Notes from Windward: #68


Tackling the Grunge Jobs

Adriann talks about toilet repair

     One danger of internships is that as an intern, you might be used as a coffee fetcher or cheep copy machine operator. Indeed, any organization struggles with assigning the grunge tasks to someone, and usually they go to the person of lowest status. This method works well enough in the corporate world, but doesn't work toward building the sustainable social structure that is so important in a community like Windward.

     Last Tuesday was a good example of this. A few weeks ago we had extremely cold weather that froze and broke the cold water pipe that serves the kitchen bathroom. At first it was assumed that we would fix this shortly, and for a day or two the toilet continued to be used. Then it became apparent that the cold spell was going to hang in for a while and replacing the pipe too soon might just be setting ourselves up for another broken pipe. This meant that the contents of the toilet had to sit for the time being.

the 90° elbow burst

     A traditional toilet could be flushed by dumping water from one of the working faucets into the back tank for each flush. But at a recent sale, Walt acquired a water-saving toilet designed to use the waterline's pressure to efficiently flush waste with less water. That new-style toilet is the one we installed in the kitchen's new bathroom. Its sophisticated design does conserve water, but it can't be filled by hand, so for a couple of weeks we avoided that bathroom.

the toilet's internal pressure tanks

     The intern's days are typically structured so that everyone meets for a morning walk at 9, lunch is at 12, 3-5 is group work, and evenings are up to the interns to plan a movie or game. This "group work" session is a good way of getting those tasks done that no one wants to do alone--especially unpleasant jobs. So Walt and I teamed up to tackle this toilet problem during that time. We got the pipes fixed and the water running again, and after some coxing, got the toilet flushing again, which was quite a relief.

     I have a background in academia and am sometimes frustrated with people talking about "sustainability" in the abstract sense without understanding what sustainability might look like in everyday life. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to do this internship- so that I would be able to imagine it. For this reason I thought it would be amusing to enter my 'facebook status' as "I'm cleaning the toilet- a joy of sustainability!" (Facebook is an online social networking site used primarily by college students). Walt expressed a concern that this made Windward look like one of those organizations that gave interns the crappy jobs (literally!) and asked me to write this article better explaining the situation. Unlike highly hierarchal organizations that take years to work your way up in, Windward has a lateral organizational structure where everyone does some of the grunge work. Bearing that as a group makes it easier and allows for a little bonding.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68