Friday 22 May 2015


I was walking past the local high school this morning when something just didn’t seem right. I know; there aren’t any cars in the parking lot just a truck or two. The trucks were from the Calgary Board of Education and the five or six people with reflective safety vests were milling around aimlessly.

I know school isn’t finished for the year because the big billboard sign mentions that exams are in June and the end of season show has tickets for $5 and $8 at the door. I imagine it would be pretty good bang for the buck, entertainment wise. It isn’t the long weekend, that has passed and all I can think is that Friday was cancelled due to apathy.

The Board people were wandering at the edges of the field with bags and pick up tongs. God forbid they use a stick with a nail in the end. A stick and a nail just isn’t high tech enough I suppose. I surmised that they were picking up paper, cardboard, plastic bags and other garbage in preparation for the lawn getting cut later on in the day or weekend. They were doing a pretty piss poor job of it, but the big motorized lawnmower probably just chops up anything and everything that happens to be in its path.

I couldn’t help thinking back many years to when I was in school and the school janitor had to cut the lawn by himself. Granted he didn’t cut the field, but he did all the rest of the outdoor work. Every day in the winter he would make sure there was no snow and ice to trip up the little darlings that came to fill their heads with knowledge. During the day, the janitor would be seen walking up and down the hallways pushing his broom. He would clean writing off of desks and repair the minor damage we would do to the school. Anything that needed fixing, he was the man to do it.

I have a buddy that was a school janitor for his entire working career and one time he told me how things had changed over the years. When he first started he apprenticed to an older guy at a particular school and when he was deemed fit to take on the job he was given a school. At one point he worked at a school with one other janitor and a roving young apprentice who would go where needed. There was rarely enough time in the day to get all the work done.

They had an office that was in the boiler room that was filled with shelves containing all the bits and bobs necessary to keep the school running, Nails, screws, bolts, nuts, hinges, wire, glass panes, plumbing and electrical supplies, paint and of course the always needed cleaning supplies. There were all sorts of hand tools, power tools, paint brushes, rollers, shovels, brooms and mops and buckets. Oh, and a large supply of toilet paper of course. You had to be organized to keep track of everything. He would also keep track of jobs that needed to be done during the summer months.

Time marched on and eventually he was the only janitor left at the school. He did sweeping and some cleaning, but by then the board had decided it was more efficient for them to contract out all of the work. He no longer needed an office because he wasn’t allowed to do any work other than sweeping the halls and shovelling the snow. Any major work he would just call in to the board and they would send someone out to fix the problem. They often forgot and it would be weeks before it was dealt with. That’s the price of progress I suppose.

Well, at least the board is saving money now.

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