From being surprised at how “comfortable some students were in their own skin,” to an emergency shit-water flood during the Super Bowl, Justin witnessed a lot of crazy stuff while working as a custodian at the dormitories of San Diego State University. “I worked there from 2008 to 2012,” he says, adding that “it’s probably worth noting that in 2008 and 2009, SDSU ranked among the Top 5 of Playboy’s Top 10 Party Schools.”
Although it’s been a decade since Justin donned his “janitorial blues,” he can’t unsee what his eyes took in. And so, he has no choice but to ease his burden by sharing those nightmarish visions with the rest of us.
I was in my early 20s, the financial crisis was about to hit, and I needed a job to stay afloat while paying off school. This job proved perfect for that. On paper, my main duties were to clean floors, clean bathrooms and be on-call for other general cleanup and trash collection. Over semester breaks, we’d clean out the dorm rooms, cafeterias and break rooms, and buff and wax tile floors and scrub carpets.
I was very excited to learn that the most common thing we’d find along the way was money and gift cards. I was dead broke at the time, so riding my bike home on some days with a 20-pound backpack full of about 60 bucks in change was a huge bonus. Also, when I’d work the early morning shifts, I’d collect cans and bottles to drop off at the on-campus recycling area, which would snag me enough cash to buy some lunch (that’s when I didn’t find food left behind in break rooms and common areas).
Better yet, after cleaning out one desk over the summer, I walked away with $300 in Sephora gift cards. That made my girlfriend at the time very happy. It was also pretty common to find forgotten weed and Mac smart mouses, which made me very happy.
Moreover, most students wouldn’t care to take their dorm furniture with them, so that was a key time to remodel your apartment. Dressers, rugs, chairs, futons — tons of stuff in great condition that kids would just leave behind to be thrown out. The best thing I can remember being left by the dorm’s dumpster was a PS2 with Guitar Hero, which was a big step up from the N64 my roommates and I shared in our apartment.
Beyond that, I brought home a 3-foot stone lion that we named Leo, which weighed probably 80 pounds; a 4-foot cardboard gingerbread man dressed like a pirate; three cardboard cutouts of Edward from Twilight; four boxes of 120 Otter Pops that lasted a year; a pair of sealed Beats headphones; two iPod touches; and a ton of designer clothes that got some decent money on Craigslist.
Bodies, Fluids and Bodily Fluids
Unfortunately, cleaning the dorms during the school year was a whole ‘nother ball game — much less cleaning in quiet solitude while occasionally finding discarded goodies, and much more scrubbing of bodily fluids amidst chaos that somehow produced even more bodily fluids. For example, during a shift that started at 4 a.m., I found a student in the hallway who had blacked out in a pool of their own vomit. I stuck with them until paramedics could show up and treat them for alcohol poisoning. Then I proceeded to clean up the puke-y mess they’d left behind.
Mini-fridges were a nightmare, too. Finding them unplugged and full of food two months after the kids had moved out was pretty common. The whole inside was molded black and smelled like death. One time, I went to take a minifridge outside to hose it off, but it was so stuck to the floor that it actually took some of the floor tile with it.
Then there was the Super Bowl Sunday when one of the bathrooms had a sewage backup so bad it burst a pipe before I could think about getting to it. By the time I did, it was too late. The entire wing of the dorm was flooded in shit water, and students had to hold towels against the bottom of their doors to keep it out. I’m not kidding when I say there were whole logs of poo floating down the hallway.
The students were pretty good about it — except for the one who ranted at me, “Do you know how much we pay to stay here? I can’t believe this is happening. This place is a dump,” like it was my fault. Maybe because I was bitter about having to clean up after a burst pipe in my apartment the week prior, I barked back that she pays so much “because I’m the one out here cleaning this up,” and that when she lived somewhere else on her own, she wouldn’t have someone else there to clean up after her. It didn’t matter, though, she just kept going.
Anyway, after fixing the pipe, I spent the rest of the day with the wet vac trying to extract an inch and a half of shit water from a hallway carpet and cleaning and sanitizing everything.
The Seed of Life
Used condoms were everywhere. I mean, ever-y-where. To get an idea of how pervasive used condoms were, some kids once screwed on an upper floor, and when they were done, they must’ve not wanted a used condom sitting in their trash can. And so, the geniuses decided to drop it out their window. The problem was, the dorm’s windows opened up-and-outward, so the condom landed on someone else’s window and stuck there. Those students must have discovered that it had stuck to their window, but it was in a place they couldn’t get to. It sat there, then, until I happened upon it over the summer.
As for the bathrooms, despite the common dorm-room legend, cum won’t clog the shower drain on its own. However, it’s a lot like the egg in meatballs. Grind up some meat with seasoning and bread, and it’ll just fall apart. But add egg as a binder, and you got yourself some meatballs. Meanwhile, hair on its own is just ground beef. But add jizz as a binder to the hair, and you’ve got yourself some awful, shower-clogging meatballs.
There were times when I was buffing the shower floor with a hardcord scrub brush, and I’d go over a shower drain where it would catch one, single strand of hair. That single hair would then pull out a fist-sized wad of jizz-hair. And that jizz hairball would fling around like a wrecking ball on the floor buffer, spinning around and sopping itself into the walls, the machine, and of course, my legs and feet.
It was these kinds of moments when I wondered if the Sephora gift cards were really worth it.