Take the Time: A reason to slow down and talk

Written By: Jessica Matthews

Edited by: Sarah Kiegel and Sean McCarthy

Wayne in his break room

Image Credit: Jessica Matthews

Coming to college for the first time is overwhelming in almost every way. There are new classes, new freedom, more friends than anyone could need, and for many, living away from home for the first time. But amongst all of the new and overwhelming aspects of life, do college students ever take a moment to wonder who cleans up after their messes left from long nights of studying or partying? Even the considerate few who do think about those that clean, what do they think of these invisible heroes? It is an undeniable fact that college campuses could not function without a quality staff to work behind the scenes. College kids are unkempt at best, and down-right filthy more often. It can be seen that people largely ignore almost all large scale cleaning employees, a fact supported by a custodian of Cornish College of the Arts who was interviewed and said that he dosen’t “Necessarily think custodians are looked down upon by a mass number of people, as much as they are overlooked” (Lauira DiGinlio). Baker also said that he also often finds himself blatantly ignored more often than not when he tries to speak to the students at the college. This fact made me think, and realize that not only did I never stop to speak to staff, but I that I never even considered it. Sparked by this reality I interviewed Mr. Wayne Barnard, a custodian in the very hall that I live in, to try to get a better grasp on what exactly he does, and more importantly, if the image many of us have about our custodial staff is true.

Image Credit: CleanItServices

Wayne has a very friendly appearance and persona. He is never to be seen without a smile regardless of the difficulttask he is doing, even so, before approaching Wayne to ask for the interview I was nervous he would reject the idea. After all, why would he take the time out of his day to talk to a random student? Little did I know that Wayne’s “favorite part of the job is the opportunity it presents to chat with students”, something that was very surprising to me. It never occurred to me to stop and chat with college staff. When I sat down in Wayne’s small bathroom turned break room, I asked Wayne about his personal life. I discovered that he has been married for 37 years, and that he and his wife have not only a daughter, but also a granddaughter. This on some level was already hummbeling to realize that this man’s life does not begin and end with the cleaning of my dorm’s bathroom. Wayne also revealed that he rides his prized motorcycle to and from work every day as he finds the monotony of a car boring.


Once I felt I was beginning to understand Wayne’s life at home, I began to try to understand his day-to-day life on campusWayne gave an explanation of a daily schedule of repeated tasks that range for sweeping to scrubbing and everything in between to keep the dorms sanitary and safe for the students. When I asked him to describe some of his favorite and least favorite aspects of his past four years in the job he described situations when students had been utterly disgusting in their habits and mishaps. “Some large guy one year ripped stall door from its hinges one year for no apparent reason” explained Wayne about a particularly difficult day. He spoke of instances when huge messes had been left to him to care for, simply because they were too gross for other people to be willing to clean up after themselves. To deal with stress Wayne explained that he is an avid meditator, and that he often will meditate in his  break room because he says he finds it to be “Important to his sanity and managing his stress” and that he does it “first thing every morning”


Many of us never look at (or see) the faces of custodians

 Image Credit: SpotlessCleaningChicago

Wayne did admit that he “definitely prefers working in the girl’s dorms over the boys because the girls are always cleaner, neater, and more considerate”.  He even showed his capacity for being considerate when he explained his very thought-out schedule that is set up so as to not disturb people too early, or at high traffic hours. Through all of that he lit up when talking about students and said that, “working here, you all have restored my faith in young people. I’ve been so impressed. That’s why I prefer working in the dorm where I have contact with young people.” To hear that this man did not hate us for being “young and wild”, or simply inconsiderate, was surprising, but I was beginning to learn that maybe I had more false assumptions about people than he did.


It was amazing that in one breath Wayne could talk about boys ripping doors from their hinges and using foul language at him and then continue with, “I like to say hi to everyone. I try to do my part to help everyone have a great day.” a fact I know is true because even in my own dorm I’ve heard him wishing students a good day and writing supportive messages on the white boards on the supply closets. What an amazing person he must be to be able to see beyond the mess and occasional disrespect and still be genuinely interested in the lives and well beings of so many college students. When I asked Wayne about what he thought the other staff’s opinion of students he said “Mostly good. There are a few people I know who are rude to the students, who get the same treatment in return. I think you get what you give in life”. From his meditation to his theories about people, Wayne had proved to be a great source of wisdom.

Image Credit: Aspen Maintenance

How my times do college students look at their staff without actually seeing them? As a student it is so easy to assume that the employees surrounding us are busy or uninterested in conversation, but it takes more courage to simply say hello, or wish the people who make college life possible “a good day”. It took one interview with Wayne to realize that the obvious misconception that the staff the hate students is untrue, at least in some cases; imagine what could be discovered if more students took the time to do a little talking . And it was amazing to learn the details of his life beyond his break room and supply closet because until just recently I had never considered his life on any level. I only considered my own. It is somewhat saddening to think that so many people have amazing stories and pieces of advice that students will not hear because we as a whole are too absorbed in our phones when we walk passed employees and one another. As a school who loves to hold doors for one another, maybe we should start speaking to those around us.  Wayne chose to end our interview with simple advice to students everywhere, “Make the most of this time. You’ll think back on these years for the rest of your life. Enjoy them. ”


Workds Cited:DiGinlio,Lauira,Seeking Wisdom from Custodians: The Philosopher Kings,2012