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Publisert den 15. april, 2018 | av Halvor Ekeland

Shadowing SiÅs’ Vaktmestere 

If there’s something strange in your student dorm 

Who you gonna call? 



Have you ever put in a request to Boligtorget and wondered how that request got fixed? Or have you been curious about the maintenance of SiÅs? Fear no more. I have followed a couple of SiÅs’ vaktmestere around for a few hours to see what a typical day is like for them. 


They start their day at 7:00 a.m. but I was not about to wake up that early. Also, they don’t enter housing to fix things before 9:00 a.m.  


9:00 a.m.: I enter the SiÅs maintenance office located in Pentagon. There I meet Henning, who introduces himself and later tells me he has worked for SiÅs for 9 years. The photographer and I hop into the front seat of the van and we begin making stops at a variety of places. 


9:10 a.m.: Fix the dishwasher in the canteen at Sørhellinga. The water is not draining fast enough, so Henning unplugs things, empties a bottle of drain cleaner and off to the next stop we go. We’ll be back later to check on the dishwasher.  


9:25 a.m.: Fix the shower drain at a Løa collective. We check one shower and the drain seems to be working fine. Must be the other shower, and that’s being used, so we leave.  


9:30 a.m.: Replace lights in Børsen. They seem to be working, although the student who put in the request says they weren’t the day before… An easy task, then. 


9:32 a.m.: Check the boiler room in the basement of ABC. The room is super warm and there’s a loud buzzing noise. Inspecting the boiler room is done daily to check for leaks and confirm that the pressure is stagnant. 


9:40 a.m.: Unclog another drain in a personal shower in Palisaden. We’re not allowed into the room, so we wait in the hall. After Henning is done, I inquire about the drain issues. It seems to be a consistent problem in student housing. The solution requires lifting the drain panel and removing excess junk and hair. It’s a gross task that often goes to the SiÅs maintenance guys. They do it, but the frequency could easily be reduced if it was part of everyone’s cleaning routine.  


9:45 a.m.: Check the bedroom heater in Kringla. Again, we wait outside. 


9:50 a.m.: Spread gravel around Kringla as it’s especially icy that afternoon. Henning then calls someone to spread gravel around the rest of Pentagon with a tractor. 


10:00 a.m.: We go back to Løa to fix the shower drain. 


10:05 a.m.: We get a tour of the SiÅs maintenance building. There’s an electrical room, paint storage room, carpentry room and storage garage. There’s also an “important shelf”. This shelf houses spare lightbulbs, smoke alarms and batteries, as well as miscellaneous things that are often replaced. Later, I’m informed that sometimes students are buying their own lightbulbs and batteries when they should put in a request and have them replaced for free.  


10:15 a.m.: Empty and clean out the lint from the dryers in the laundry room of Pomona. It’s a task that’s also done weekly. In the back of the laundry room there’s a door leading to a storage room containing extra chairs, sofas and beds. 


10:25 a.m.: We head off to Samfunnet to make copies of keys. 


10:40 a.m.: We drive to Eika sports center and check the ventilation in their boiler rooms. We sign off on four different logs, checking the radiator and other parts. Then we head for the roof. Henning and photographer Øyvind go up with ease. I spend a couple of minutes trying to get over my fear of heights but with their support I finally manage to join them. We walk through the snow in each other’s foot prints, then Henning starts shoveling near the downspout. He explains that the buildup of ice around it stops the water from draining. 


11:00 a.m.: We drive to Skogveien to check the garbage containers. I ask why that’s needed, and Henning explains that sometimes when people move out of family apartments, they place their garbage outside rather than inside the containers. This was however not a problem this time. 


11:03 a.m.: Back to Sørhellinga to check on the dishwasher. The problem seems to be more complex than expected. As Henning begins to fix it, the canteen lady offers us banana bread.  We notice he has some tattoos on his forearm, which we learn are of Mina, his daughter. Very sweet, I thought.  


11:25 a.m.: Back to the SiÅs building, where we have Waffle Wednesday Lunch. They have waffles every Wednesday, which are prepared by Valerie, the head of cleaning for SiÅs. We stay for lunch. The lunch room is full of energy, and there’s lots of laughter and smiles as everyone eats waffles.   


I ask whether people ever get fined for damages or broken things. Henning explains that it’s rare, as it depends on evidence and intention. If things get broken out of pure recklessness it might be the case, after a review. 


There’s a mention of the Halloween party that took place last fall in Palisaden, that resulted in 386 showers needing to be replaced. The showers in the building didn’t have a button that automatically turns off the water after a couple of minutes. From the sound of it, it seems like shower parties and running water causes excessive damage when people are intoxicated. The new shower knobs thus intend to prevent further damage of this nature. 


Ole-Andreas and Håkon, who are part-time student vaktmestere, were also shadowed for an hour an evening as they spent part of their shift scrubbing mold from the shower ceiling. They sing songs they make up on the spot as they scrub the ceilings profusely. 


They tell me that often when they enter student collectives and rooms, they knock twice hard and say hello and no one answers. They’re often responding to each other’s hellos and greetings.  


Lunch break is over and the employees get back to work. I notice they’re in a pretty good mood considering the mundane jobs they spend hours doing. They say they try to entertain themselves and so when they’re in contact with others they spread good vibes as they work. 


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