“Mary held her little daughter
Twenty minutes under water
Not to care for any troubles
Just to look at these funny bubbles.”
The macabre poem is written on a blackboard on the fifth floor at Porcelænshaven 26. Recently, 20 MBA-students moved out and they had the pleasure of seeing the poem every day for an entire year. The building at Porcelænshaven houses 100 dorm rooms, 20 of which, need to be checked for flaws and deficiencies before new students can move in.
Niels Laursen and Malene Baun Vorre from CBS Academic Housing have been put on the case. Equipped with blue gloves and a tool box they go through every single toilet, tap, shower head and drain.
“This one has a little case of bad breath. You might want to step back,” says Niels Laursen, as he takes of the grate in the shower and pulls out a bundled mass of soap refuse and tangled hair.
The stink forces me go to the hallway, but Niels Laursen doesn’t seem to be affected by the smell. At all.
Chief of a kindergarten
Niels Laursen’s job is to maintain CBS’ different dorm rooms, and he’s the one who comes to the rescue if the heater isn’t doing its job, your curtain has fallen down, the toilet isn’t flushing, or the drain has made your bathroom into a paddling pool.
And he has seen his fair share of untidy rooms and students who think their mother is coming to clean up the place.
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“I have experienced people calling me, complaining about the drain in the shower, and when I come out, it’s because they haven’t removed the hair from the grate,” he says and continues:
“Then I think: You might be future leaders, and you might be really skilled in the auditorium, but you don’t have a clue about how to live on your own. It’s a bit like a kindergarten. When they arrive, it seems like they know nothing about living on their own, and when they then leave, they are exactly how I want them,” says Niels Laursen and smiles.
It just feels nice to help people out one way or another,Niels Laursen, CBS Academic Housing
Once he came to a room at Tietgen-kollegiet, and the guy who had lived there had just left it as it was. Dishes on the counter, gigantic dust bunnies in the corners and all the pots, pans and such were left on the bed.
“People say to me: But Niels, this has happened so often, you can’t keep getting surprised. But as a matter of fact, I keep getting surprised,” he says.
In the hallway, Niels Laursen stands looking at the poem on the blackboard.
“I wrote this,” he says and laughs.
“Why?” I ask.
“Well, when I was apprenticing as a carpenter, back in the day, I was taught this poem. And it has just stuck ever since. One day, back in 2010 or 2011, two students were standing here at the hallway reciting poems and I told them this one,” says Niels Laursen.
“How did they react?”
He laughs than says, “they were a little shocked.”
“You know, it’s really just for the fun of it,” he says and looks at the poem.
Pro tips and jokes
Niels Laursen is a talkative guy. While he changes the insides of a toilet cistern, he gives a pro tip.
“You see this? This is the biggest issue,” says Niels Laursen and shows me the calcified insides of the toilet which has stopped working.
“We have so much chalk in the water in Copenhagen and it sticks to this part. But there is a way to get rid of it. Just empty the toilet cistern, pour in a bottle of acetic acid, fill up the toilet cistern with water and leave it as long as possible. Voila, your toilet works again,” he says and smiles.
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Next up is a lamp in a bathroom. The bulbs are blown. Niels Laursen admits that he doesn’t like working with electricity. But he’s alright with changing light bulbs.
“Do you want to hear a joke?”
“Sure,” I reply. Who doesn’t?
Niels Laursen stops his work and for a little while, thinks about how to get the joke right.
“A prostitute, a soldier, a politician and an electrician discuss which profession is the oldest,” he starts and continues to explain the story he puts in the new light bulbs:
“The prostitute says, her profession is named in the Bible. The soldier says, wars have been around since Cain and Abel. The politician answers that politic is the reason for wars. The electrician laughs and says his profession is the oldest, but the others argue that electricity wasn’t around until the 1870s. Nah, says the electrician. When God on the third day said: “Let there be light.” We had already installed the cables,” says Niels Laursen and then turns on the light switch. They work.
Even though the job description for Niels Laursen just states maintenance, he can’t help himself from helping in other ways.
When exchange students arrive to Denmark some of them are on their own for the first time and it might be a little scary, to say the least.
“Sometimes, it feels like I have 80 kids. Both in terms of teaching them manners but also to take care of some of them. Some are not feeling that well during the first couple of weeks, and sometimes they just need someone to talk to. And I don’t mind being that person. It just feels nice to help people out one way or another,” he says.
A good time
Today Niels Laursen has Malene Baun Vorre with him to help check the rooms. Normally Malene Baun Vorre takes care of booking and housing guests. But once in a while, when it’s really busy around semester start, she puts on a pair of gloves and borrows tools from Niels Laursens tool box. And she doesn’t mind at all.
“It’s always a lot of fun working with Niels. I spend most of my time at the office, so it’s a really nice break to empty drains and fix taps along with Niels,” she says.
From one of the other rooms Niels Laursen is happily whistling.