Three Days

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I graduated from college with a degree in elementary education in December. There are not a lot of jobs available at that time. To make matters worse, I lived in a different state than I attended school. That meant I had an out of state teaching certificate which prevented me from even subbing. That is how I found myself working as a janitor.

Submitted: October 07, 2014

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Submitted: October 07, 2014

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Prologue

 

“So are you done teaching?” Mrs. Carda asked as we waited for the dinner to begin after the church’s annual meeting. Mrs. Carda had worked at the school where I had done my student teaching.

“Yeah, I just graduated,” I said. “I have a Nebraska teaching certificate but I plan on going back to sub once I get my Iowa teaching certificate. Too bad it is going to take four to eight weeks.”

Dinner was being served so we went and got in line. My family sat down and Mrs. Carda and her husband sat down right across from us. I had figured out that Mr. Carda was the superintendent at the school in town. I was kind of embarrassed to have him sit across from me because I am a very picky eater. I had taken only a potato, roll, and dessert.

My brothers and I quickly ate and then rushed out of there, leaving my mom to eat with the Cardas.

 

Chapter 1

 

Another Sunday. My brothers and I were sitting on the couches in the church, waiting to take seat until it was almost time for church to begin.

Mr. Carda came over and started asking my brothers about their sports.

“Can I talk to you, Kimberly?” Mr. Carda asked at last. I knew he had an ulterior motive for coming over to us.

I got up and followed him away from my brothers.

“I don’t want to offend you, Kimberly,” he began.

How could Mr. Carda offend me? I really didn’t know him.

“I know you are waiting to be able to sub and I was wondering if you would be interested in a night custodian job at the high school.”

Part of me was offended. I had graduated valedictorian from high school. I had graduated Summa Cum Laude from college in three and a half years. I had not put in all that work so that I could do something else with my life.

Another part of me was also pleased that he thought to ask me while I was out of work.

“Sure,” I replied.

“Why don’t you stop by the school tomorrow at ten thirty so we can discuss it?”

“Ok.”

I went to take my seat in the church. I was feeling pretty good. This good fortune had to be the result of the Thirty Day Challenge that I had just signed up for.

The Thirty Day Challenge involved listening to nothing but Christian music for thirty days. God had laid the Challenge on my heart and I was already a couple days in. Already God was working through me and the Challenge!

 

Chapter 2

 

I didn’t know how to dress to meet Mr. Carda. I didn’t know if this was an interview or if I already had the job. I decided on the dressy but casual approach. I put on my black pants and purple top. I put on my nice black socks and shoes but then also put on my purple sweatshirt. If this turned out to be an interview, I could always take off the sweatshirt.

I was taken into the superintendent’s office and directed to a chair.

“We just need to wait for Leann,” Mr. Carda said. “Do you know her?”

Leann had been the custodian when I was in high school. I hadn’t liked her. She had been the head of the prom committee. She had yelled at my class for not selling enough magazines. Leann had also been head of the senior trip. I had refused to go partly because I couldn’t afford to go and I didn’t want to have to work with Leann on fundraising.

I had forgotten that Leann was a custodian. She would probably criticize me for everything.

While we waited for Leann, Mr. Carda asked me about my college education and how I had managed to graduate early.

Finally, Leann came in.

“You remember Kimberly?” Mr. Carda asked Leann.

“Oh, yeah.”

“Let me start by explaining what is going on,” Mr. Carda said. “The night custodian has been asked to retire by her doctor. We interviewed a couple people and hired one. That person decided they didn’t really want this job because we might need fewer custodians next year since we are closing one of the schools.”

“Ok,” I replied.

“So this job is going to involve a lot of cleaning,” Mr. Carda said. “Have you had any experience?”

“I had to do a lot of cleaning at the pool last summer,” I answered.

“The hours are three to eleven. Are you going to be ok working late at night by yourself?”

I had been worried when I heard that this was a night job. I am not a night person and couldn’t imagine working at three o’clock in the morning. I was relieved that the hours weren’t that late. And as for working by myself, I wouldn’t mind. I am not always that social.

“I won’t mind,” I said.

“I know you want to sub. It will really only work if you agree to take morning sub jobs. We will be willing to work with you on all day sub jobs but only if you know about them ahead of time and as long as they don’t happen very often.”

“All right.”

I was handed a pile of paperwork and a pen and given a spot at the superintendent’s desk to start filling it all out.

“Come back at two thirty and I will start teaching you what you need to know,” Leann said. “Wear jeans and tennis shoes.”

“Also, go to the police station and tell them that you need to get an ID,” Mr. Carda said.

I left the school feeling pretty good. Sure, I was nervous about working with Leann, but it would only be temporary.

A short while later, I went to get my ID made.

“So what is your position?” the person behind the desk asked.

“Custodian,” I replied. Even though I had always said janitor in the past, it sounded demeaning, even though custodians and janitors do the same work.

But whatever, I had a job!

 

Chapter 3

 

I didn’t know how to dress for work. I don’t own jeans. I wear wind pants or dress pants. I figured wind pants were to casual so I went with the dress pants. I also didn’t know if I should wear a nice top of if I could get away with a t-shirt. I finally settled the dilemma by wearing a t-shirt and covering it with a sweatshirt. I could just pretend that I was cold.

When I came back at two thirty, I found more paperwork waiting for me.

“You are eligible for insurance through the school,” the secretary said. “You also need a physical.”

What? There had been no mention of that earlier!

The horror must have shown on my face.

“It is very basic,” she said as she handed me the papers.

Leann met me and showed me where the time clock was located.

“We are going to clean the Learning Center first,” she said as she handed me my keys. “I recommend that you come everyday at two thirty so that you can leave by ten thirty. If you don’t feel comfortable working that late, just let me know. We can get your hours changed.”

I was taken into a maintenance room. Leann started loading a cart with toilet paper, gloves, rags, a broom, and trash bags.
“Let’s go,” she said.

We went outside and headed towards a small building. That building hadn’t been there when I was in high school.

The Learning Center consisted of two classrooms and two restrooms.

Leann led me into a closet and handed me a bucket of blue liquid, a rag, a toilet brush, and a bottle of window cleaner.

I was instructed on how to clean the toilets and sinks. Then, I had to clean the mirror.

Once the restrooms were clean, I had to empty the trashcans and vacuum the classrooms. I was feeling very self conscious as I vacuumed. I felt like Leann would yell at me for missing a spot.

Finally, I was told to mop the floors of the restrooms.

“Now we are going to unlock the doors,” Leann said as she handed me the trash bag.

We headed back outside and I threw the trash into the dumpster as we passed it.

Leann showed me a key that looked like a tent stake. I was to stick this key into a tiny hole in the door to unlock it. I have always had problems with keys and I could not get the doors to unlock. Hopefully I will have mastered this skill by the time that I go solo.

Once the doors were unlocked, I was given a vacuum and told to vacuum all the rooms located in one hall.

I felt a bit weird going into the classrooms while the teachers were still there. Most of them were new since I had been in high school. They introduced themselves to me. I felt like they were staring at me the whole time I was in their rooms.

Vacuuming was hard work. The vacuum was heavy and I had a difficult time getting it out of the upright position. I also had a hard time maneuvering the vacuum in between the desks.

By the time I had finished the classrooms, I was starting to sweat. Leann returned from vacuuming the rooms on the other side of the school to tell me I also needed to vacuum the office, library, and choir room.

“How’s it going?” Mr. Carda asked when I entered his office.

“This is hard work,” I replied.

Once I finished vacuuming, Leann came back.

“You need to take a break,” she said.

“I am all right.”

“I don’t need you passing out on me. I will get you something from the concession stand.”

We went to her office and Leann handed me a bottle of water. I felt awkward in there. There were pictures of my class on the senior trip to Colorado hanging on the walls.

Thankfully, we quickly left and went to the concession stand. Leann bought me a hot dog and a tray a nachos to share. We sat down in the commons.

I was feeling very self conscious sitting there. There was a basketball game going on and people were everywhere. Even though I had been out of high school for three and a half years, I still knew some of the teachers. I also knew some of the kids from working at the pool last summer.

I didn’t look down at custodians, but I looked down at myself. I was embarrassed to be a custodian.

Leann asked me a lot of questions about everything from working at the pool to college. Maybe my previously formed opinions of her were wrong. She seemed really nice.

Finally, it was time to go back to work.

“You go clean the restrooms. I am going to go to the school board meeting. I will check on you later.”

I grabbed my cart and went down the hall. I had to clean two restrooms located in the office, two restrooms located down the hall, one in the teacher’s lounge, one in the kitchen, and one by the choir room.

The work wasn’t difficult but it wasn’t exciting either. I quickly finished and looked around for Leann. Where was she? I didn’t want to go looking for her at the meeting.

I waited impatiently for Leann. I even went to each of the restrooms, looking for her. Finally, she came through the teacher’s lounge, scaring me.

“Where is your mop and bucket of water?” she asked.

“I was supposed to mop?”
“Yes.”

I went back to grab the mop and water. Again, it wasn’t difficult, but I was tired and bored.

After I finished mopping, Leann had me vacuuming rugs. I never knew there were so many rugs in the school.

The game was about over so once it was done, Leann had me put out trashcans and then we went to clean the bleachers.

Leann could tell that I was getting tired. I knew she was tired too because she worked from four thirty in the morning to one thirty in the afternoon.

“Go clean the restrooms in the new part of the school and then we will call it a night,” she said.

Exhausted, I rolled my cart down the hall and cleaned those restrooms.

When I got back, Leann showed me how to shut off the lights. Instead of a light switch, there was this rectangle with a little slit in it. I had to stick this odd looking key into the switch and pull it down.

“We are going to leave,” Leann said to the superintendent.

Even though it was only nine thirty, I was relieved to get out of there. I was exhausted. My hands hurt so badly. I had always had problems with little red bumps on my fingers known as hand eczema. From all the cleaning, my hands had just erupted.

I went home and took a bath in peppermint bubble bath. I put medicine on my hands and climbed into bed. What do you know though, I couldn’t sleep.

 

Chapter 4

 

The next morning, I woke up very sore. I had also woken up late enough that everyone was gone. My brothers were at school, my mom was subbing, and my dad was driving the truck. I was relieved because I didn’t want any questions about work. I was still embarrassed to be a custodian.

I wasn’t looking forward to work. I was attributing it to nerves due to a new job. To help me relax, I made a list of all the things I had done the night before that way I would be prepared for when I finally went solo.

Leann met me right after I clocked in and we headed out to the Learning Center.

“What are you doing to do first?” she asked.

“I am going to clean the restrooms.”

“Very good.”

I cleaned the restrooms.

“Now what is next?”

“Trash and vacuuming,” I replied.

“And now what?” she asked when I got done.

“Time to mop.”

I went to the closet and put the bucket in the sink. The bucket was oddly shaped and I was struggling to get it out. The water went all over the floor.

“I felt like washing the floor,” I said to Leann and the teacher. I grabbed the mop and started cleaning up the mess.

“What’s next?” Leann asked as we left the Learning Center.

“I need to unlock the doors and then vacuum.”

Today, I had an easier time with the doors. I quickly opened them and then grabbed my vacuum. It was a little too early to go in the classrooms so I waited outside.

Again, I was feeling embarrassed to be seen. I saw my mom, brother, and a girl who had worked at the pool.

“Are you going to work at the pool this summer?” she asked.

“No, I actually quit last summer. I just hid it from everyone.”

“I did not know that. I am probably going to go back.”

School dismissed and I was able to start vacuuming.

When I got to the office, the secretary handed me an envelope.

“This is your contract,” she said.

Leann had us eat in the commons again because there was another game. I had brought my lunch today and it was nice to take a break and eat it. I no longer felt sore but I was still tired.

Leann had me do more of the same work that I had done the night before once we had finished eating. I couldn’t get over how repetitive it all was. I also couldn’t stop feeling like some of it was all unnecessary.

When I was student teaching, I couldn’t help but notice that the classrooms didn’t get vacuumed everyday. In fact, I kind of think they were vacuumed once a week.

Also, if the teachers wanted their trash cans emptied, they put them out in the hall at the end of the day and brought them back in the next morning. That eliminated a lot of work for the custodian.

I didn’t have any choice on my work though. I had to clean all the restrooms again and vacuum all these rugs.

“Are you getting tired?” Leann asked after the game was over.

“A little. Are you?”

“Do you think you can stay until ten thirty tonight?”

“Yes.”

“If you can’t, I will stay with you to do the locker rooms.”

“I will be fine,” I said, even though I really wanted to leave.

Leann led me into the coach’s room and had me clean the restroom. Then, she instructed me in how to clean the locker rooms before she left.

The locker rooms were huge. There were four of them. Each one had a toilet and a sink and a mirror that needed cleaned. Then, I had to sweep and mop.

I wished I had asked Leann to stay with me. It wasn’t that I was scared to be alone. The locker rooms were taking forever.

Finally, at ten forty five, I was done. I was supposed to have been done at ten thirty.

I went home and took another bubble bath. At least my hands didn’t hurt that bad because I had worn gloves today.

 

Chapter 5

 

This couldn’t be good. Thankfully I would be working by myself most of the time. Otherwise, I would have to pretend that I was happy. Fake smiles can be difficult.

Dealing with depression is never easy, but it is downright impossible to go about your daily life when you are depressed.

I arrived at two thirty and went out to the Learning Center. Since I was on my own, I didn’t feel quite as self conscious as before.

As I went about my work, I could feel tears threatening. I needed to cry very badly. I couldn’t do it right now though. There were people in the building.

I really didn’t want to work here anymore. I hated the work. I was ashamed of myself. I was depressed. I hadn’t really seen my family all week. I missed eating dinner with them and watching TV together after dinner.

I swept the halls and tried to control my feelings. I locked the doors only to discover students kept propping them open so that they could get to their lockers.

I shut the doors again and continued with my vacuuming. Today I was cutting corners. I wasn’t going to pull out every chair. The floors looked just fine.

The vacuuming didn’t take nearly as long this way. If anyone asked though, I would say that I was just getting better at vacuuming. I had figured out how to get the vacuum out of the upright position.

I went to the maintenance room to eat. There was no game and I just wanted to be left alone.

I quickly gobbled down my sandwich, jello, and applesauce and drained my water bottle. I forced myself to stay in the room for a few minutes. Leann had told me that I needed to take a good long break.

Finally, I couldn’t sit still any longer. It was time to get started on the restrooms.

At one point, Leann came to check on me. She also gave me some jobs that were going to be mine. One of them included the locker rooms.

“If you find that you have an hour left and you have finished all your work, you can always clean the main restrooms. Just leave me a note.”

“All right,” I said.

Leann gave me her phone number, just in case, and then she left.

The school was quiet tonight, and it felt a little scary.

I quickly cleaned the locker rooms. I was not going to stay late to clean them like I did last night.

I looked at the clock. I had way over an hour left.

Was I allowed to leave early? I knew I had been allowed to leave early my first night because Leann was still training me. Why hadn’t I thought to ask?
The tears that had been threatening to fall all night finally came. I hated this job. I hated the work. I hated not seeing my family. I hated how it made me feel.

I started cleaning the main restrooms. I wasn’t worried about anyone seeing my tears because the school was almost deserted.

It was about ten o’clock when I finished the restrooms. I didn’t care. I was going home.

I went home and took another bubble bath. Then, I got out my letter opener and took it to my wrist.

I looked at my contract and saw that I was to be employed until June. If I was to break the contract, I would have to give thirty days notice.

I wondered if I was obligated to give thirty days if I hadn’t signed the contract. I wondered if I would even have to give two weeks.

I knew I needed to quit as soon as possible. I didn’t want to be stuck under some contract.

 

 

Chapter 6

 

I awoke, exhausted, early the next morning. I had probably only gotten four hours of sleep.

“Am I allowed to quit?” I asked my mom. “I haven’t signed the contract yet.”

“I don’t know. You will have to talk to Mr. Carda.”

I would go in and talk to him when I vacuumed his office. My biggest fear was that I would roll up my sleeves because I would be too hot. I would forget about the cuts on my wrist and then Mr. Carda would see.

“You might as well go in now,” my mom said.

I nervously went into the school. This time I didn’t use my key. I pressed the buzzer and waited to be let in. Then, I asked to see Mr. Carda.

“I want to be done,” I said when I was in Mr. Carda’s office.

“Kimberly, why?”

“I want to see my family,” I said tearfully. I couldn’t get out the other reasons and I really didn’t want to.

“I’m sorry you were pressured into this,” Mr. Carda said. “Do you have your keys?”

I pulled my keys out of my pocket. “I really am sorry. I don’t want Leann to work more.”

“Come back when your Iowa teaching certificate comes.”

“Thanks for giving me the job,” I said before I left.

I walked home feeling relieved, numb, and tired. I was glad that I no longer had to go back but mad at myself for being such a quitter.

 

Epilogue

 

I did have to go back to the school a couple times for paperwork but I always made sure that I went after Leann was done for the day. There was one time though that I discovered a custodian cart outside the office. It turned out it wasn’t Leann’s but the middle school custodian’s. I was embarrassed to see her too because I knew she had to take some of my work too.

I also ran into Leann at the store but she just ignored me and I ignored her. I do feel really bad for Leann. She really is a nice person.

I still don’t know why God gave me the job if only for three days. If anything though, it was a valuable learning experience. Maybe I will be able to help the custodian out when I have my own classroom.


© Copyright 2019 Kimberly Adams. All rights reserved.

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