03/15/2012 01:53 pm ET Updated May 15, 2012

Custodians Are Not Just Janitors

By Adrian Chamberlin

Why custodians and other service professionals deserve more respect.

There are many unsung heroes in our society who do jobs for little or no thanks or recognition. Everyone knows to revere firemen and police officers, but one is hard pressed to find people who proudly voice their admiration or sincere respect for custodial staff or waste management professionals. To be fair, contemplating the trials of being a custodian is not something that constantly crosses our minds or, when it happens to flit through our thoughts, is a dramatic or newsworthy event compared to a shootout involving police or firefighters saving peoples' lives. Though the realization may not have ever occurred to us, the truth is that custodial staff, here at Florida State University and anywhere else, actually plays a very important role in keeping our society running smoothly.

I am no expert on what it is like to be a custodian, but even my own limited observations have shown me just how much crap they have to put up with -- no pun intended. There are standard job requirements for a custodian, such as mopping or sweeping and basic cleaning, but there are often also unnecessary tasks they must spend time on created by us, the people they are cleaning up after, which unfairly burden people who already work with little to no thanks given by those they are helping. Those burdens would include time-consuming tasks, such as dealing with the mess left by residents in the same hall in which I live. Messes such as: shaving cream on a door, done as retribution for an earlier prank; dust all over the floor of the hallway, left behind when a rubber balloon or ball filled with flour or powder exploded while being used for catch; and, as the proverbial cherry on top of this oh-so-wonderful sundae, a person who serially sh*ts in the showers. Yes, you read that last one correctly: a serial shower sh*tter.

Sanitary concerns and ridiculous immaturity aside, the seeming laundry list of time consuming and extraneous tasks serve to throw the difficulties of custodial work at this university or anywhere into what I hope is sharp relief. The custodial staff and resident assistants' jobs are difficult and under appreciated as it is, and we all do not need to add to that with insensitivity and stupid antics that leave messes in our wake.

Whether you are one of the people guilty of that casual and insulting indifference who adds to the problems, or an office worker who only bumps into the custodians when working late, or someone who simply who does give much thought to janitors, showing them the respect they deserve is surprisingly simple.

Ask the custodian his or her name when you see them; stop for a quick chat about sports or something on the news; spare 30 seconds out of your day to thank the person who makes sure the building you live or work in is clean and pleasant to be in. The custodians will likely thank you for it, and you will be able to go about your day knowing that you did a basic courtesy and made yourself all the better for it.