Keeping it clean, keeping it real
There are probably few groups of people as collectively untidy as teen-agers and thus few jobs as challenging as being a high school janitor.
Although these hard-working folks get little recognition, without them, things would be a complete mess.
Cliff Pinkerton, head custodian at George Whittell High School, has been on the job for 15 years.
Before moving to the area, Pinkerton owned a maintenance and janitorial business in San Francisco. After 10 years of retirement, he decided it was time to get back to work.
“I got bored,” he said. “I like being around the people and the activity. You’ve got to keep moving or you’ll rot away.”
Pinkerton’s duties are many, but he said the majority of his time is spent in the cafeteria.
“I clean up in the morning, all of the slop from yesterday afternoon,” he said. “Then I clean up after nutrition break, then again after lunch. And there’s the kitchen. I start that at 6 a.m.”
Cleaning up after messy meals isn’t all Pinkerton is needed for. He and his crew – Carl Inman, Mike Hoffman and Jay Shelton – handled much of the school’s recent reconstruction and they take care of maintenance problems, too.
Pinkerton fills in just about any place he’s needed.
“Whatever it takes, we keep it going,” he said. “I’ll help out in the kitchen if they’re short one. I’ll help out in the office, whatever.”
A well-liked member of the faculty, Pinkerton said most of the students treat him with respect.
“They’re respectful to me,” he said. “They’re not to all of their teachers, but to me, yes.”
That respect is certainly deserved. Pinkerton has dealt with some pretty sticky situations.
“We get a sick one here and there,” he said. “All kinds of stuff, plugged up toilets, the whole bit.”
Pinkerton pays close attention to what goes on inside of his school. He can provide information about the new library. He’s seen teachers, principals and other faculty members come and go. He even remembers the name of the student who broke a cafeteria table five years ago when he lifted up a corner in a exhibition of strength.
“Everyone leaves their mark here somewhere,” he said. “I’ve seen it all. I’m getting to be one of the long-timers here. Only five teachers have been here longer than me.”
Like any job, janitorial work has its good points and bad points, according to Pinkerton. But for the most part, he enjoys what he does.
“I like being around young people,” he said. “Stay around young people and stay young.”
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