A custodian’s life: Working behind the scenes, sometimes at a cost
Celeste Gracia & Jackie Guerrero | Staff Writers
Custodians at UNT work behind the scenes to keep hallways, classrooms and common areas clean. Sometimes, though, the job takes a toll on them physically. Some have gotten physical repercussions for their labor and have unusual sleep patterns associated with their shift times.
At UNT they work on a salary and earn merit pay. They each receive the state standard amount of breaks and “good benefits,” like discounts on tuition prices for their children, health insurance, vacation time, sick leave and retirement.
Many of them deal with harmful chemicals, long hours and rely on tight schedules to continue their work every day.
Health and Wellness Center
In the Health and Wellness Center, Freddie Logan and Josefina Espinosa arrive to the building at 12:30 a.m. Logan cleans the first and third floor while Espinosa tends the second until their shift ends at 9 a.m.
Cleaning starts at 1 a.m., after retrieving supplies from their janitorial closet. Logan, 65, cleans the bathrooms first and the dental offices next, she said. Cleaning involves taking out the trash, vacuuming and dusting if needed.
Espinosa, who has worked at UNT for four years, cleans the X-Ray rooms, consultation rooms and nurse’s station. After taking out all the trash, she sweeps, mops and vacuums. She said she doesn’t have any “bothers at all,” but she does worry about communicating effectively with others, as Spanish is her primary language.
Logan plans to retire soon after working at UNT for 25 years, including 10 years at the Physical Education Building. During the summertime, many custodians complain about it being “really hot” in the PEB because the air conditioning doesn’t come on until 7 a.m., she said.
“They’ve had to work in real hot buildings, but that’s been going on for years,” Logan said. The workers were told by their supervisor that they are working on resolving this issue.
From all the “wear and tear” on Logan’s knees “after so many years of being on it,” she expects to get knee surgery soon.
“I’ll soon have to have [a knee replacement],” Logan said. “Right now it’s kind of swollen from being up and on it.”
Logan said that when she goes home, she doesn’t go straight to bed. Instead she’ll sleep in the evening from about 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
“Some nights I don’t sleep good,” Logan said. “It makes a difference when you get a good night’s sleep.”
Both custodians enjoy the company of those around them. Logan is called “Miss Freddie” by the workers at the offices. Espinosa is “very happy with [her] area.”
“I’m very content with my work,” Espinosa said. “I like my companions, coworkers and my supervisor. For me, everything is good.”
With the same shift as Espinosa and Logan, Maria Mangel, 62, begins her work on the second floor of Willis by cleaning the bathrooms and taking out the trash. Her main focus is keeping the main study area tidy at all times.
While cleaning, she uses gloves to protect herself from harmful cleaning liquids. She said that UNT gives the custodians classes on how to take precautions with chemicals they use on the job. UNT also provides masks, although Mangel doesn’t use them because she sweats a lot when she puts them on and “gets frustrated.”
When Mangel gets off from work, she sleeps right away for at least three hours, then three more hours at night before work. She notes, however, that “there’s a lot of [custodians] that don’t sleep.”
“They get out of work and get busy doing their things like chores,” Mangel said. “In the afternoon they sleep straight until they have to get up again at night.”
Mangel wants to retire soon. She’s had an herniated disk on her spinal column that makes her job much more difficult, and may force her to stop doing her job.
“It bothers me,” Mangel said. “I feel tired.”
Mangel said that over the past nine years of working at UNT, she gets along really well with her co-workers and supervisors. She also remembers “beautiful moments” she’s had with students and has nothing to complain about them.
“I am really happy because ever since I got here the students are really good,” Mangel said. “One time the trash can fell over and [students] ran to help me. During Christmas, there was a boy that gave me a Christmas present. One student saw me and felt the need to tell me that if I felt sick, he would pray for me.”
Maple Street Hall
Starting at 6 a.m., Maria Del Carmen Galvez cleans the cafeteria with the other two Maple Street Hall custodians, Wayne Tollbert and Andy Anderson.
They finish cleaning the cafeteria around 6:30 a.m. and break up into their floor assignments. Galvez takes care of the first floor duties: cleaning up the lobby area, laundry room, TV room, water fountains and ice machine. After breakfast, Galvez vacuums the hallways and entrance area until 2:30 p.m. when her shift is done.
Since working here in September of 2002, her time here has been “good” after the new housing director, Gina Vanacore came in, Galvez said. She was not allowed to speak on some of her previous encounters due to an ongoing lawsuit with a former custodial supervisor, but said everything is good now.
She has made “many friends” along the way while working as a janitor and enjoys her connection with the students. She is what some might call a mother figure to residents at Maple, talking to them during their times of need.
“I am nice with all the students,” Galvez said. “It’s [a] natural [relationship] because I am a mother.”
Her relationship to some students is so close that she said she’s even been asked to visit the student’s families at their homes outside of Denton, like Dallas and Houston.
Galvez’ conversations with the people who reside and work at Maple Street Hall help with her faith, she said. She prays for all her friends in the morning and night, and encourages her friends to do so as well.
“I pray for them everyday. For God to take care of them and [that they] get good grades,” Galvez said.
Featured Image: UNT custodian Maria Mangel vacuums the 2nd floor of Willis Library. She has worked at UNT for nine years. Kady Shirley
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