It’s a dirty job …. but somebody’s gotta do it!
I don’t remember if it was something I was picked to do, or if it was something I volunteered to do, but in elementary school I worked as a lunch helper. After lunch, we washed the plastic trays with one of those heavy duty water sprayers and run them through this huge dishwasher.
I remember the over powering smell of bleach in the kitchen, and I remember working hard. I remember Ed and I worked together back there, and I am sure there were others too. I remember we got to split up the left overs and take them home if we wanted to, (They used to make these Mexican pizzas called Fiestadas that I used to love!) which was kind of a bonus!
I don’t recall if we were in the kitchen first, or if we cleaned the lunch room first (maybe Ed can remember), but we also got to help in the lunch room. Now, back in the day, the lunch room was the gym. There were tables and benches that folded up into the wall. They would be pulled out and that’s where we sat with our classes. When lunch was over, we would wipe the tables, help put them back in the wall and sweep the floor with the big dust mop.
Mr. Steve was the head custodian at the time. He was ancient, but he was a fun guy. He was always singing and told jokes that had terrible punch lines. I really don’t know how long he worked there, but it was LONG after I left elementary school. I know that because after I graduated years later, and in between radio jobs, I worked for the school district as a custodian part time. Mr. Steve (or Mr. Friendly, as he sometimes called himself) was STILL there when I worked there!
I enjoyed working as a custodian. You had a section of rooms that you were responsible for and stuff that had to be done nightly. In the middle school and high school, there were many more after school activities to clean up after. There were also more things that had to be set up. Before basketball games, the bleachers had to be pulled out, etc… At the elementary schools, you had some after school stuff, but it was never as often as the middle or high schools. As a part timer, when they needed me, I went wherever they needed me. Sometimes I worked during the day, and sometime I worked at night. Mostly I worked at night. You went in at 2 or 3 after school let out and you went to work cleaning your section. You always brought along your cart from room to room.
One vivid memory I have of working as a custodian was whenever you worked days, there was always the possibility of a student throwing up. If that happened, you got called to go clean it up. Not sure how they do it now, but back in the day, they had this sort of minty smelling sawdust that they sprinkled on the floor to soak it up. After it soaked it up, you swept it up and were done. I will never forget the smell of that sawdust!!
Best Custodial Memory
Nancy was my bus driver all through middle school and high school. She was awesome. I probably drove her crazy. I sat up front because I wanted to be the first off the bus. She had my sense of humor. She laughed at my dumb jokes and often shared some of her own. She was the best!
The bus drivers, the cooks, and the custodians were all in the same union at our district. It was not odd to have a bus driver bid on a custodial or kitchen job and get it. Nancy ended up working at one of the elementary schools in the head custodian position. I would get to see her occasionally when I was sent to work at her school. If I knew I was going to be there, I’d always make sure I had a bad joke to tell her.
I don’t remember who it was, but one of the custodians was off on medical leave one summer and they asked me to work for her all summer. It was at Nancy’s school. The first few weeks of the summer, I stayed on night hours, and then eventually, worked days.
Most custodians hated summer cleaning. It meant taking every thing out of the rooms and deep cleaning. It meant stripping the floors and waxing them. It was a lot of hard work. Some of those file cabinets and other things that were in teachers rooms were heavy!! In some cases, the painters needed to paint, the electricians needed to re-wire something, or the carpenters were in to do something.
I remember the first time I had to strip the wax off a floor. You had to use this huge floor machine. You spread the stripper on the floor and then used this machine to strip the wax off. I remember Nancy showing me how the machine worked. She turned it on and started moving it back and forth with no effort at all. She then told me to try. That machine almost threw me across the room!! It took me almost 2 hours to get the feel of that thing, and the minute I let my guard down, I might get tossed across the room again! It was crazy!!
It was also embarrassing! That machine whipped me around like a two year old!!
The Great Joke Off
That summer was one I will never forget because of the “Great Joke Off” as we now refer to it. There was a room that had one of those blackboards on wheels. When that room was cleaned, they moved it into the hallway. The room was pretty close to the custodial room. When Nancy and I were on the opposite schedules (she on days and I was on nights) it was often the place where Nancy left me my “Things to Do” list for that day.
I don’t recall who started it. It was probably me, at least that’s how I remember it. Before I left one night, I wrote a joke on the chalkboard, knowing it would be the first thing she saw when she walked in the next day. She would then return the favor and leave one for me, when I walked in. If memory serves me correctly, despite the fact that we both enjoy a good dirty joke, the jokes posted on the chalkboard were always clean. After all, teachers, the principal (who I now know, has the same sense of humor as both Nancy and I), or our boss could walk in at any time!
Many of the jokes I put up on the board were jokes (“stories”) told by my Life in America Teacher, Manny Balos. Other jokes were ones I had heard Soupy Sales tell on his radio show. The rest I used were ones that my dad or uncle told me, or that I found in old Larry Wilde Joke Books (Remember those?!).
Here are a couple jokes from that summer that come to mind immediately:
A young husband just married a couple of weeks comes home from a really hard day at the office. As soon as he walks in, he collapses on the couch. He is just worn out.
His bride comes in and looks at him sympathetically and says, “Darling, you look so tired and hungry. How would you like a nice steak smothered in onions, with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and some delicious pie a la mode for dessert?”
The new husband looks up at his bride and says, “Not tonight, Honey, I’m too tired to go out!”
This is one of my favorite Soupy jokes –
A guy is at a bar after office hours and he is drinking with his friend. He sighs, and says to his friend, “Boy, I just have to have another drink before I go home. My wife is always on me from the moment I get home till I leave the next day about money. She is always nagging me and asking me about money. Last week she wanted two hundred dollars. The day before yesterday, it was one hundred dollars. This morning she asked me for another one hundred and fifty dollars!”
His friend says, “Wow! That’s awful. I’m sorry, pal! What could she possibly do with all that money?”
And the guy says, “I don’t know I never give her any!”
Imagine an entire summer filled with bad puns, stupid punch lines, and laughter to start the day! I worked my tail off that summer, and that joke at the start of each day made it worth coming to work! It was a summer I won’t forget.
Thanks to Facebook, Nancy and I have remained friends. Depending on her mood, or my topic, she even reads my blog every now and then. She continues to post silly puns on my Facebook page and I return the favor. In a way, the Great Joke Off continues, only it is not daily. Thanks Nancy, for your friendship and the many laughs!
So this dog walks into a bar ….