With a dozen or so college students working in the student newspaper office every night , I find it miraculous that trash and debris haven’t overtaken the building. Nightly, one student will spill his midnight coffee, or abandon a Chinese food tin, or catapult Swedish Fish at a friend. The old papers that pile up by 1 a.m. could blanket the walls.
But then, every morning at around 6 a.m. our building custodian walks in wheeling a trashcan and broom. He smiles at some of us sleeping in our chairs and tiptoes to a corner as he starts to sweep. He wipes away the coffee stain, tosses out the trash, pushes in the chairs. In the end, our AP style books are straightened and newspapers folded neatly next to computers he has dusted. As he gathers his things, he winks like some fantastical helper, says goodbye and wheels back out.
Many days, I try to apologize for the destruction of his daily labor. Maddening, I would think. But Eddie always puts on a smile.
“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “It’s job security.”
There are so many of these invisible hands and unseen faces that privately buff and shine the cogs of the university every day. Some are fanciful, some not. So many aren’t willing to speak to the press because of contractual obligations. But when you get a chance, get to know their story. Make the invisible visible.
Amy Aixi Zhang