Eat your veggies, know your janitors

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In which frequent Bwog contributor J.J.V Neun expounds on the importance of knowing Columbia’s most magnanimous employees.

There will come a time when you just win the beer pong competition at the West End with your old, sketchy friend from high school, and after stumbling back to your John Jay dorm and collapsing into alcoholic oblivion, that same sketchy friend takes a sharpie and writes graffiti all over your hallway. No problem! you might say. How will they trace it back to you? Fun fact: when your RA sees your name on the wall, you’re somehow implicated. Always. Write that down.

And that’s when I realized that the most useful person to know at Columbia was not my RA, not Wilma the Omelet Lady, not PrezBo himself, but a stout, middle-aged man named Armando. He, and the other unionized, bonded, dutiful members of Columbia’s janitorial staff hold the key (in this case, it took the form of a kick ass spray-on stain remover that melted the paint on the walls and was imported illegally from Moldova) to getting you out of a housing fine.

Because I looked at Armando with respect, smiled, and never complained about his whistling, he provided extra garbage bags and soap, and never minded when we almost set the building on fire, or when I stumbled into the bathroom he had just shut down for cleaning for a five minute shower before a meeting with my advisor.

I’d say that I had a good relationship with Armando after about two weeks. Relationships with the boys downstairs in the blue and black uniforms took longer, but were arguably more crucial. If the guards like you, they’ll happily overlook that conspicuous glass clanking coming from the bag you’re carrying and won’t thwart your efforts to sign in anyone from your twelve-year-old cousin to the exotic dancer you just hired. Here are some helpful hints: C. Maxwell loves the Yankees, and is always listening to the game. Ask the score, say something insightful, and you’re set. Mike Lane loves hip-hop. Ask him if he’s got a new CD out, and if the stripper’ needs sneaking in, fork over the dough to buy his latest one.  And I’m not kidding about the stripper. Carman 8, you have a legacy to live up to.

If you donft like conversation, don’t be shy about bribery. In three years, I’ve given security guards everything from beer to coffee to baked ziti to grease the wheels. Over time, swiping policies don’t apply. Then they start offering you some of their lunch. I once manned the desk while the guard took a bathroom break.

So remember: security guards and janitors have the power to make or break you. You’re here four years, their union contracts make them more invincible than a tenured professor. Treat them with respect, act as though they’re doing you a favor every time you interact, and strike up a conversation. You won’t regret it.

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  1. fan of pascal

    same goes for basically every CU employee with a nametag - CU is a terrible employer, and us undergrads are a fairly ungrateful bunch. play nice, and you'll be surprised the shit you can get away with.

  2. true

    very true. just be kind.

  3. c. maxwell

    I swear the man is unappeasable. one day you can chat amicably with him about the yankees, the next he'll reply with nothing but grunts and you will see in his mad, wild eyes that he fantasizes about truncheoning you.

    then there's the guard sometimes in carman who will make an effort to scrutinize your name exhaustively...

    • beh

      freshmen guards...good times, but over. anyone have any tips about the staff in EC?

      • EC Staff, you say?  

        -Check out the CU Public Safety officer who sits there sometimes, he's kind of a goofy-looking black guy with gold-rimmed aviator-style glasses-- he's always playing RPGs on his laptop underneath that desk.

        -The nice Puerto Rican lady is one of the friendliest in the entire corps-- tell me if you ever see her with anything but a smile, because I haven't yet.

        Anyone else?

    • ah!

      Oh mom HATED him. She thought he was so rude -- even to parents!

      • sadly

        much of the staff has too contentious a relationship with columbia to treat anyone affiliated with it, from their bosses to students and parents, with the respect most humans accord to one another. prejudices abound on all sides.

  4. C Maxwell

    is probably the most famous person on the columbia campus, excluding certain bizarre skateboarding dance-music singers.

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