dreams and visions

Hail To The Janitor (A Salute To The Unnoticed)

I saw him the other day in that same food court in the same mall. Except the food court wasn’t the same because it was on the second floor that didn’t used to be there, and all the restaurants were different, except Sbarro; I think it was always there. It may be unlawful under penalty of a stiff fine for a mall to open a food court without a Sbarro in it, so it’s still here – pizza pooling up grease and italian meatballs crusted in hours old marinara.

And the mall isn’t exactly the same. It must be at least five times the size it was…23 years ago? Has it been that long? Yes it has – 23 years since I was working my very first real job at the burger place that he used to come to every so often to grab a soda. Yes, I’m pretty sure it was soda he used to buy – think it was Dr. Pepper, but I could be wrong. He loved The Beatles though; I am positive of that much. I never knew what to say to the man when he came in to get his Dr. Pepper, or whatever it was, so I usually would ask if he was still listening to them Beatles. Geez, what an annoying question. As if a Beatles fan would ever not still be listening to the Beatles. I might as well have been asking a Red Sox fan if he kept up on the box scores.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree

He still has a limp, that outrageous limp. I always wondered where it came from; I guess I should have asked, instead of always talking about The Beatles. Maybe he was in Vietnam and got some shrapnel in the hip or something. All I know is it was painful to watch him walk all those miles on the mall’s tile floors back then, and it’s even worse now because I’m at least 30 years younger than him, and I can barely stand the pain I experience with every single step, so for him it must be agony. How does he keep doing it every day? I bet he’s been doing this for over three decades, limping around, cleaning up after other peoples’ thoughtlessness – their leavings, their pathetic, hopeless attempts to be less alone by stuffing their faces with Sbarro pizza or buying shoes. Man, I get increased acid reflux just thinking about what it must be like to limp in his shoes for a day.

There will be an answer, let it be

You know, though, he doesn’t seem all that sad – not like I’d think he should be, given that the culmination of his life’s work consists of setting the world record for combined cleanings of soda spills, unfortunately placed vomit spewings, poop splattered toilets, greasy fingerprints, food boogers, and chewing gum cemented to the underside of tables and ground into the floor. I suppose he must have stopped counting all that stuff years ago, or he never was counting in the first place. Otherwise, he’d be living on the streets to avoid such a crappy job. Must be The Beatles music. Keeps his mind off work.

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

Is it just me, or is there something admirable about this guy? (Lester is his name – should have mentioned that earlier.) By most standards, he has one of the worst jobs in the world. That job is worse than bad. I mean, a bad job is a sewer line inspector, but at least a sewer inspector has a chance at Mike Rowe putting him on “Dirty Jobs”. Mall janitor is plenty dirty, but it’s not exciting enough for TV, so he just does it and does it, and nobody ever thinks about him. He sees everything – the messes, the fights, the breakups and all the teen drama, missing children, the long lines for the movies that were cool once and now are cheesy, the precious Christmas gifts found and lost, shoplifters, the boy bands that grow up and lose their hair, the angry gang fights, the murder and the shootings. He sees all, but nobody sees him, showing up – doing his job, not complaining, not being sad.

There will be an answer, let it be

Lester, my friend, today I am seeing you. And others are seeing you as well. Given the averages, this post will be seen by roughly a couple hundred people this week. Perhaps 1 of 8 will actually read it, and some will go so far as to throw a “like” your way. I hope you get a bunch of them. I hope every view, every read, and every like is a prayer of blessing in your direction – to you and yours.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be


31 replies »

  1. Beautiful post! I hope it gets more hits and likes, and with it more blessings. True though, about not being noticed. We get to appreciate his work when going into a dirty bathroom. I send many blessings!

  2. As someone who used to clean a fast-food restaurant every night, I appreciate your tribute to this janitor. Not a fun job, that’s for sure. Especially the bathrooms…

  3. I’m thinking of my table-waiting days, when I was so clearly “invisible” to some people because I was just there to serve them. (In retrospect, I should have taken up journalism at the same time—I had some good “inside scoop” at times, due to my “invisibility” to certain state Senators while I waited on them…) Hats off to Lester, and to people who SEE other people! πŸ™‚

  4. I loved this, it’s bitter sweet. Nicely written and very thought provoking. It really is amazing how many people in this world go unnoticed by others just because of what they do or who they are.
    Perhaps he’s not so sad because he goes home to a house full of happiness, Beatles melodies playing in the kitchen, a loving partner and a warm meal. It’s what I’d like to think…!

    • Someone on Facebook saw that I had posted this and wrote me that he knew Lester fairly well from 10 years ago when he worked at the mall. Said he was a witty guy with a dream of doing stand-up comedy. I bet he’s got tons of material with the things he’s seen over the years.
      Thanks for reading!

      • Really? That’s fantastic! A brilliant follow on from your post! I hope he does try and follow his dream of stand up, especially after so long working there, he should start doing youtube videos of his stuff or something, or even a joke book! You’re right, I really think he’d have some crackers in there from everything he’s seen.

  5. I know what it’s like to be a janitor. I never worked at the mall, but at a courthouse. The work still is awful. It’s good to notice the people who never seem to get any recognition. I always try to treat any kind of people who get paid to “help” with utmost respect due to the fact that they don’t have to always be nice about helping you, but they just have to put up with their job. Great post. πŸ™‚

  6. Great post! Beautifully written! If you have some time please read my post from June 19 “Opera in Apartment 701. “Hail to the Janitor” is far better written but Hail to all the invisible people that make life functional for us! “Let it be”

  7. Beautifully written post. Thanks to you, Legionwriter, your friend Lester (you are definitely friend to him after dedicating this post to him) is a little bit less than a stranger to me. You made a difference here. We need to pay attention to people we come in contact with, even if our interaction with them is only few seconds long, even if they only serving us a dinner…

  8. This post is particularly poignant for me because it evokes memories of how some of my co-workers scoff when asked to clean things (even their own messes at times). Thank you for giving some of your time to acknowledge this man.

    • You are welcome, and thank YOU for taking time to read. I’m thinking of branching off another blog that is dedicated to more posts like this one. A faces in the crowd sorta deal…

  9. It is the invisible people that keep the world running. I’m convinced of it. The quiet ones who do their jobs and then disappear at the end of the shift to go… where? Where do they live? What kind of life do they have? What do they think about? How do they make ends meet?

    Or am I being presumptuous that their lives are difficult? I don’t know, but they probably are. Walking on cement floors for thirty years is bound to do something.

    When I was growing up, my parents and I would visit my grandparents in the south. My grandfather was a farmer and I saw how the black farmhands were treated and it was horrible. As I child, I could see what really was, without the filter that adults apply. To them, it was the way things were. To me, it was tremendously saddening and today it still makes me cry. I write about it.

    Great post.

    • It’s hard to believe that the dynamic you’re describing was not so long ago. I grew up on the West coast, so the racism I’ve witnessed in my life has been far more subtle. My dad used to tell me stories of what he saw when he was a kid back east, seeing black employees beaten in public. Thanks for reading, my friend.

  10. Hip, hip hurray for Lester!! His job is just as important as anyone else if not the most important. One or two days without him and the entire visitors of the mall would notice the difference! Great post!

  11. Very touchy indeed ! Read the post for the first time and my moisture-laden eyes wanted me to read them again.My heartfelt thanks to u for this wonderful post.I salute Lester πŸ™‚ and thank you for introducing him

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