thing I hate the most about being a super isÖ (drum roll please)
before you start sending me your hate mail, hear me out. Iím probably not
referring to you. If youíre the kind of super who is always trying to become
a better person -- and by extension a better super Ė then this is not about
you. In fact, if youíre reading this youíre probably the kind of person who
is always attempting to advance, educate yourself and change for the better,
and almost certainly not the kind of super Iím referring to.
explain why I strongly dislike some other supers.
I see it
time after time. A contractor, whom I donít know from Adam or Eve, comes
into my building with a huge chip on his shoulder. He looks at me like heís
already convicted me of a capital crime and wants to execute me for the rest
of my life. Why? We never met before. So why does he hate me so much? Or
shun me like I have an extra head, or Spock ears? Why would someone I never
met until today (yes, this did happen to me) accuse me of having an ulterior
motive for locking a door, a door that I always close when I see it open,
and one that my buildingís security policy calls for me to do just that? Why
does he choose to believe, with no proof or experience with me whatsoever,
that I have a mandate and a calling, directly from the super deity, to put
him out of business?
indeed? Because heís met plenty of supers before me who are parasites of the
worst kind. Or extortionists who take the art of the shakedown to
extraordinary new lows. Bloodsuckers or sycophants. Some are thieves. Some
incompetent. And some are lazy to the point of being useless Ė or worse,
they get in the way of others doing real work.
although weíve never met, has already projected those traits onto me, even
though Iím none of those things even on my worst days. It makes us all look
bad. I donít need any help to look bad. Some days I can do it all by my
lonesome with both hands tied behind my back.
of this today because I overheard a contractor, whom I had never met before,
whispering to my doorman, asking if I was the super. When he finished, and
turned toward me, I was smiling inside and wanted very much to respond to
him glibly in some way, but resolved to let this play out as HE wanted it to
play out, to better understand his point of view. He chose to say nothing,
not knowing that I had understood the conversation just finished. He avoided
eye contact or starting a conversation of any kind, like I was the
proverbial leper. He seemed afraid of me, but WE HAD NEVER MET. He had a
chance to introduce himself to me Ė I was standing right there in front of
him Ė but he didnít do it.
sad. One of the first orders of business for a super is to smooth the
progress of those contractors who work for our residents, whether theyíre a
large renovation contractor or a one man window cleaner. Like it or not, if
we donít deal with them upfront and straight up, we will still have to deal
with them. It will just be much more troublesome. If we fail to communicate
our expectations to them, and arenít as helpful and friendly and open as
possible, there will often be more cleaning up to do after them, both
literally and figuratively.
know what previous bad experiences this window washer had with supers in
other buildings -- and I donít much care. But I didnít like the feeling I
got, of being painted with that broad brush, making me feel like Iím just
like all the really bad apples out there. And when someone takes it on
himself or herself to assume the worst of me because of my profession, it
hurts a lot.
advocating we conform to every whim of how others think we should be, but we
should be aware of how weíre seen as a whole segment of the building
maintenance field, by a whole other segment of the workforce, with whom we
have to make nice daily.
someone holds up a mirror to our collective faces, we should open our eyes
and examine the reflection closely, whether or not we like what we see, and
make those changes that are possible. If we open our eyes and our brains,
and shine the brightest light possible on the subject, we can see ourselves
as others see us and take something worthwhile away from it, and often learn
to do things differently -- and ultimately better.
it? What makes a contractor hate a super? Viscerally despise, loathe, look
down on, detest him? WellÖ far be it from me to admit to EVER having done
anything to make a contractor hate me. Still, I have had the distinct
displeasure to spend time around some really bad ones, and one can learn a
lot of what NOT to do from those.
A few of
the things Iíve learned over the years:
Donít do it for the money. Never let people think that you do what you
do only for the money, or the tips. Make everyone believe (because YOU
believe it first) that you do what you do, each and every day, for the
love of your job and for the great people of your building. Furthermore,
always be becoming that kind of person. People donít want to see a hand
out each time they spot you approaching. IF you get a tip for something
you do, fine. But donít ask for it Ė ever. Not overtly or otherwise. This
includes your dealings with contractors as well as residents. And donít
feel that itís owed to you for anything youíve done, unless thatís the
deal you made before doing the job.
your failures as well as your successes. We are fallible. Weak, frail,
sometimes pathetic. Even supers in the rarified atmosphere weíre in make
mistakes! Be ready to admit, at least to yourself, when youíre wrong, and
be willing and able to change your ways of thinking and doing, if
circumstances points out to you a better way. A little humility goes a
Donít make others look bad. Donít go out of your way to make someone
come across terribly, or to make yourself look better than the other guy.
It will backfire and you will end up looking really dreadful. Weíre not
always in competition with each other. Or shouldnít be. Make the other guy
look first-rate today and he, or someone else, will surely return the
Donít play God. You are not the Supreme Being, you never will be, and
if you think you are, even for a minute, turn yourself in to the nearest
asylum, maybe get that reality check software installed. Sure you have
some power as the super; donít abuse it. Donít judge residents or
contractors, and donít treat them as though theyíre expendable, like your
pawns. No one wants to sense that they donít matter in your overall scheme
Cultivate your senses of humor and wonder. Burnout in this job can
kill you, literally. Life is very funny and weird in a strange, sometimes
numbing kind of way, but donít take yourself or your job too seriously.
Remember the joy in laughter. Donít forget to have fun. Take vacations and
long weekends. Develop and pursue other interests and hobbies, and make
the most of your relationships.
change a whole segment of the work force by following these principles? No.
I can only change myself, and changing oneself is always slow, and
frequently painful. But when you hear from contractors and their employees,
with grateful awe on their faces, ďYouíre not like other supers Iíve known Ė
youíre very helpful, friendly, accessible, patientÖĒ suddenly itís all
know that youíre on the right track. And In so doing youíve done a good
thing, not only for yourself and those who work around you and for you, but
for all building maintenance workers everywhere. Maybe even for the next
generation of supers. Wouldnít THAT be cool?