More than Just a Job
EWU custodians find deeper meaning in their work
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In his free time, EWU custodian William Canfield likes spending time at home, playing legos with his kids.
“I spend a lot of time with my kids doing that,” said Canfield. “I have two, a five-year-old and a nine-year-old. They are both wild.”
In charge of the maintenance and cleanliness of six buildings on campus, Canfield is young enough that he could easily be mistaken for a student. His easy smile and slouchily tucked in uniform does not feel out of place on a college campus, though a second glance might tell you that he is in fact part of an often overlooked workforce and not a student at all.
Canfield has worked at Eastern for almost four years, first as a part-time worker doing weekends and then as a full-time custodial member. Before EWU, he worked odd jobs here and there — factory work with his dad, refurbishing homes and concrete, among others. He launched himself into the workforce almost immediately, dropping out of Cheney High School and getting his GED, a move that he credits mainly with his desire to put some distance between himself and his parents.
“Of course now I regret it,” said Canfield. “Now I try my hardest to see my parents as often as I can, but we all live lives. It can be hard sometimes.”
Nichol Baker, another EWU custodian, went to highschool with Canfield and graduated in 2008. She spends her days in JFK, cleaning the main lobby.
When she started at EWU, she had three jobs on top of her custodial position. Now that she is a full-time custodian, she makes enough that she can survive on just the one job. This, Baker said, is a primary reason that she works here at EWU. Being able to quit her other jobs has given her more time to do the things she loves.
In her free time, Baker enjoys camping and hunting, as well as crocheting. She makes hats, scarves, cat toys, shark tails and little donuts, as well as other miscellaneous crochet crafts. She has a website and sells her creations on Etsy, but for Baker, crocheting is not as much a side-job as it is a hobby.
“It’s not a business,” said Baker. “I would rather sell you something super cheap and see you smile from it. It’s fun. I like it. [I go to] little craft fairs where all the little old ladies come over. It’s adorable.”
Baker hopes to eventually complete her A.A. degree and maybe go on to be a veterinarian. Her dream is to one day buy her own house in the Airway Heights area.
In his near and distant future, Canfield plans on obtaining a maintenance custodian position in the new PUB, and then later making the move up into maintenance.
However high he climbs the proverbial ladder, Canfield hopes he can stay at EWU. The hospitality at EWU, he said, is unrivaled.
“[You’re] welcomed with open arms here,” said Canfield, “no matter who you are or where you’re from. You don’t get that out in the open market for jobs.”
Canfield said he believes his job in custodial is about more than just cleaning up. For Canfield, being a custodian is about service and helping the students and faculty of EWU have the best experience they can on campus.
“I’m a people pleaser,” said Canfield. “I like to make people happy. Providing an area that’s clean and sanitized makes people happy, whether they say it right off the bat or not. No one walks into a bathroom and goes, ‘uhh, I don’t wanna go in here,’ without thinking that the custodian is not doing their job. It’s satisfying to me to provide a positive service for people. Something that makes them appreciate every day.”
Though Canfield said he feels that his position often gets overlooked, he said he also believes the students and faculty of EWU tend to be more appreciative than people elsewhere.
“I’ve had students, just for no reason, stop me and thank me for what I’m doing,” said Canfield. “I’ve had teachers, faculty and staff do the same thing.”
Baker has had similar experiences here at EWU.
“A lot of people don’t actually pay attention to us,” said Baker. “We are just a fly on the wall. We don’t really do anything. But other people will thank me every single day.”
While she said she believes most of her coworkers see custodial as simply a job, Baker said she finds it satisfying because she does not just represent JFK or even EWU, but rather the whole of Cheney. When people tour the school, one of the first places they visit is JFK. If the building was not clean, Baker said, people would notice.
In the end, both Baker and Canfield stressed the impact students can have on their day to day life, and the importance of being respectful. According to Baker, just saying ‘hi’ or ‘thank you’ can deeply impact a person’s day.
“Push in your chairs and flush your toilets,” said Baker. “Just be respectful. If you see us, we’re still people. We’re here.”