About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Certified Carpet Technicians

If you've ever had a bad carpet cleaning experience, you were probably visited by the Splash & Dash Boys or the Wet 'n' Jet Crew. Perhaps they pulled up in front of your home in a pick-up truck with a Home Depot machine in the back. They advertise impossible prices on telephone poles. They don't have office staff, business licenses, insurance. They don't know what they're doing to your property. That's not how we roll.

We're advertising now for some new home dudes. Times are better and we've ridden our core group of "stayers" hard for months. It's time to return to full staffing and we're looking at some new service vehicles to add to our fleet. We're looking at conservative growth. As applicants come through the door to be interviewed, I realize I've developed a good eye for those who will and those who won't meet our standards.

Most carpet cleaners come through our door wearing the "Strong Back, Weak Mind" T-shirt. This is not our impression of them. It is their own self-assessment. When we take one into the fold, he is sometimes surprised to find that we require him to engage in a program of continuing professional growth. "Hunh? I'm a carpet cleaner! What the heezy?!?!" A newbie starts out as an assistant technician, rotating through workdays with the various lead technicians. We begin to ask for assessment after a couple of weeks. We usually know within a month whether we've got a keeper. If he can master the work schedule (we're carpet cleaners, we go for 20 hours a day when there is work and we suffer when there isn't any work), can manage the image we want him to project, is strong as an ox, and can learn new things ~ ~ it's time to go to school.

The IICRC is an international independent body that sets industry standards for carpet cleaning and restoration, as well as upholstery care, tile/grout and other hard flooring, water damage restoration and related fields. IICRC master technicians travel the U.S. (and other countries, I am sure) presenting classes, giving exams, and granting certification to those who can pass. We require our home dudes to obtain their initial certification within a year of employment and to earn one new certification each year. Some of our least likely carpet cleaners have passed the tests with flying colors. Some of our most talented have proven to be poor test takers. Many of the home dudes don't learn by reading information or listening to lecture. That makes certification hard for them, because it's earned by two packed days of lecture, a "bible" and a 3-hour test that weighs your retention of every scrap of information covered.

David knew he wanted me to become IICRC certified - he mentioned it in my interview, but I didn't fully understand. I worked for nearly a year, learning the ropes, and we decided it was time for me to go to school. By then, I wanted to go. If I was going to be able to look my guys in the eye, I needed to have the same knowledge base they had. And we reasoned that it would give me power when speaking to a customer on the phone. When it was announced that I'd be included in the next class, the home dudes reacted all manner of ways. Billy said, "I don't think she can do it. She's never been out on a van." [Billy proudly owned the highest test score of any of our technicians at the time. He'd had it a month and had worked for us for 6 months.] Justin rang in with, "When they give the test, I'm sitting next to Limes." Thank you, Justin, I love you, too.

I went to the class and I was a novelty ~ the only female, and I actually interacted with the instructor. The other 24 people (home dudes, all) mostly ate the donuts and were inscrutable. I ate up the information, asked questions and dished with the instructor, as the presidential election was 6 months away and things were getting interesting. I learned about warp and woof, pH levels appropriate to carpet made from any kind of fiber, EPA requirements for disposal of cleaning solutions, and more. I can speak of 12 different carpet fibers - how they smell when they are burned, whether they will go to ash or bead up. Fiber identification! I participated in a demonstration in which a machine nearly threw me across the room. Everyone liked that. The guys weren't so inscrutable while I wrestled the SX-whatever machine. It's OK, I can laugh at myself as long as I don't suffer injury.

Finally, test time. We were each allowed to consult with the instructor about one of the test questions, if need be. He wouldn't give us the answer. He'd repeat the part of his lecture that pertained to the question. I filled in all the bubbles, with pencil, to give my name, the date . . . and I felt my jaw harden and begin to jut out. I determined that I would ace this test. I purposely went slowly through the questions from 1 to 768. I had finished after one hour. The home dudes kept pushing on. For two more hours, in some cases.

I went back to the office to see what havoc had been wreaked on David as he had manned the ship by himself for two days. He: "How did you like it? How do you think you did on the test?" Limes in far more words than appear here: "I really enjoyed it. I'm full of new information." Then a grin and a dip of my head. David: "You intended to ace that test, didn't you? I looked at the clock when I knew it was time for the test. It passed through my mind, 'She's going for the gold!' "

The results took a few weeks. When the envelopes arrived, I opened everyone else's results before my own. Troy - great job! Some of the other home dudes passed by a squeeker. Finally, Limes. I didn't ace it. I tried, but I got 97% - a higher score than Billy's. I'm a certified, card-carrying carpet technician! We talked a lot afterwards about me going out on a van for half a day with various service teams. I wanted to see what they really go through at the customer's door. That would be more powerful information, particularly if I could see a really difficult transaction, but it's proven hard to pry me from what I really do for the company. Maybe, if we ever slow down a little . . .

Many months later we were preparing to move to our lovely new office. We wished to be good citizens, so we cleaned the carpet in the old office as we exited. Cesar and Matt were doing what they do well. I saw no extreme exertion. They clearly handle the equipment well. I watched them mixing up solutions to attack that oily spot over there. I heard Cesar say that someone had obviously used some product on the carpet before us - he could tell that product had formed a chemical bond with the carpet fiber because of the visible ring around the spots.

Matt hollered across the room to me, "Hey, Limes, you always say you want to have a piece of the action. Come on over here and clean some carpet." Oh. OK. Yes, let me try it. What an eye-opener! The wand is nearly as long as I am tall. It weighs approximately what I weigh. Its extraction power is 1,200 psi - it can extract soil from the center of the earth and it is hard to stroke it across carpet. I didn't know when to trigger the cleaning solution - I took my best shot, but I was mistaken. They corrected me, but my first inclination was 180 degrees off. I managed four strokes. (I hurt for days, and remember - I'm no slouch, physically!) They were gentlemanly and just politely chuckled with me. I'm sure they guffawed as they rolled up the hoses. In the next weekly staff meeting, I spoke sincerely of my recently refreshed respect for the home dudes and what they do.

Labor Relations 101 - we try to develop hybrids. Those who are paid for what they know and what they do. Some of them are performing on the highest stage they've ever known in their work lives. I am awed by them.


  1. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it! I was born a Lime and I'll die a Lime. That 32-year period of marriage when I was a Lemon is OVER.