Monday, November 4, 2013

The Day You Find Out I’m a Janitor



That’s today. Or, whatever day it is you’re reading this.

I’ve been a closeted towel-bowl scrubber and floor-vacuumer for the past while after responding to an ad on Craigslist, and training for 15 minutes. When I met the cleaning company woman for my “interview,” she asked where else I worked. I said, “At the paper,” which, you know, is a big one.

“Do you throw papers there?” she asked next. The twice-college graduate inside me winced, but I smiled and replied, “No. I do other…stuff.”

Wiping down countertops and emptying a lot of trash cans have become part of my routine five days a week. It might be unusual, different, and undesirable for some.

But it’s now part of my crazy journey. It a thread in the fabric of my story that, years from now, I’ll reflect on and chuckle about – not out of shame, but out of humor and maybe a little bit of admiration for the self that I was who hustled to make a student loan payment, or to help pay my way to a foreign country, or to be able to afford a car.  

And maybe I’ll always keep a cleaning job on the side. I thought that the other night at 1:30 while I was sweeping around a toilet. I rather like melting into the rhythmic monotony of emptying trash, dusting, wiping down mirrors, sweeping, vacuuming…

I was cleaning the other night and one of the employees came rushing through the building. She scared me shitless because I’ve NEVER seen anyone and it’s my worst fear to look up and suddenly see someone watching me. I said to her, laughing, “Oh my gosh, you scared me!” She said nothing.

When she was done getting whatever it was she came for in the break-room, she breezed by. I told her (again) that she scared me because she didn’t give me a warning call-out. She said, “Have fun” and kept walking. I told her to have a good night. I got nothing in response.

There was part of me for a moment that rose up in indignation. You should tell her who you are! Tell her you are educated. Do not let yourself be treated that way.

And then I chuckled and kept emptying my trash cans.

Be nice to your janitors. We’re everywhere.

{And if you’re reading this and you know I’m a janitor then maybe today’s the day you find out I’m an international journalist running a media nonprofit, I’m a journalist at the 54th largest newspaper in the US, and I teach at a university. Maybe you think to yourself, “I should have said hello.”}

1 comment:

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