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A Tale of Three Squeegies

Written By William Reagan | Sep 11, 2017

Long before I was a copywriter, I pumped gas for a living. You’re probably imagining the glamorous aspects of the job—standing in a downpour as someone yells their order through their closed window in order to avoid getting raindrops on their upholstery, or scrubbing a summer’s worth of smashed bugs off a windshield. But in reality, it’s mostly monotonous tedium. Add the small sum of the paycheck to the equation and it was easy to understand why a few of my colleagues felt justified in doing a half-ass job.

But I want to talk about the employees who didn’t. Yes, it was menial labor, but employment is a simple contract: we get paid to do a job. Plus, if one of the gas pumpers found the work beneath them and chose to do the bare minimum, it was the rest of the crew that had to make up the difference. Most of us at the station had misgivings about that step in our career paths, but we found ways to make the drudgery tolerable. Here are a few examples of how:

Commitment to quality

Kirk never saw “pumping gas” as the definition of his job.

Kirk was the first guy to a car when it pulled up; he’d wash the front window no matter how much gas was requested; he even kept his belt rotated to the side so the buckle would never scratch a car.

This dedication was easy for the slackers to mock, but Kirk never saw “pumping gas” as the definition of his job. He wanted every customer he helped to get the best service he could deliver, and that’s what his customers and colleagues got from him every day.  That was his job.

Pride in precision

Jim focused on mastering the difficult single-pass squeegee swipe.

In the film Three Days of the Condor, the assassin Joubert describes his work: “There is no cause. There is only yourself. The belief is in your precision.” That seemed to be my coworker Jim’s attitude.

He filled the hours of the day by focusing on getting very good at the mechanics of the job, including his mastery of the difficult single-pass squeegee swipe, a technique of wiping the whole windshield without lifting the squeegee. It’s not easy, but Jim did it so well that customers remarked about it regularly.

Make it more interesting

Brian brought window washing to incredible heights with a technique he dubbed squeejitso.

Brian worked the late shift, when there were fewer coworkers and customers, and he used that solitude to bring window washing to incredible heights with a technique he dubbed squeejitso.

Imagine Bruce Lee swinging nunchucks, but replace the weapon with a window squeegee. He would double-flip it over his shoulder and catch it behind his back, roll it down his arm and bounce it off his knee, spin it like a heavy metal drummer twirls his sticks, and whip it around body parts like an NBA player in a dunk contest, all while getting the window spotless. He did it for his own amusement, but customers consistently marveled at his techniques.

So what’s my point?

Nobody likes working with a slacker, and no matter how mundane your job might feel, there are ways to creatively make the grind more manageable. Whether your attitude is winning or whiney, you have to spend the same number of hours at the job, so figure out a way to challenge yourself and make it endurable, maybe even enjoyable. C’mon, whatever you’re doing, it’s probably better than pumping gas, right?

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