The Man Who Makes It Gleam
By Tim Smart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 26, 1999
Carlos Rivera, a 21-year-old janitor, is at work at 6:30 a.m., when much of Washington is just stumbling out of bed for a quick cup of coffee and a peek at the paper.
Rivera came to the United States from El Salvador at the age of 10. Two years ago, he graduated from the District's Cardozo High School and began working for P&R Enterprises of Falls Church, which provides janitorial services at many of the office buildings around the region, including such Top 200 companies as Carr America Realty.
It's Rivera's job to make sure his building, City Center at 1401 H St. NW, sparkles when the first workers stroll through the heavy glass doors each morning. The building is home to federal antitrust litigators and the D.C. offices of Compaq Computer Corp. and Xerox Corp. The Investment Company Institute, the trade association of the mutual fund industry, also calls it home.
By the time the building's occupants arrive, Rivera has already hosed down the sidewalk, wiped off the tabletops in the courtyard, and made sure the elevator doors are shiny enough so that workers can check their reflections. "Then I go upstairs and check all the restrooms, men only," he said.
By 10, when the office workers are on their second cups of coffee, Rivera will have completed most of his daily routine. The rest of his time until midafternoon, when he is finished, is spent answering calls from tenants who may have a problem say, a toilet is overflowing or someone has spilled coffee on a hallway carpet.
It's basic work, with a salary to match. Eight dollars an hour, with occasional overtime. But there is some promise of advancement. The worker Rivera replaced was able to learn enough from the building's engineers to gain a job as assistant engineer in another building. That job pays $14 an hour for doing such tasks as changing air-conditioning filters and replacing light bulbs.
Rivera has his heart set on another job, too, but first he'll need some training.
"I want to learn more about computers," he said.
Fortunately for Rivera and thousands of workers like him, the area's job market is strong enough that the chance of advancement is real. In the meantime, though, check out the sidewalk at 1401 H St.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company