Friday, March 27 – Be Kind to Your Custodian

When a new teacher goes to work in a school they're most likely told to be nice to the secretary and the custodian because they'll get you what you need. I even said it myself to my daughter when she began teaching. After all, I am a school secretary and I know this to be true.

This post is in honor of our building custodian. We'll call him Georgio. He's from Italy, but lived in the US the better part of his 67 years. I found out recently that he is planning on retiring at the end of June. I really like him, but I would say that he probably should have retired a long time ago. He has one speed. Slow. But he does good work when he gets to it.

Some might think that being a school custodian is a pretty simple job, and it is for the most part, but it is also a dirty job.

Take for instance some of the events that our custodian had to deal with this week alone.

First thing Monday morning – he is called to the office because there is a mouse in the mouse trap in the office supply closet that isn't quite dead yet.

Then there's the call from a fifth grade teacher: Please page Georgio, there's something on the floor in front of the lockers in our hallway that looks like poop and smells like poop.

Another teacher calls to say that a student had a bloody nose in her room and there's blood all over the desk . Please page Georgio.

The drinking fountain in the third grade wing is leaking – please have Georgio check it out.

Tables have to be set up in a vacant classroom for a meeting. Page Georgio.

And then there's the dynamics of the nurse/custodian relationship in our building.

The school nurse comes into the office and demands (she does that a lot) that Georgio be paged because she has to show him something in the faculty room. She stands in the office doorway holding her cup of coffee making sure that one of us actually makes the call. She waits impatiently, eyes darting around, foot discreetly tapping, for him to respond. He lumbers down the hall in his signature turtle pace. She tells him to follow her. If he were a turtle, at this point he would suck his head, legs, and tail into his shell and play dead, but he isn't so he reluctantly follows her as we watch them turn the corner and leave our sight.

Within minutes she is back in the office. Still holding her coffee cup. Poised between our two counters and facing the principal's office. She tells us she needs to speak to the principal. Usually she just breezes by us but his door is closed and he is temporarily saved. But then, to his misfortune, he opens the door and she blurts out that she needs him to follow her. (At this point, he also is wishing he was a turtle.)

Within minutes he is back in the office and letting the secretary know that a work order has to be done to have the mouse trap in the faculty room replaced. Okay. A work order? Yes, that is what he requested.

It came to pass that we found out from a teacher who had been speaking to the nurse that when she called Georgio into the faculty room she asked him what was under the table in the corner. He told her that it was a mouse trap. She asked him what was on it. He told her, he didn't know, that perhaps it was some dust. She in turn said that she thought it looked like a mouse. He asked her if she was sure "because sometimes there is a picture of a mouse on the mouse trap". She said that she was sure and that he should get rid of it and put out a new mousetrap. He told her that he didn't have any mouse traps – that they come from the Head of Maintenance. And he told her that he would remove the mousetrap and ask for a new one once he finished setting up the tables for the meeting (which now was scheduled to begin in 5 mins.) And that was why she had to get the principal involved.

Later that day the nurse called and wanted Georgio to come to her office because her paper towel dispenser was only dispensing towels that were 8 ½ inches long and they should be at least 12 inches long.

And then she needed him to replace a light bulb above her desk.

As he was relating the story to me about the light bulb, he said he told her that he could replace the bulb, but if it was the ballast and he took that light bulb out, the light might not work at all. And he said to me "and in my mind I was hoping that the light wouldn't work and she'd have to sit in the dark, because we don't have any more ballasts." He got his wish.

Sunday is Georgio's birthday. May the next three months be free of blood, vomit, poop, and mice (and, between you and me, THE NURSE).

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