering and installing blindsboth vertical and horizontalthey also manufacture shades.
The Blind and Shade Operation Team is up before the sun, arriving at work as early as 5 a.m. One Clean Team member is designated washer, the rest are hangers. The hangers head out into the field with clean and repaired blinds, while the washer stays behind and gets the tank ready for the days dirty work.
After installing the clean blinds, the hangers take down more dirty and broken blinds and head back to the shop on North Ingalls Street. Room numbers and an L or R for left or right are put on the back of each blind for identification. The designated washer then takes over, dipping each blind in the sonic cleaner for about five minutes. The blinds then are rinsed and put on a rack to dry overnight. Cleaning, repairing and hanging as many as 25 blinds are all in a days work for this group.
I like working with my hands, going out, meeting and talking to people, says John J.P. Pittman, Venetian blind cleaner.
I feel a sense of accomplishment, says Joe Rudd, Venetian blind cleaner. Just by seeing the clean blind, you know youve done a good job.
|Members of the Clean Team, from left to right: Ben Manner, Joe Rudd, Bowerman and Pittman. (Photos by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)|
We work really well together, says the newest member of the team, Robin Bowerman. Its like a second family.
The team has designated Pittman the Joker. He likes to go into peoples offices and tell them that their blinds are being repossessed because the University hasnt paid its bill.
Nine times out of 10, he gets the desired response. If I can go into a room and put a smile on a persons face, Ive done my job, Pittman says. Ill go out of my way to get a smile.
Ben Manner has worked as a Venetian blind cleaner for 10 years. He knows he was hired because of his small physique. He often finds himself in tight corners, small spots and every now and then a tricky situation.
Luckily, most of the blinds are accessible with the use of the teams 16-foot ladder, but it takes a scaffold to reach the blinds in the School of Music, and those in the Art and Architecture Building and Alumni Center both require a lift. And not all blinds are created equal. The team prefers working with Levelor Riviera blinds.
So, if your day seems a little brighter and your office a little less dusty, chances are the Blind and Shade Operation Team has struck again. Theyll be back in about five years.