The skating rink opened today, for the season. It was very crowded in the daytime. In the early evening, a locker was broken into and a person’s bag stolen, with money and credit cards and his i.d. At exactly the same time as all hell was breaking loose inside the rink house because of the thief, the new rink operator was having a fit because he was trying to get the rink guards to come outside with him for ice cleaning time. He had three other rink maintenance staff with him, counting the rink foreman, who was visiting. But no matter. They wanted the rink guards as well. That’s the regulation.
The rink operator came in and wrote in the log book: "6.45p.m. Unauthorized removal of rink guards/ during cleaning operation -- requesting material be sent from Head Office." The rink foreman told the rink guards to get out to the ice. Tino was on the phone but he wouldn’t speak to him either. He said that what Tino does has nothing to do with the rinks. “I know what the policies are, I don’t need anybody to tell me.” He blustered around for a while longer and then he left.
The new rink operator is being trained to drive the rink tractor. He’s actually a garbage truck driver. He has lots of seniority and so he decided he’d try rink clearing instead of wading through snowdrifts to pick up people’s trash bags this winter. However, he seems to be finding it pretty hard to learn to do the ice with the tractor. He takes forever, he leaves big chunks on the ice, he dumps the snow on the gardens.
But it gets worse. The garbage truck driver is only there half the time. The other half, we have one of the park grass cutters in the summer. She seems to have learned how to operate the rink tractor pretty well, but she doesn’t think she should have to do the janitorial things that need to get done. She says it would interfere with her job of cleaning the ice. She wears earphones all the time, and when people ask her a question, she rolls her eyes and walks away. The rink staff say she told them that this rink is dumb.
The garbage man/rink operator tends to side with rink users against staff, even if the rink users are breaking the rules. He leaves the building often to go over to the mall, without telling people. He has an antique car that he works on, parked beside the rink, and tonight he worked on it almost his entire shift. He dumps the snow on top of the gardens (his foreman supports his right to do this), and he still does almost no cleaning.
The foreman says the rink operator has been fired. Who ever gets fired from the City? – but the antique car’s gone anyway. In his place there’s a new guy with a very pleasant face, a Polish guy named Jarek. Jarek says he thinks he’ll like working at the rink just fine. He’s been working as a caretaker in a community centre, but this past fall he took time off to get his D-license, so he can drive city trucks now, and rink tractors too. The foreman came by in the evening to train Jarek on ice scraping, and he picked it up fast. “That’s not difficult,” he says (about almost everything he’s asked to do).
Since Jarek’s arrival all our problems have kind of melted away. He says he’s worked for the department for 8 years as a caretaker.
This calm, friendly man takes pride in keeping the ice in good shape and the building tidy. He figured out where to dump the snow so as not to damage our gardens. He seems to know how to keep the tractor running well, so it’s no longer in the shop half the time. He’s taken on the trouble-maker kids and he gets them to help him shovel and sweep until they can work their way back into our good graces. When the rink gets really busy, he keeps unobtrusive order. Most of the time, the chaos we expect at those crowded times never really comes.
He’s so quietly cheerful that the stand-off mentality we had got used to from rink operators just disappeared. You don’t have to do politics with him.