Meet a Custodian

Darden Livesay ’15

High school custodians come from various walks of life, cultural backgrounds, towns, and cities. They come with many different appearances and personalities, coexisting right alongside the  students and other faculty members. In Wilton, 13-and-a-half-year veteran high school worker   Guillermo Ramirez follows a unique routine. Mr. Ramirez starts his job long before many students  have even opened their eyelids. “At 5:30 AM I open up the building,” he says. He not only rises early  in the morning but also remains active throughout the entire work day. “At 10 AM we [the  custodians] have an official break for 20 minutes,” he explained, “We eat lunch at 12 PM as well, but  other than that I don’t really take breaks because I’m busy working.”

  Mr. Ramirez’s earlier years were spent in Colombia, where he grew up in the nation’s second-largest   city, Medellin. For him, there is a noticeable contrast between the school environment here and that  of his homeland: “There’re a lot of differences. When I was in school there, the teachers had about  double the number of students that they do here. It was a lot more work for the teachers.” One of his  favorite pastimes, he says, was running track for his school: “I used to run long and short distance  back home in my country. I can’t run as much now because I’m busy, but in the summer I do a little.”

 

When asked whether he has spoken to Mr. Ramirez, senior Will Howard stated: “I have not, maybe a ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ but never a conversation.” Classmate Hayden von Hoffman offered a similar response to the topic, saying: “I have, but not more than ‘thank you’ or anything like that.” Such statements capture the unfamiliarity that exists between many students and the custodians who provide help to the school. To certain eyes, this lack of interaction could be easily equated to an absence of consideration from the kids; however, when asked if Wilton students respect the custodians, senior David Craven firmly claimed: “Yeah I think they do, because I’ve never seen any instance where they were working and kids blatantly disrespected them. I think there’s a respect the kids have for them, like when they go out of their way to say ‘hi’ to them.” This opinion is not entirely agreed upon, for sophomore Steffen Nobles diverged in his belief: “Not really, considering how they [the students] leave all the trash on the tables after lunch. It’s unfortunate too since the custodians do more work than most people here.” Mr. Ramirez himself gave more of an insider’s perspective about the issue of whether student’s show sufficient gratitude: “Yes, not everybody, but some students do, especially when I clean the snow or something like that.”

 

Ironically enough, the excessive amounts of leftover trash from lunch are the least of Ramirez’s concerns. In fact, he does not hold any feeling of rancor against the kids, saying: “If that’s my job, to clean, then no, it doesn’t really bother me to pick up the trash.” The truth, he says, is that only one crime truly gets under his skin: “Vandalism: that’s the only thing that bothers me. When they (the students) break what they shouldn’t and write where they’re not supposed to, it makes my job very hard.” This should come as no surprise, though, especially considering that acts of vandalism are far harder to fix or clean up than a piece of garbage.

 

Prior to his custodial career, Ramirez says that he gained years work experience doing other jobs: “I worked with a couple of companies. With one I made belts, suspenders, wallets, and bags for 18 years. It was a leather company in Norwalk. I worked at Perkin Elmer, too, which is a metal and electronics company where I learned about welding for about 4 years.” To many students, the numerous and specific tasks of the custodians are vaguely known. Tim Willis, ‘15, described in simple terms what he understood to be their primary jobs: “Cleaning and fixing things.” Ramirez, to elaborate on Willis’s synopsis, provided examples of tasks he carries out on a day-to-day basis: “I handle the mail, change filters around the school. In the summer I cut the grass, and in winter I plow or shovel the snow.” As terrific as he may be, the Colombian native admits that one man cannot handle all the work alone. He cites his co-workers, José Figueroa and Rudy Angel (to name a couple), as key assistants and companions: “I consider them my good friends.” Senior Ben Foodman was able to confirm this as an outside observer, stating: “I think they’re really good co-workers and friends. They all seem to enjoy each other’s company and work well with one another.”

 

Regardless of whether or not all the students show appreciation, they almost unanimously see the custodians in a positive light. Will Howard, ‘15, made a point to commend their efforts: “I think that they have a pretty tough job. I see a couple of them coming here early in the morning. Of course I see some during school and throughout the day, but then also after school during ski team activities we see them cleaning in all the hallways and classrooms. They seem like they care a lot about their job. They’re here in the summer, too so they have to work all year with no break.”  Among his many valuable personality traits, Ramirez’s work ethic transcends, as evidenced by his response to what his dream job would be: “Working with the heavy machines like tractor trailers. I would like it because it’s fun and you don’t have to do the work with your own hands.” According to him, there are two paramount qualities that each custodian needs in order to thrive: “You have to be reliable and productive. You can’t just sit around all day.” Nick Frangoulis, ‘15, suggests that Ramirez possesses both aforementioned traits: “I think he does his job generally well, especially considering that they (the custodians) have fewer people on staff to cover a larger space. The school always looks nice and clean.”

 

What is it that lies ahead for a long-tenured employee such as Ramirez? Retirement? Do not bet on it yet. As is consistent with his passion for running, he can only envision himself in constant action. His prediction for where he will be five years in the future consists of the following: “Working here, getting more experience and learning a little bit more.” In conclusion, he warns students with a piece of general advice: “Don’t damage property. If it’s yours and you use it, then don’t mess with it. Keep the school in good shape for everybody. When you vandalize then it’s bad for us and bad for everybody.” While it seems intuitive, defamation of school property has persisted and continues to frustrate Ramirez and his fellow workers. Students, if the repetitive scolding from administrators has not resonated with you, then take it from the man himself; no more vandalism! So, what is the lesson we learn from all of this information? It is quite straightforward: we should get to know our custodians!

 

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