Monday, September 30, 2013

The Custodial Arts

When I post a good blog that is well received, I tend to fret for the week following it, convinced that I will never write anything good again. The sad Balloon hinted that there might be people alongside me every day, even in the grocery store, who are hurting something awful.
Last week’s blog was a challenge to write. Then I spent a week at work vacuuming, listing to music and audiobooks, cleaning things and moving table and chairs. Most of the time, that’s when good ideas come to me. But the thought never got away from me how much I just enjoy my job. Was I so lost for a topic that I had to write about being a custodian?
Looks like, doesn’t it?
I don’t know how many kids want to grow up to be a janitor. Some might, if the school janitor makes the job look enjoyable. But there is a certain stigma that comes with being in the blue collar field of cleaning person. When I first started my job as a custodian several years back, I had been unemployed for six months. A job was good. My new boss told me what I was doing was a ministry. And it felt good to think of it like that. But I was still self-conscious about what I did. I wondered what the rest of the staff thought of me and what my family thought of me. It may be that my self-esteem was not good at the time anyway.
It may be that up until then I hadn’t thought much about janitors. I remember the janitors at my school being frowning, cursing people that frightened me. At college there was a janitor lady who loved to stop and talk.
But my main impressions of janitors were from the media. Janitors in movies and television were often the coolest people in the cast.
I am the eyes and ears of this institution.
Carl, the janitor in The Breakfast Club seems happy with his job. But if you look carefully during the opening credits of the film, you see his picture on the wall as most likely to succeed. The movie still portrays him as a failure. But he chats up the main cast and says that he is the eyes and ears of the school. Later, after he blackmails the principal, they bond for a while.
But my favorite janitor is from the TV show, Scrubs.
If I find a penny in there, I'm taking you down.
The actor is a comic genius. His character, just named Janitor, is the patron saint of all custodians.
I don’t think I’m like either of these characters. One is a bitter loser, and the other an evil scheming genius. I enjoy my job. I like making dirty things clean. I like going into a room and re-creating it in my image. (Okay just re-setting it for the next event). I love it when people ask me if I have the key to something and I say that I do. I love working alone for hours on end. I love listing to podcasts, music and audiobooks.
And there is no real stigma at my job. I am expected at staff functions, not just fun meals, but meetings where decisions are made.
So last week I wrote about how the guy at the grocery store might be having a bad day. Today I want to say that the janitor with a mop might be having a good day. But just like the guy with the balloon, he’s thinking about something. If he doesn’t have his headphones in, you can talk to him. There may be a chance he would share what he’s thinking about, which is what I just did.

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