Getting back to work

This has been the longest stretch of not posting since I started this blog – something that would have freaked me out not too long ago, but so many things have changed lately, it feels like some of my priorities have shifted.  Which isn’t to say I’m going to stop writing here!  Just that I’m not going to force it.  I have instead been writing frequently in a journal about daily life and what I’ve done to fill my time, since I stopped going to work on March 13th.  Those entries are too boring for the public, haha.

photo by Jess Kamens, @jesskamensphotography

I went back to work yesterday.  That was 75 days out of work!  So far, it’s been totally fine.  We are only doing 4 hour shifts, and I am staggering it with my co-workers.  So, in a job where I’m almost always alone, I am even more alone now.  We’ll see if that changes when teachers have a chance to come in, which will start next week.  So far I’ve just gone around and flushed all the toilets since it’s been so long since any water has been running.  I went ahead and cleaned them while I was at it.  (Some hard water buildup on the porcelain.)  Then I flipped over area rugs, vacuumed them while upside down (gets a lot of sand out of them – I work at a school that is basically on sandy bluffs.) and moved them into the gym.  And now I’m on to cleaning cafeteria tables.  I wear gloves and a paper mask.  Sometimes I take off the mask when there’s no chance of other people approaching me.  It’s hot.  Also, I wash my hands with the gloves on pretty frequently.  I’ve never heard of that as a thing, but I don’t know why not!

It’s comforting that everything was right where I had it when I left.  And that we are all in the same boat.  There have been other occasions where I’ve been out of work long term (after top surgery, after psychiatric hospitalizations), and in those cases, I had no idea what I was coming back into, or sometimes even who would be there.  This time, it feels like there is no pressure at all.  We might not do everything we normally do during the summers.  We will just wait and see.

I’m trying to feel out if I like working these short shifts better than not working at all (the added structure is nice, and the built in physical activity) for future reference.  It’s hard to say at this point.  I’m still transitioning.  Other than this though, everything else is still the same, in my book.  I’m still only going to the store every 2 weeks.  I’m still only seeing people in outdoor spaces, at least 6 feet apart, with a mask on whenever possible (like obviously, not while eating or drinking).  I’m recording my radio show from home, doing telehealth appointments, spending lots of time biking, hiking, and sitting in the nice weather staring off into space.  It feels like others are suddenly less cautious, as the weather got nicer and as restrictions eased up.  That doesn’t make much sense to me, so I’m gonna just keep doing what I’m doing, which now includes working M-F, 11:30am – 3:30pm (loving this shift!)


Back to school / Janitors in pop culture #1

The day before yesterday was my first day back to cleaning up after students.  It was terribly hot and humid (more so in the school than outside) and I promptly got a gross warm-weather cold; all stuffy in the head!  I’m back to working late nights.  Overall, it will be good to get back to it; right now it feels awfully lonely.

As an ode (of sorts) to my co-workers, and working all together this summer, here’s a partial list of the most frequently talked about topics:
– basements / sheds / generators / dehumidifyers
– cell phones / provider plans
– donuts and other snack foods
– retirement
– grilling food / alcoholic beverages / being a host
– “got any weekend plans?” / “how was your weekend?”
– teacher quirks
And not a whole lot else…

The cool thing about having been writing here for over a year is I can go back and find out what I wrote, at this time last year.  Here’s what it was.

I’ve been thinking lately that I’m writing lots about trans and queer identities and experiences (awesome!), but that I’ve been ignoring the other half of my moniker.  So, I’m going to start a new series, from time to time, that highlights portrayals of janitors in movies, TV shows, books, whatever.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while!

First up:  Good Will Hunting.  1997.  Directed by Gus Van Sant.  Screenplay by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

In this movie, Matt Damon plays a bad-ass boy genius working as a janitor at MIT.  He solves an impossible math equation (in secret).  He then is “discovered” by a professor, is forced to see a therapist in order to avoid jail time (for assault – he likes to get into fights), and is trying to find a balance in his life between love, his natural talents, and what he actually wants to do.  (Writing out this summary from memory, the movie sounds so outlandish and absurd.  It’s actually pretty gripping; look out for Robin Williams in one of his more serious roles, as Will’s therapist.  Also look out for an awesome soundtrack by Elliott Smith.)

The first time we see Will, he is mopping a hallway floor.  The movie people might have wanted to get a janitor-consultant for this movie (haha), because he is doing it all wrong.  Will is pulling the mop straight out of the bucket and slopping it all over the floor (without wringing out the excess water ahead of time.)  Completely unrealistic.  Also, the hallway is full of students, which is not an ideal time to pull out the mop.  Talk about slipping all over huge puddles of water en masse!

Hardly working.  Doing math.

Hardly working. Doing math.

Later on in the movie, Will is talking with his therapist, Sean, about careers.  (I’m condensing the dialogue a little, for efficiency.)

Sean: I mean there are guys who work their entire lives laying brick so that their kids 
have a chance at the opportunities you have here.
Will: What's wrong with layin' brick? That's an honorable profession. What's wrong with... 
with fixing somebody's car? Someone can get to work the next day because of me. There's 
honor in that.
Sean: Yeah, there is, Will. There is honor in that.  And there's honor in, you know, 
taking that forty minute train ride so those college kids come in the morning and the 
floors are clean and the wastebaskets are empty. That's real work.

I could be reading too much into it, but  the tone of the therapist’s voice, while delivering that last part, is complete, total snark (his character plays up the snark quite a bit though – to match Will’s tone.)  Basically saying, “just keep sticking to what’s ‘honorable,’ and see how far you get.”

Sometimes, I too talk with my therapist about being a janitor.  She has said, “you are probably the smartest janitor.”  She must not have caught Good Will Hunting, haha.  I’ve conveyed that sometimes I find it totally absurd that this is my job.  (I may not be a bad-ass boy genius, but still, in a lot of ways, “janitor” is a strange fit for me.)

In spite of this, I can easily see myself retiring from this job.  (Retirement at age 55, here I come!)  There is absolutely no “career” I can envision pursuing (I’ve always felt this way.  Maybe that will change with time; I won’t hold my breath.)  I mean, I envision pursuing lots of other endeavors – writing, radio DJ-ing, volunteering in myriad ways, but “janitor” seems as good a way as any to actually make money…