Universities are like clocks: they don’t budge an inch unless the smallest of cogs is in perfect place. Behind the scenes at the George Washington University there exists an army of hardworking individuals that help keep the ‘show on the road’. Often, the stories of these people go untold:
Since I have been studying in the basement of Gelman I have come to notice that at regular intervals a trash trolley will pass me by. The lady who pushes the trolley is kind looking. Calm and consistent, day after day, goes the trolley. Apart from the whirl of the trolley wheels as it passes by, you would never know she was there. Gloria is her name. Gloria is just one of several housekeepers responsible for ensuring that students have a healthy, happy and clean environment that will nurture aspiration and academic potential.
Gloria, not wanting to promote herself, introduced me to Veronica Franklin, a bubbly, motherly lady who is the head housekeeper of Gelman Library. Veronica very kindly shared her story with me and I discovered that working in a silent environment, such as a library, can have its challenges. Often students, in their pursuit of obtaining academic excellence, pass housekeepers by without acknowledging them. So…
“…so, you know, I like to break it up a little. Every holiday, and they will tell you, ‘Veronica is going to come in here dressed as something representing the holiday’. Two weeks before Christmas I have stuff on every day and…” she pauses for effect, grinning like a Cheshire cat, “for the finale… they are just waiting, not sure what I’m going to come in as!” Once, for Halloween, Veronica came to work dressed as a cat. Whiskers and all.”Im told quite often by the people that work here: you are The Sunshine of our Day“.
Whether it be the carpet, spills, trash, the bathrooms, picking up year-lost books, housekeepers are kept busy from dawn till dusk.
“And I’ll tell you another thing“, Veronica asserts, “just because somebody is a housekeeper doesn’t mean they’re not smart. I could work in an office at a computer as a secretary but it would drive me crazy. I’ve got to be able to move around. I love what I do. And I love the people that I do it for. I dont care that sometimes we don’t get acknowledged at a higher level as we should… “
And then our conversation turned to a topic that I had not expected to discuss.
“Under President Obama’s administration I have seen a lot of change. I’ve seen people being able to…”, she breaks to gesture to the two of us, sitting together in the basement of Gelman,”…this, you know what I’m talking about? This exchange, it changed under Obama. The dynamics of it changed, and for the better. I think it’s wonderful.”
Then I brought up the hottest topic of all: TRUMP.
“Oh! I am so frightened of the mere thought of that happening. How can we go from Obama to Trump? How can we do that? That is unspeakable.” The Sunshine of our Day pauses again, this time contemplating life under an arrogant billionaire. “Chaos. That’s what it would be like. There is absolutely, positively nothing good that could come of that. I feel like I’d like to go to another country. It’s that bad.”
Veronica may not stay on as a housekeeper forever. She has already been here for twelve years. Others, like Gloria, have been housekeepers at GW for more than twenty years. Veronica concludes,”I’d love to do social work. Anything where I’m helping people. That’s what I do…I love to help people“.
Outside the Library, the Japanese cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom. Few are aware that one of nature’s little miracles is transpiring in Kogan Square. Life is like that. If we look closely, flowers are always blooming in the background. It’s about knowing the right places to look. Back in the basement, silence is broken. It is the whirl of wheels. And the flower passes on by.