It was early morning rush hour, yesterday at the Tegel Airport in Berlin. I was waiting to clear security with hundreds of other passengers. The lines progressed at snail’s pace. Amidst all this bustle, I noticed an airport staffer bend below the barricades to get down on all fours with a rag and some cleaning liquid. The crowd of passengers made room for her. She scraped the floor vigorously to clean a tiny, but stubborn speck. Tegel is an old airport, with floors that are quite worn out. And yet, amidst all this activity, it was surprising that somebody bothered enough. A fellow passenger and I exchanged looks and raised our eyebrows. Interesting! Who really cares about that stain?
On looking again, I realized that she was scraping chewing gum off the floor. Chewing gum is best dealt with at the earliest, considering how it becomes progressively harder to clean. More importantly, one chewing gum stain attracts several others. In effect, that lady was actually cleaning about 10 other such stains two months into the future. Much like pulling a weed out immediately and preventing it from taking over a garden.
One of the biggest lessons we can learn from the Western world is on keeping our public spaces cleaner. There are people everywhere that stain the floor with gum, but there are also systems that remove these specks before they can encourage this behaviour to grow further.
This is because they care enough about that stain.