The door to Richardson was locked no matter how much I jiggled the handle and knocked. Normally, I would have had no problem with this. I would have simply moved onto the next open study space with a sigh and a grin, but tonight was different. I was stuck outside while my laptop sat inside, like a dog waiting patiently for its owner to return. The next day marked the beginning of midterms, and my first presentation of the semester. I had been working for hours in Richardson, typing away at PowerPoint on my laptop. Leaving the building for a gluttonous snack break was a bad decision, in hindsight, but what can ya do?
My knocking finally paid off when a custodian rounded the corner, smiling knowingly.
He opened the door and informed me the academic buildings had closed, but that I was welcome to come in and grab my things. I thanked him for being so understanding and hustled to toss my belongings into my backpack. He bid me a good night as I jogged out the back door toward the library.
While I walked to the library, I thought of this small gesture and how nice the St. Lawrence custodial staff was. He didn’t have to open the door – the man had enough work to do before his shift ended, and I was just an irresponsible college kid getting in his way.
My thoughts shifted to two years previous.
Flashback – summer of 2012. Location: The Frederic Remington Art Museum.
Little Jake St.Pierre plunges his gloved hands into the toilet bowl before him. It’s only 8 a.m. and someone has already managed to convert the restroom into a hazardous waste facility.
Little Jake scrubs the bowl squeaky clean and imagines himself instead as Little Orphan Annie, with mean ol’ Miss Hannigan hovering over his back screaming profanities.
“And if this doesn’t shine like the top of the Chrysler Building your backside will!”
(In all reality, I was being paid and my boss, Scott, was a kind mustachioed gentleman who never threatened me once, but a kid can dream, right?)
I spent hours washing finger-paints off tables and sweeping glitter from the tiny cracks in the hardwood floor. I washed dishes filled with clay residue and polished greasy fingerprints off glass doors. I painted window frames, vacuumed carpets, and dusted every inch of the building. I stripped wire, mowed the lawn, and moved tables from place to place.
And you know what? It was a hard knock life.
The work required to maintain a facility of any sort is tedious. Nothing remains perfectly manicured – even the pillars of Herring-Cole will crumble one day. Entropy is a cruel mistress; add around 2,500 college students into the mix and you’re bound to have interesting results.
Which brings me to the point of this letter:
Thank you, facilities and maintenance staff. From the bottom of our dusty hearts to the tips of our muddy feet, thank you.
Your hard work is the life-blood of this university; the solder to our steeple, the chocolate chips to our Pub cookie. You keep St. Lawrence University running smoothly while ensuring a high-quality lifestyle for every student.
You’re the ones awake at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, picking up cans and shoveling sidewalks in below-freezing temperatures. When something goes awry in our residence halls, you’re the first ones on the scene with a mop in hand and smile on your face, regardless of the situation. Once spring rolls around, you are the ones responsible for setting up thousands of foldable chairs for Commencement and then completely dismantling your own handiwork a few days later. You are the reason we can shower in a spotless bathroom after a long weekend, the reason we can enjoy smelling the flowers in our perfectly manicured gardens.
You are the completely renewing force that allows St. Lawrence to maintain our beautiful facilities for generations to come. You make such a difference on this campus and never ask for any recognition, even though your job is extremely difficult. Your work makes our Laurentian experience enjoyable.
This one goes out to Ronnie, Glen, Tamara, Mike, Chris, Dave and all the other Facilities workers who have touched our lives during our time at St. Lawrence.
So, as slight as this gesture may be, thank you for the countless hours you have dedicated to our university. On behalf of my fellow students, you truly are the candle in our wilderness that can never be extinguished.