There Is Always A Way Forward (1)

Many years ago a friend of mine taught in a very large secondary comprehensive school in Birmingham. As usual the school was hard up for cash and constantly trying to save money.

At one point a locally manufactured make of lipstick suddenly became the “must have” fashion item for girls. It was all the rage and continued to flourish as only fashion can. Unfortunately, this particular brand had one big disadvantage for the school. It seems that after applying it each girl would then press her lips to the glassy surface of the mirror. I’m afraid I cannot tell you why this had to be done or what the effect was meant to be. All I know is it became the fashion and that was that. I suppose it must have been a very good advertising campaign.
Of course nowadays, I know many schools where all lipstick is banned but this story took place a long time ago.
As you can imagine this runaway fashion trend caused huge problems for the cleaners, as each evening the mirrors in the toilets were covered in lipstick, which it seems is very difficult to remove, particularly after it has dried up. Suddenly the cleaning staff were taking far longer (than paid for) to clean the school. This led to a demand for more time (and hence money) and that, of course, led to a headache for school management who insisted they would find a way stop to it.
As you can imagine the headteacher would stand at the front in assemblies and rattle on about how this type of lipstick was banned and promising all sorts of terrible punishments for those who were caught.
Of course the girls were not silly. They knew that no teacher could spend all day in the girls’ toilets and so the fashion continued and the amount of dried up lipstick on mirrors, if anything, got worse.
After five weeks the headteacher was given an ultimatum by the cleaning staff. Either the lipstick stopped or the cleaners would go on strike. This was a serious problem as, if the school wasn’t cleaned, it would have to be closed. The school management was given 10 days to sort it out.
At an emergency meeting of all teachers (that’s a lot in a big school) everybody was stumped until the youngest, newly recruited teacher stood up and explained her idea. Everybody agreed it was worth a try.
The next day a selection one girl from each the year group was collected outside the headteacher’s office, each wondering if there had been a problem.
If they had taken time to get to know each other they might have realised they all had a certain character trait in common. Each girl was, within her own year group, a very popular member of the “in” crowd and most importantly of all was known to be a bit of a gossip.
Once this group was collected, the head teacher invited them into her office and told them once again about the problem. They were clearly bored stiff. Of course, she didn’t say the school might close, the girls would have loved that. She then said they had all been especially picked to take a message back to their own age group. The idea was they would stand and watch as a cleaner tried to get the lipstick off the mirror. She told them that, if they saw how long it took, they would go back to their friends and ask them to stop.
Well, you can imagine what was going through each girl’s mind. It would be something like, “Yeah right!”
Nevertheless, the group was taken to a nearby toilet and they all squeezed in whilst the headteacher introduced Mr Pitkin the head cleaner. The order was then given, “Right Mr Pitkin, please show the girls how difficult it is to get this dried up lipstick off the glass”.
The girls looked on with stifled yawns and then gradually with dawning horror.
Mr Pitkin, wearing rubber gloves, produced the dirtiest bucket they had ever seen and an even dirtier cloth. He then took the cloth and put it down a toilet bowl to make it wet. Squeezed it out and stood ready by the mirror with cloth poised. The headteacher then took out a stop watch and said “Go!”
Now, I can assure you that every single girl there had absolutely no interest in how long it took to get that lipstick off the mirror and so I will not bore you with the facts or the continuing lecture they received. What I do know is that every girl took back a very clear message to her year group about toilet water being used to clean the mirrors.
I also know that, as soon as the girls had gone back to class, Mr Pitkin, put an “Out Of Use” sign on the toilet door while he quickly cleaned and properly sanitised the mirror.

 The following day and from then on, not one mirror received lipstick marks.