Thursday, October 25, 2012

Found Treasures VII: Custodial Photographs

For several years as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University (BYU), I worked as a custodian in the evenings. I spend most of my time taking care of the Auxiliary Services Maintenance Building (AXMB), but sometimes I was assigned instead to the Auxiliary Services Laundry Building (AXLB), the University Press Building (UPB), or the Student Auxiliary Services Building (SASB).[1] Now, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilets, etc., while necessary isn't very mentally stimulating. So I sometimes came up with crazy ideas to occupy my mind. And sometimes I even followed through with some of those crazy ideas. Like…

One day I told one of my coworkers, Nick (in the blue coveralls), that the many empty toilet paper rolls and empty paper towel rolls we threw away each day should be put to better use. He scoffed at me and told me that there was nothing else they could be used for.[2] I disagreed. He asked for an example, so I said they could be used to make a trophy. He said he'd like to see that and assumed that the conversation had ended. Two weeks later I presented him with The Grease Lightning Award. If you look closely at Buzz Lightyear, you can see that he has a floor polishing machine in his right hand and a mop in his left hand (next to a yellow mop bucket). In front of him is a black trash can and a bag dirty rags. If you haven't been a BYU custodian, you probably can't appreciate the realism and minute attention to detail that went into this trophy. But Nick appreciated it…enough to hide it in a closet and pretend I'd never proposed finding new uses for empty paper towel rolls. (You can't see them in the photo, but the empty paper towel rolls make up the base of the trophy.) Loren (far left) and Jason (in the V-neck sweater) helped with the construction of the trophy.

Early on in my custodial career I tested all the solutions in the custodial closet to see if they were flammable—and one of them was. It was a polish for hinges and door handles that we rarely used. So I sprayed some into a Mason jar, took it up on the roof, lit it on fire, and then dumped it off the building. That was probably the coolest thing I've ever done with fire. The puddle of solvent on the ground made a whirlpool of flame. We also lit…

…a toilet…

…and these water troughs.[3]

One evening when we went into the automotive repair shop and found dozens of new washing machines and dryers that were intended for the on-campus married student housing. The machines were shipped with cardboard strips in the shape of an L on each corner. These cardboard Ls were thrown in a pile and we were expected to transport them to the cardboard recycling bin at the other end of the building. Eventually we did, but first we stacked them up all the way to the ceiling (we had to get out the ladder). The stack started falling over just as we snapped this photo.

We once found a bowling ball in the trash. Rather than deliver it to the dumpster, we appropriated it. Over the next few days we collected empty spray paint cans to use as bowling pins. When we had enough, we set them up at the end of the huge automotive repair shop and went bowling. Our supervisor caught us, one night. But all he said was 1. not to break anything and 2. not to do it unless we'd finished all our tasks for the evening.

One of the AXMB employees whose office we cleaned kept mini-pretzels and butter mints on his desk. When we encountered him late one night he told us that he didn't mind if we helped ourselves to a few mini-pretzels and butter mints each night. Once, when we finished early and were bored, we made the alphabet out of mini-pretzels. It's harder than you might think (like the D).

There were also a few capers for which I cannot produce photographic evidence:
  • We once found some long shards of metal in the trash which we took outside and used as throwing knives; the target was a large, thick piece of Styrofoam.
  • We sometimes climbed into the giant dryers in the AXLB and made ourselves go around in them (but without turning them on).
  • One Hallowe'en I lay down on the floor in one of the UPB custodial closets, generously sprinkled fake blood all around me, and put a fake knife protruding from my back. I had the cooperation of one of the custodians in charge of the UPB that night (Jason, but not the same one as in the photo above). He arranged it so that his fellow custodian (Phillip) would find me. Phillip approached my 'dead' body, then turned around, and left rather quickly (I imagine to report the incident to our boss). I quickly cleaned up the mess and left. Neither Phillip nor our boss said anything about it—not even to Jason. So I have no idea whether or not it even rattled Phillip.
  • We once found an old television set in the dumpster. We retrieved it, carried it up to the roof of the AXMB, and dropped it (from twenty feet up) back into the dumpster. The pop of the vacuum tube as it shattered was less exciting than we'd anticipated, but the overall experience was still fun.


[1] If you would like to see where these buildings are in relation to the rest of the BYU campus, see and select the BUILDINGS option on the left.

[2] For the record, they also make great doot-doot-doos.

[3] We also wrote words on the ground outside with this solvent and lit them on fire.

1 comment: