Thursday, February 05, 2009

Who Runs This Place, Anyway?

Traditional wisdom suggests the custodian. Teachers and principals come and go, and really they're only sometimes in charge of some of the people, but the building belongs to the custodians. I don't know whether they can still buy Jeeps on the city's dime and drive them home for good after a while, but there's no question who the ultimate authority is.

Now the custodians in our building are indispensable. It's their job to not provide paper towels or toilet paper in the trailers, to make sure the sinks and water fountains never get fixed, and most importantly, to dump garbage in the teachers' desk if the kids fail to leave the trailer clean enough for their demanding standards.

As they are so important, I don't depend on them, ever, for anything. That's why, on the rare occasions when I wheel a TV to the trailer, I bring a kid with me on the way back. You see, there's only one door with a ramp to the building, and for our convenience, it's always left locked. As we're not privy to the key, I have a kid go inside and open the door for me.

A colleague of mine, unschooled in the ways of the trailer, failed to plan ahead. Standing by the door, he saw a custodian walk by, and asked, "Have you got a key to this door?"

The custodian looked at him with disdain. "Yeah, I have a key to that door," he said, and just stood there.

"Could you open it?" asked my naive friend.

"Oh, you think I have nothing better to do than open doors for you? Is that what you think?"

"No," said my friend. "I'd just really like it if you would open the door."

"Well, you didn't say please," pointed out the custodian. After a long day of not stocking paper towels and toilet paper, not fixing sinks and water fountains, and teaching educators important lessons by dumping Coca Cola in their desks, social niceties are a must.

"I'm sorry," said my friend. "Would you please open the door?"

The custodian looked at him, shook his head, and opened the door. Then he got back to the important work of not cleaning the trailers.
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