Picking up some odd jobs

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Foaming on the floor
Foam was the last thing Trevor and Frances wanted to see

Trying to do the sums but can’t seem to make the finances for your great grey nomad adventure add up? Don’t despair. There’s plenty of work out there … and it doesn’t have to be a negative either.

Trevor and Frances helped finance their 2004 around Australia by picking up odd jobs and had the time of their lives. Their adventure included spending three months in Darwin where they cleaned a variety of premises, including a school and the police college/headquarters. Here – in an email back home to friends – they talk about polishing the timber floor of the staff bar … with a rotary floor cleaner which had a mind of its own.

The floor polisher saga continues. The first time I went solo on the machine I thought I was doing well until I realised that the wheels that allow the unit to move when not operating were locked down! With the wheels up a cleaning disc on the base of the machine floats over the surface of the floor and gives a brilliant polished finish. That’s what is supposed to happen.

Frances had a crack at the beast and although it pinned her back to the wall a couple of times she can probably operate the machine better than I can. We will continue to persevere with the beast. God willing we can minimise any damage to the bar before we move on.

In addition to the police college, we also clean five classrooms at a local primary school including cleaning a set of toilets. The cleaner who we are relieving told us a story about the ‘boys’ deciding not use the urinal but the tiled floor instead! Which concerned us a little.

After a couple of days all seemed well until the art class teacher decided to get the children to make paper mache heads using Glag (Gloy) glue. The art teacher, who we are now aware is new in the job, didn’t provide the children with anything to cover their desks before letting the loose with the glue. The class therefore proceeded to put the glue all over the desktop, chairs as well as the floor.

With constant cleaning it took Frances almost a week to get the glue off. It’s all part of the fun. In another incident one of the little darlings decided to help us clean the boys’ toilets by pouring five litres of cleaning chemical over the floor. Our normal routine is to clean the toilets after cleaning the classrooms so we were unaware of what had happened until Frances started cleaning the toilet up.

To clear up the mess Frances tried using the mop but unfortunately mix of fresh water and the chemical it just foamed up. After reviewing the problem I decided that if we applied extra water using the school’s fire hose could thin chemical down quicker.

The toilet had a couple of drainage plugs and I assumed that the water/chemical mix would run away down the drains QED. After dragging the hose into the toilet I proceeded to flood the floor with water. Unfortunately the extra water only made problem worse creating more foam than I had ever seen in my life to a point that eventually the entire toilet floor area was awash in foam several inches thick.

The inside of the toilet was now a fast running foaming rapid looking for somewhere to go. At this point I decided that if I could manoeuvre the foam and water through the toilet door we would be home and dry (figuratively speaking). However we could not wedge the door open so Frances held the door back for me. I then proceeded to pump more water into the toilet and corral the foamy water through the now open door. This action worked to a degree but Frances, who was holding the door open, got her feet and legs soaked.

After about 20 minutes the foam still stubbornly refused to go (if anything it got grew) and the toilet was now awash with the mix of water and foam. By consensus decision we agreed to lock the toilet up and check it out the next day.

When we arrived the next day everything had dried out and looked Ok but once we put water on the tiled floor it started to foam up again. I guess the child psychiatrists would say the child was just expressing himself – I would love to express myself on him myself.

The episode is something to look back on and have a good laugh about I think. Regretfully we didn’t get any photos of the incident. ”

While most grey nomads who take jobs while travelling, do so out of financial necessity, there is no doubt that working can add a new dimension to your adventure. Just ask Trevor and Frances! I bet they never thought they’d never thought they’d end up fighting foam in the boys’ toilets or battling a rogue rotary cleaner in a police station. But I bet also they wouldn’t trade the memories for anything … except maybe for a brand new Winnebago!

Thanks to Trevor and Frances for sharing some of their adventures. Have you had any interesting experiences while picking up work on your trip? What’s the best job you’ve had? The worst? The most remote? Email us here.

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