By Ernie Fowler – Nashville CHSD #99
Many of our high school students either already have or will be looking for their first jobs out in the real world. I find it commendable when young people want to take responsibility for things they want whether than be a car, new clothes, or even college. Most first jobs are not glamorous. They allow students to put into practice some of what they learn in high school such as self-discipline. Be on time, give a good effort, get along with others, and then reap the reward….grades or a paycheck. What was your first job? Do you remember being a teen and finding out that you were hired?
I was fifteen years old when I first entered the work force. I was thrilled to find out that I had been selected as a summer custodian at the local high school. Little did I know that thirty nine years later I would still be working at a high school….only in a slightly different capacity. I spend a lot of my time now sitting behind a desk. In 1977 I spent a lot of my time sitting under desks. One of my tasks involved taking a pickle bucket and scraper into every classroom, sitting on the floor, and removing chewing gum that students had cleverly stuck underneath. I amassed quite a collection during the summer of ’77. Double mint, Juicy Fruit, Dentyne, and quite a bit of bubble gum. I left no chair unturned and no desk escaped my prodding. Finally, the task was completed and I had won the approval of the head janitor. I was promoted from sitting on those old wooden classroom floors. Like a drill sergeant, I heard his affectionate words…..”Fowler, get over here. I got a new job for you”. Yes, my hard work had paid off. I was about to receive the baton that would elevate me from the lowest rung of the custodial chain. That baton turned out to be……a toilet brush!
More disgusting that what came out of the student’s mouth was what came out of…..well the area most akin to the toilet. I spent a few days swabbing, spraying, dunking, flushing, and repeating. Ninety five degrees, no air conditioning, and I traveling from one bathroom to the other. I’m not sure if it was the heat or the noxious chemical the janitors gave me to bust through whatever but, by the end of the day, I went home weak and with a headache. I would return the next day to the jeers of the veteran janitors. “Here comes the Tidy Bowl man!” Very funny.
I finally completed the potty party that I was assigned. I had been catapulted to the epitome of the custodial sciences. Little did I know that it was somewhat of a prank. I was shown a floor buffer. I quickly learned that a 100 pound kid will lose when up against such a monster machine. I grabbed on and everything felt fine until the janitor flipped the switch. I can still hear the sick laughter as the team of custodians saw me fly off of the buffer and then frantically try to get the spinning tool of Satan under control. I was then told that my real task was with a mop and bucket. “The men” would handle the buffer.
At 15, I didn’t care that I wasn’t one of “the men”. I didn’t care that I would never have the talent necessary to be head custodian. All I knew was, at the end of the week, I had made $92. In my teen age mind, I was almost as rich as Donald Trump.
School Is Only Two Weeks Away