If the head of a school is the principal, and the heart lies in it's teachers, the spirit is found in the students, then it's soul resides in the "hot room".
The "hot room" is where you find the boiler, that monster contraption which regulates the heat for the entire building. It is also the first place to go when you are looking for one of the custodial staff. For me, it is the best place to find an escape from the whirlwind insanity of 600 teenagers. The commradery of the hot room has a different vibe than any of the teacher workrooms or staff lounges. More grounded.
The school janitors and housekeeping staff have a different point of view than the folks in academia. They see the nuts and bolts of the building itself. They've been in every nook and cranny, the storerooms, the basements, even the sub-basements.They know what is going on in each teacher's classroom by what is left behind at the end of the day.
The custodial crew always has the inside scoop on the rest of the staff.
They walk the halls, they are in and out of teachers classrooms. Their presence working around the building is so taken for granted, they nearly become as invisable as the fly on the wall. They see things...they know stuff.
When I first came to Max Hayes, the cleaning ladies happily advised me who I should befriend, who was stuck-up, who was creepy, who was smart, who to stay away from. Good information then, and consistantly reliable over the past seven years. Even now, I will still go to the ladies when I want to catch-up on the scuttle-butt.
I learned very early on in my teaching career, the importance of befriending the custodians.
When my compressor for an air brush project blew out the circuits seven times in one week, the power was restored to my room immediately, with no scolding...just a few blonde jokes.
Extra soap and paper towels? No problem...just "Hey, didja hear the one about the dirty blonde?"
And when I got three flat tires in three months, parking next to the dumpster in the school parking lot, did I ever have to call Triple-A?
The custodians came to my rescue every time.
Tommy, a custodian at Max Hayes, has been with the Cleveland School District for well over thirty years, and has finally decided to retire. The year of the three flat tires, I promised Tommy a trip to the Cheesecake Factory at Legacy Village, so I could thank him for his help and patience with me. For one reason or another, I never got around to scheduling that cup of coffee and desert.
Long overdue, and facing a deadline, I brought up my debt as we sat around the table in the hot room yesterday afternoon. Come June, I will finally redeem my reputation as a dead-beat squelcher.
I'm sure they've been talkin' about me.