February 10, 2004
Tifton-- Many people have a hard time finding good, dependable people to clean for them. But, a lady from Tucson, Arizona, who started a career 20 years ago, frequently comes to South Georgia where she concentrates on cleaning something unusual.
Who knows what a person will face when they open the door to a highly specialized career. "I never know what I'm going to need," says Betty Whitenack, as she picks up a caddy filled with all types of cleaners, polishers and rags.
She walks through a big door into a dark storage area where she finds an old customer needing her special touch. "It's not as bad as I thought it would be," says Betty, looking over the big bird.
She is a circuit-riding cleaning lady who travels from south to north in the summer and north to south in the winter. Betty Whitenack specializes in cleaning airplanes. She doesn't call it detailing. "I don't know what detailing is," says Betty polishing a red, white and black private airplane.
She knows what hard work is. Her hands and arms move hundreds of times, but amazingly they never get tired or sore. She never remembers them getting sore even when she started her career 20 years ago.
An independent snowbird that cleans her own way in life. "Absolutely," says Betty as she steps down from a ladder after polishing the wings. Betty Whitenack is the only airplane cleaning lady known to travel thousands of miles each year, "Actually from coast to coast," adds Betty, who cleans just the outside of airplanes.
She keeps a book of names and phone numbers of past customers. As she gets close to their area, she calls ahead to ask if they want her to clean their airplane again. Most do.
Betty picks up other jobs at airports as people she how she transforms dirty planes into looking like they have new paint. "In a sense, I guess, I'm a workaholic," says Betty who has been known to clean two airplanes in one day.
Besides being a cleaning lady, she's a chemist, perfecting her secret polishing formula 20 years ago. "I took the parts of the products of the things I thought were best and I improved on it," says Betty.
It works. The airplane needs very little attention until she comes back. "Just take a rag and dust like this," explains Betty to the customer. "You don't even have to wash it." She spent six hours cleaning the plane by hand, a job many people wouldn't do with a machine.
To Betty, the cleaning isn't work at all. "The only reason I do it is because it's fun," says Betty.
Fun? "If you enjoy what you're doing, you'll never work a day in your life. I haven't been working in the last 20 years," says Betty.
Not many people can say that. When reflecting on her work philosophy, she does what she loves to do, with the freedom to come and go as she pleases, who made a cleaning career for herself without working.
And, yes, Betty does windows-- airplane windows.
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