The whole time I was a student at Messiah College, I also worked as a custodial assistant (read: janitor). I usually refer to this as my first true job because I didn't really do anything truly "professionally related" to my long and arduous field of study until I started my medical internship in 2014. I loved that I got to work with a lot of great people, that it gave me decent pocket money, and it gave me a sense of responsibility.
By the time my senior year rolled up, part of my duties included cleaning the (then) new building - Larsen Student Union. Each building I've had the experience of cleaning had its own character: Hoffman was old, and had squirrels in its roof, which ended up giving me the occasional "jump scare" on many a night; Boyer Hall was always well lit and had these big hallways; Larsen had a great open plan with a cafeteria with two levels of seating space, and some office space (can't forget the glass on the stair handrail that was impossible to keep clean).
But one thing about Larsen really unnerved me: on the upper seating level, they had these gnarly looking paintings that they had hung on the wall. Far be it from me to imply that the paintings were ugly or anything like that; rather, they were painted in a style slightly reminiscent of the Van Gogh self portrait I included up top. However, with the lights turned down low, those pictures made it seem like I was working under the watchful eye of Vigo the Carpathian (from Ghostbusters II); hence, here I was in another building that gave me "jump scares".
|Vigo the Carpathian|
One wintry night (prolly in 2004), I was doing my best to finish up cleaning in Larsen so that I could head on back to my apartment. Ironically, I was cleaning that upper seating level when I heard a loud bang that just made my knees turn into jelly. I scanned the "haunted wall" for any signs of dastardly poltergeist activity, but everything seemed to be in place. I can't lie: I did as superficial of a job as could be considered acceptable, and "got the hell out of dodge".
Making my way out of the exit towards Mellinger Apartments, I came face to face with the cause of the loud bang - a little bird plopped right outside the student union door. Putting 2 and 2 together, I concluded that the bird had probably flown into one of the clear glass windows and stunned itself. Well, the little bird wasn't really moving so I was being more positive than usual and counting on it being more stunned than seriously injured. It struck me as strange that a bird would be gallivanting around at night time; perhaps, if we had the "avian flu" scare around back then, I would have thought twice about my chance encounter with the little bird.
Even if the bird was merely stunned, I figured it wouldn't survive that frigid winter weather on its own that night. So, as gently as I could, I scooped up the little bird and placed in it my jacket pocket, and went home. I really didn't know what I was going to do with the little guy, but I figured I could at least keep him comfortable; I lined up an old shoe box with some waste paper and placed the bird inside. (I might have placed some water for it to drink, but my memory fails me)
Come morning time, I was in a hurry to get to class, so I left without even informing my housemates (Collins and Luke) that I had stowed away the bird in a shoe box within the upper reaches of the wardrobe. I don't even remember checking in on the little fella before I left. Anyway, after class was done, I made me way back to the apartment, hoping to come up with a solution for the little avian visitor; when I got home, I ended up finding a bit of a mess with a scanty trail of feathers scattered on the furniture, and an exasperated looking Luke.
Turns out the little bird had come to, and must have been shocked to find himself in a strange place. So, it panicked! I never found out what the finer details of the escape were, but I just know eventually Luke found a way to let it out. He gave me the kinda look that just screamed, "What the hell, Richard?"; but then he was one to have an eclectic collection of pets, so he knew my heart was in the right place.
My ex-girlfriend, Heather, reminded me about this incident a few years back. She told me that it was an idiosyncrasy that was just "so me." More compliment than actual backhand comment, it lifted my spirits. Who would've thought that the first life that I actually made an attempt at saving wasn't even human at all. I doubt that this one act will place me in that "weird" friend category, y'know, the kind who picks up weird animals, takes them home and fosters them. I just feel like it's something anyone would do if it happened to them.
Now that I'm a bit removed from my college days, I'm really missing school. Life was simpler, and I don't think I've had a boss and colleagues as good as the ones I had while I was on the cleaning crew. Nothing upped the job satisfaction scales like getting the seal of approval from my bosses (Teresa, Chuck, Dwight, Bob or Elick):
You do good work!Who would've guessed that one of my best formative experiences was being a janitor (ahem, custodial assistant). It's too bad I can't list it on my resume. Lord knows my current life could use some of that simple appreciation from the higher-ups. It really is the simple things in life that you crave for when all is said and done.
Here's to hoping that the road ahead is filled with more positives.