Cleaner Thinks He’s Jesus

Life is full of things that wither in the absence of use. My dream of becoming an astronaut faded into oblivion after watching the Space Shuttle explode on live TV like a propane tank at a family cookout. Years later, my rock star aspirations shrank into the shadows when I finally realized my songs weren’t good enough to be played on the main stage of the Glastonbury Festival under lime-coloured lights. A wiser person than me would’ve chosen more attainable goals but I’ve never felt wise. Despite all the mistakes I’ve made and learned from, I just can’t seem to keep a firm grasp on wisdom. Mom, on the other hand, was a picture of sagacity, so perhaps it’s genetic and those genes weren’t passed down to me. “Eavestroughers will never know nothin’ about the inside of a house,” is one of the wisest things she ever said, and I’ll get around to explaining what it means. In fact, I’ll be explaining a lot about Mom, as this book is dedicated to her kampf, which is the German word for struggle.

Anyway, I was well past the flush of youth when I put my guitar down and picked up a mop. My introduction into the custodial arts came by way of a bank. It didn’t pay well but the work was easy because banks don’t get very dirty, except in the employee washrooms, and in the antechambers where automated tellers are lined up like twenty-four-hour slot machines. I’d start around six p.m., work hard and fast, and a little while later, I’d lock up and leave with a smile on my face, knowing I was still getting paid for the next several hours.

Most of the employees were female, so the woman’s washroom demanded a lot of my time. One of the tellers suffered from a chronic gastrointestinal issue, and if I’m to keep my promise of being unflinchingly honest, then it must be said there were feelings of resentment toward her for slowing me down with the messes she made. My resentment would, of course, be tempered by sympathy because she was regularly forced to throw out her underwear. Catching sight of them while changing the garbage bag had a humbling effect on me, as it signified the daily indignities and humiliations she endured at the hands of her disease. Having accidents in the midst of counting someone else’s stack of cash must’ve felt like an unbearable insult to the injury of her low on the totem pole wage.

The antechamber held four automated tellers and was by far the dirtiest part of the bank, especially during winter when its warmth offered shelter from the cold. Every now and then, I’d have to rouse a member of the growing homeless community from unconsciousness in order to dispose of a used syringe, an empty liquor bottle, or a leaky bag of glue. On one occasion there was a blue-faced boy with a needle in his arm. The ambulance arrived quickly but the resuscitation failed.

My orders were to call the police on anyone taking refuge in the antechamber. This was for my own safety, or so the dead-eyed manager claimed in her monied voice. In actual fact, the keys to the main door and the security code to the alarm system, placed by necessity in my charge, were her real concerns. Despite my orders, I’m happy to say that on my watch the police were never called. Why get the law involved when all I had to do was ask those sheltering in the only available source of warmth to step outside until the cleaning was done? Sometimes I’d give them gloves, scarves, or toques kept in my backpack for just such occasions. Eventually, word of my charitable deeds found the jaded ears of the manager’s manager who fired off an internal memo: re: cleaner thinks he’s Jesus and must be terminated immediately, or something to that effect.

8 thoughts on “Cleaner Thinks He’s Jesus

  1. Hi A.,

    Work and wisdom. David Carradine on Kung Fu used to say, all work is honorable. Colin Powell must have watched Kung Fu since he gets the attribution. Then there is Ecclesiastes: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Which leads me to something I used to say to whomever would listen: First there are facts and you build those up in your mind. Eventually those turn into categories of knowledge. Finally, the facts and the knowledge, if you have broad experience in the world, leads to wisdom. David Caradine operated on that idea while walking across shards of glass and hot coals. Of course, then there is Clausewitz (Marshall Ney?) who said, I’d trade all the philosophers in the world for a battery of artillery. So what are we to do? Maybe work hard to become a Warrior King and dispense benevolent, wise justice to the people. Or barring that, be a spyglass upon the world from the inner workings of a school or hospital while pushing a broom and taking out the garbage. In a world of existential choices, nothing really matters. Which finally brings me to this video, which I have shared before on THs. It sums up a lot of this. This I know. Love. Duke

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m curious to see where you’re going with this piece. Wisdom is like freedom … it doesn’t really exist. We only learn what to avoid and what to appreciate. As Vonnegut says, when to stay very still and went to move.

    Liked by 2 people

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