"Be careful," warned the janitor as I entered the bathroom on my hall one early morning of my freshman year. "The bathroom stall is slippery. I just cleaned feces and menstrual blood off of the walls and floor."
What a classy start to her day. The worst part was the nonchalant tone of her voice, as if cleaning bathrooms covered in excrement was a regular part of her routine. The ugly truth is just that: She and the rest of the University of Richmond janitorial staff have to put up with our crap, literally, on a daily basis.
This week, I dedicate this column to the janitors working behind the scenes of this campus. They are the first ones to get to work and the last ones to leave, the first to be forgotten and the last to be recognized. This shouldn't be.
Think about that night you got drunk and barfed all over the lounge in your hall (if you can remember -- after all, that was a WILD night). I would put money on the fact that you didn't clean it up afterward, and NO, putting paper towels over it doesn't pass as cleaning.
Instead of you cleaning it up, a complete stranger had to wake up bright and early the next morning to clean up half-digested food from your stomach, while you were drooling in a drunken slumber. Of course you didn't move into your dorm equipped with mops and industrial cleaning supplies, but I'm sure decency is tucked away somewhere in that head of yours.
The folks cleaning up for us are no different from you or I. They do not have a natural inclination toward crap, vomit or any other messes, despite popular belief. My very own grandmother did domestic work for her entire working career, mostly cleaning the homes of Long Island's upper-crust, but at one point, she was cleaning up for the students of State University of New York.
Even though she had retired years before I was born, I can safely say that she didn't necessarily like what her job entailed, but at the time it was her only option, so she stuck through it and raised a college graduate in the process.
The janitorial staff here is nothing to sneeze at. If you walk through the Commons in the morning -- or any time for that matter -- you can hear the rolling trashcans scurrying across the floor downstairs as the janitors are constantly getting rid of trash. In the gym, they work as hard as you do, as they vacuum in between each machine while you indulge in your workout.
The staff manages to keep all the public restrooms clean from morning to nightfall, from North Court to Jepson, and all of the buildings in between. And lastly, the residence halls -- who wakes up at the crack of dawn every day to disinfect our bathrooms and vacuum our halls? We sure as hell don't, and I'm pretty sure that our halls wouldn't look half as nice if we were required to keep them up in addition to keeping up in class.
I know exactly what you're thinking - "It's their job to clean, and it's what they get paid for." You are absolutely right.
At the same time, it seems as if quite a few of us here are making their job much harder than it has to be. Are WE getting paid for that?
Contact staff writer Kiara Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org
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