It wasn’t Randy’s short stature that made him an interesting man, nor was it his dirty, unruly moustache or his pathetic demeanor. It wasn’t even his livercidal drinking tendencies. Rather, It was his ability to appear outwardly happy – despite circumstances – using the blank smile and the “how ya do’en chief?” that keep his perpetual pessimism under bondage. How could anyone who is forced to work on a janitor’s salary be happy, ever? They all knew it, and they all felt sorry for him, because they are us, and how would we feel for a man in such circumstances? Pity.
Every day, Randy would stop by the convenient store on his clockwork-car ride from work to pick up beer and smokes. I see him a few times a week while on my lunch break from my good, college-earned job. I’m on break, and he’s just getting off. Those kinds of people always work lousy shifts. I go to the store to pick up some family staples and our paths are aligned to where he is always a person or two in front of me at checkout. I also see him at the mall on weekends. He sweeps floors and cleans bathrooms. Poor guy. His name is Randy. That is what his crooked nametag says: RANDY. He probably never graduated high school, so he doesn’t understand the correlation between appearance and professionalism. That’s why he’s a janitor. No aspirations in life. Poor guy. I feel bad for him; I really do.
With my toilet paper, Kleenex and paper towels in hand, I look ahead at Randy’s inventory he lays on the counter: Four tall-boys of Milwaukie’s and a pack of L&M menthol. Every day. He is an odd one. You know what’s really weird? Whenever he buys his daily pack of L&M menthols, he also purchases a lighter. Every time.
“What does he do with all those lighters?” we think, “He must be either losing them in drunken folly or using them up real quick. He might even be freebasing the nasties. I hear that requires a long flame to lick a bent spoon for a good while, and he’s probably into that stuff too. Or maybe he has obsessive compulsive habits that make him feel the need for new lighters with new cigs. These kinds of people usually have some mental abnormalities.”
He always laughs when he asks for the lighter, because we know he’s going to ask, and he knows that we know he’s going to ask, and this makes him uncomfortable (laughing is rarely a comfortable act). “Yes, yes. A lighter again today Chief. Thank you,” he says. We want to ask what happened to the lighter from the day before, but it isn’t any of our business, because he isn’t any of our business.
He smiles and carries on, repeating the same jokes and phrases every day. He must program his mind to only think on one track, because if his mind wanders to the point of analyzing his situation, he might just kill himself. He must be so miserable, wearing smiles as disguises. We know how he really must feel. Must feel. Must. If people could be happy working as janitors, everyone would do it. Not me – I have a good job – I am happy. I don’t drink and smoke every day. Poor guy. I feel bad for him. He’s been wearing the same clothes for years too. That faded, green jacket. Why doesn’t he just get some new clothes ? Doesn’t he care what people think of him? Where is his self respect?
I feel bad for him.
I am happy.