The Night Shift

The most important part to maintaining Summit lifestyle is often overlooked… and he mops your floors.

The+Night+Shift

Adriana Jolie, Staff Writer

Instead of the usual 9 to 5, Gordon Crose starts his workday at 2:00 in the afternoon. He’s easy for me to recognize: a long, gray beard, a baseball cap, and a friendly disposition. There’s an easy “hi” for every teacher he passes, and he nods at students left behind for after-school activities.

Gordon and I first head to the “Mop Jockey” janitor’s office, and he briefs his night shift crew on the plan for that night—most days they’re down a person or two, so each person is responsible for picking up garbage in two halls on their own. As a C2 janitor, it means that Gordon is second in command, and he doesn’t take the responsibility lightly. 

“He out-interviewed everybody,” said Kay Duncan, C3 janitor (and Gordon’s boss). “He had good answers, he went up and above explaining everything, elaborating on what we do here, and some of the changes he’s made that have worked out for the better.”

Since Kay is the only one working in the mornings, she usually leaves when the night crew rolls in at 2:00, leaving Gordon in charge of four janitors.

Tonight, the night crew is doing a “Trash and Dash” run—collecting trash and forgoing deep cleaning—since they’re understaffed. Before the initial hit of the COVID pandemic, they worked in teams, going down each side of the hall together. Now, they have to split up, to make sure the same amount of ground is covered, even with reduced workers.

Upstairs, a tiny closet bracketed by bathrooms holds Gordon’s trusty cart—which holds a mop, broom, two kinds of cleaning pads, Orbio disinfectant, and a personality of its own. Despite the small size of the closet, it’s got everything he needs. He grabs some toilet paper rolls, and we’re off. 

For lugging around a cart that holds what seems to be the contents of every cleaning supply imaginable, Gordon moves fast. I have to speedwalk to initially match his pace. He doesn’t seem to be particularly disgruntled about swapping out toilet paper, mopping floors, or grabbing other peoples’ trash. 

“I’m not too good to clean toilets,” he said, emptying a trash can. “No one’s too good to clean toilets.” 

“He helps people, outside of work and during,” said Duncan. “That’s just who he is.”

Gordon, along with being a full-time custodian, volunteers to be Santa in the wintertime. Doing this means going to weddings, taking pictures with kids, and decorating his house for Christmas. However, Gordon’s passion for helping others is not a new habit. After enlisting in the Marines when he was young, Gordon worked as firefighter for 4 years, and a police officer for 22, dedicating his life to being present for people. Even being a janitor, which comes with health insurance, was to aid his wife when she got sick.

“If I ever need anything, I know I can ask him,” said Michelle Anderson, head of lunch staff at Summit. “He takes pride in everything he does.”

By being a custodian, Gordon reasons, he can teach kids—the new generation—how to clean up after themselves. When middle schoolers come to high school, he tells me, that’s when they really learn how to grow up.

“If I teach one person, is it worth it? Yes. If I’m Santa Claus, and I can make one kid smile, then it’s all worth it.”

However, the school atmosphere doesn’t reflect the same respect for him or his staff. Instead of walking ten feet to the nearest trash bin in the hall, teachers will have one or two tiny trash cans in their room, requiring custodians to go to every classroom to empty each individual one out. Kids steal bathroom supplies, which can take months to replace. 

On top of this extra work, it can take weeks for someone to respond to a serious maintenance call, so Gordon mostly handles smaller handyman jobs that he can cover. 

With the Honors Sophomore classes doing their Banksy art pieces, the janitors have been told to steer clear—but what if the project results in trash all over the ground? Are they supposed to leave it? Will they get reprimanded if they pick it up, or if they don’t?

“There’s a lack of communication between all faculty, not just janitors and teachers.” Gordon says. 

For now, Gordon’s only an hour into his shift, which goes until 10:45 pm. In this time, he and his staff will clean gym floors, spray bathroom stalls, disinfect whole hallways, and visit every single classroom to empty out trash cans. When the education system buckles, it’s up to him and his colleagues to roll with the punches.

“Take life as it comes,” Gordon says. “Anytime you’re vertical, it’s a good day.”