The Working Word
This is, of course,
The Working Word: Warren Wilson Writers on Their Work *
Edited by Andrew Jones *
With a Preface by Ian Robertson An Introduction by Andrew Jones Both of which are followed by photos, poems, and proses by The Contributors
Warren Wilson Writers on Their Work
Cover (picture by Colin Sutherland)
Way past that
Just missed it
Table of Contents
That will come next, please be patient
Preface by Ian Robertson Introduction by Andrew Jones Work by Hannah Inglesby It’s Almost All Come True by DWC Untitled 1 by Claire Arman Plumbing by Cameron Lash
5 6-8 9 10 11 12-14
Clatterbuck by Laura Dison
“WWC…” by Lindsay Popper
A Recipe for Sourdough Bread by Ben Gould
A Testimony… by Dan Faulkner-Bond
Woodlot Women by Donny LeVasseur
To Make the World Larger is Hard by Alex Uchniat
Poem Comprised of Quotes… by Rachel Keller
Untitled 2 by Claire Arman
Things That Show Up… by The Recycling Crew
Untitled 3 by Claire Arman
Cooking Up Some Fun by Leland Tippit
Landscaping by Cera McGinn
Wear Protection by Cella Langer
Untitled 4 by Claire Arman
1500 Bathrooms…by Katie Anderson
Acknowledgments I wish to thank Catherine Reid, Ian Robertson, Bob Lamb, Pat Willever, Yu Uchida, Richard Blomgren, Gary Hawkins, Jessica Wooten, Justin Gardiner, and Dan Seeger. Through advice, assistance, or instruction, these individuals have helped with the development of this literary anthology. I am very grateful for their help. Without them, this project would never have reached completion. Thank you
Work: A Preface
When Andrew asked me to support his efforts to produce an anthology of work at Warren Wilson, I enthusiastically responded with “absolutely.” Work at Warren Wilson, much as a job in the working world beyond Wilson, provides us with much more than financial reward to meet basic needs. As pointed out in the introduction to Working In America, “we derive much of our identities, values, social respectability, attitudes, beliefs, habit and social relations from our work and work environments.”1 In the following pages you will experience the creative talents of our students reflecting on work and the work place. You will begin to understand the relationship that forms between the worker and the tool and you will never again think of work as just a job.
Sorting trash is a form of hypnosis. Eventually the idle chit chat between me and the other person also sorting trash will stop. We both slip into our own flow, distinguishing between clear, brown, and green glass; we know to throw plastics and aluminum at a low angle on windy days; we’re careful not to lift any bin too high above our heads for fear of the mysterious trash juices that will inevitably drip on us during every shift. There is satisfaction buried in the meticulous work at Recycling, whether separating plastics, picking out straws and cups from the compost, finding nails in reusable pieces of wood, or picking out the final cigarette butt from an ash can. When I close the door after a finished sorted truck, I know for an instant that I am not at Warren Wilson. I get this feeling unloading compost, when I breathe ammonia like oxygen and shovel hundreds of pounds of degraded food into Little Blue. When I twist my body to put things in their proper place, I am not a student; I am a worker. But then I make the trek to class up that mammoth hill and am reminded that, oh yes, I’m just a college student, not a man with age eroded by trash juice. My work is an escape; it is a secret slide in a hidden cave. At the bottom of this slide I’m dropped into a pile of stale milk, used condoms, broken glass, and unidentifiable odors and solids. I roll in this, the vomit of our lives, excited to play in that which most of us want to forget.
—Ian Robertson, April 2009
Robert Sessions and Jack Wortman, eds., Working In America: A Humanities Reader, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), 3.
Stand on Cowpie lawn, Sunderland lawn, or on the steps behind Spidel and Carson. Look around and you will see work being done. Landscaping Crew is probably in sight, mulching, weeding, or digging. A bulldozer is coming around the bend, fat tires just small enough to fit down our tight roads. A truck full of trash drives by you, golf carts stutterstep up our big hills, full of tools, documents, and the young and old. There is work being done everywhere on our campus. Look around again at all these people working; you know them all.
Each job and task has a purpose and each one tells a story; all you have to do is listen—rarely do you need to ask. We share the sweat, frustration, and excitement with our friends on the way to class, over a meal, and in dorm rooms around shiny bottles. This is the purpose of The Working Word; I’ve listened as much as you have listened to those around you. Undocumented stories have been floating around campus for years now. The purpose of this anthology is to catch the intangible and turn it into concrete, to roll it in a cement mixer until it becomes a statue of someone working. I don’t know where we’ll put the statue because you’re holding a part of it. Right now the only logical place to erect it is on the roof of the library. The unnamed worker will stand frozen in work on top of the library somewhat out of the way. But, every now then, you’ll look up and see that person there and be reminded of all the work happening around you. This anthology is nowhere near a complete collection of all the work done on our campus. Such a task is impossible. What we have here are individual stories of specific work crews, as in Katie Anderson’s “1500 Bathrooms,” Cameron Lash’s “Plumbing,” DWC’s “It’s Almost All Come True,” Lindsay Popper’s “Warren Wilson College…” and Dan Faulkner-Bond’s “Testimony.” In each piece, the authors explore the impact the crew has had on their individual lives. Plumbing and Heavy Duty are two crews that freshmen hope they won’t end up on upon arrival at Wilson. Katie and Cameron, however, show the camaraderie (to steal a word from Katie) and passion they hold for these crews; they prove the people and work are meaningful to them. Landscaping, Forestry, and Campus Support are at the other end of the crew-desirability spectrum: workers stay with these crews throughout most of their Wilson careers. Each author proves why these crews are capable of such provocative feelings. Rachel Keller’s poem, comprised of quotes from the Auto Shop’s boss, and Recycling’s submission proves the power of individual crews bonding. Ben Gould’s bread recipe is the essence of work: doing something to help others and sharing
this knowledge. Then there are the poems by Hannah Inglesby and Alex Uchniat, both of who focus on the philosophy of work and how their time here has shaped their outlook on the work they do and the work being done around them. Some of the pictures are placed next to related proses or poems. The body under the truck rests beside Rachel Keller’s poem; the image of trash being sorted is adjacent to the Recycling Crew’s submission. Even though the person in the “Untitled 1” next to the STIHL sign is not the author of “It’s Almost All Come True,” one could imagine this person thinking the words on the adjacent page. The photographs and written pieces show glimpses of work either through poses like writers when they’re conscious of what they’re creating, or by being caught in the act of natural flow, emotion, and effort, the other method of crafting poems and prose: so lost in the act we don’t realize the change we are creating.
—Andrew Jones, April 2009
Land has been cleared. The fields graze animals and grow crops. Streams have been fished, are fished. Rabbits colonize. The roads are work, as are houses. Jets hurl through sky. Jones Mountain is etched with trails, which are maintained with chainsaws and the insistence of use. Our feet smooth the earth into expected patterns, so that last night, as I ran in the dark on the river trail, the grey-white path gleamed. There is the work of all that dies and grows. The forward current un-building the manmade, while everything human overlaps. Scraps collect in the rifts of nameless places. Stories stack like mica, waxing more brilliant the thinner they’re peeled, the oil-spot flakes laid separate, side by side, in the sun.
It’s Almost All Come True It smells so good. My jacket, Stihl for the past eight weeks or so, is a sponge for petroleum, cellulose, and pitch. Now that I think of it, maybe it has been more than eight weeks because I don’t keep track of how long things go between washing, including my hands, as their lines and fractures are filled smooth with grease and oil. I like the smell of my jacket and worry little about unknown caustic chemical qualities; however, if I did not earn my stains and odors, more like my badges and fragrances, they would be worthless. With one earmuff lifted up listening for the breaking of fibers, I work in the area where I ran and got stuck in the mud as a kid. It goes to show that succession is full circle; this succession that I push forward with my human intervention, hard labor, and face shield covered in dip spit. Saws finally go in the bed and knobby wheels run down regeneration in an attempt to overcome the lack of power steering. Diesel fuel and French-fry-coated molecules float up among the crunching of twigs, piercing the cab and adding to my coat’s flavor. I later remove my covering while cracking mauls on open crevices in rounds. I am past cracking a sweat. I’ve lost so much sweat by selectively pulling out this wood, the leftovers of photosynthesis. I’ve helped to eliminate the need for the twigs to waste their time competing for survival by pushing each other out of their way like dry, straightforward briefcase men on the sidewalks of Manhattan. Really, I like to see wood fall. I work in applied ecology, which has terminology, prescriptions, and the wilder sense of everything in mind, but ultimately results in the labor that was my kindergarten pipe dreams. Wait. I see the saws and trucks, my boots and stinking flannel, but somewhere along the way I lost my coonskin cap.
Plumbing (excerpted from “the toilet paper”) Flush valve: units with this part do not require a tank to hold water, but, rather, the pressurized water flows into the unit, supplying a forceful flush. I didn’t know there was the hum until I joined the Plumbing Arts Crew, until I was lying next to the American Standard flapper-less, cramped between the moldy dorm bathroom wall and the hairy, yellowed base of the toilet, reaching blindly for the shut-off valve. I sat up because I felt it: the rumble, the hum, the vibration. That’s when I realized water is alive, that the profession of a plumber could never be dull because its purpose, its meaning, its reason for being is that aliveness. It’s not just the hum you will find when you are reaching to the shut-off and your ear accidentally kisses the toilet’s bowl, but the hum of the bubbler’s arch, the way the sink drains after an augering out of tooth paste and lost, grimed hair. Float ball: a ball made of metal or plastic, used to control the water inlet valve in tanked toilets.
It was dark when we left. It is always dark when rowers hit the water; they can row out with the moon and in with the sun that way. Race time was 7:05 and our coach was somewhere, pleading with other teams for a boat we could borrow. We were in Georgia, so I figured it would be warm when I had packed, but the chilled, late-fall air brushed our spandexed legs as we huddled in a clump of mismatched layers. The team to our right jumping-jacked in their yellow and black warm-up suits. To our left, the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Crew circled around their trailer of sleek boats named after legendary painters. They stretched, counting in unison. Another team nearby began a competition, counting their stretches even louder. Snuggling together on our blue tarp to keep warm, we tried to sing louder than the thumping of their chanting numbers. I would look up to see glances from the
color-coordinated mobs and couldn’t help but think of Cool Runnings. I don’t remember the name of the race. I don’t remember who won. And I don’t remember our ranking. But waiting in the bathroom line as the announcer tried to fade out “The Macarena,” trying to hold the pee I had been holding in since the starting line, that is something I remember well. The line was longer than three eight-boats, and I asked the girl in front of me if she knew how many stalls there were. She said there were four, but that one was out-of-order. I had only been on the Plumbing Crew for a few months, but the thought of an out-of-order toilet felt like home. I excused myself down the line, through the well-postured, tall, lean, young women who might as well have been waiting to audition for a ballet of thick-thighed ballerinas, and entered the bathroom with the still stall. I removed the top of the tank. I rolled up my sleeve, reached my hand to the fallen-off chain resting at the bottom of the cool water, and re-hooked it. I smiled. Flushed. Exited. I felt the girl at the front of the line stare at me as I removed the hand-written “Out-of-Order” sign from the metal stall door. I turned in time to catch her horrified face. “I think it’ll work now,” I gently notified her. “You fixed it, you use it.” Punctuating her demand with a scan up and down my body, she brushed me a fake smile. Back on our blue tarp, the bananas and peanut butter were being passed around, and our coach overheard my story of the line of snobby rowers and the plumbing victory at the end. With a prideful grin, he nodded and paused. Knowing these were signs of a good rant from our favorite coach-fathermentor-big brother, we gathered in a clump around him. Plumbers have not always been allowed to be rowers. He told us how it used to be, that those who made their living by using their hands were not welcomed in any rowing clubs. The wooden oars were saved for the soft-handed elites that had to discover a callus.
Fill valve: mechanism installed within a toilet’s tank to control the water level and prevent automatic refills in leaky systems. How can an object that is so animate be considered an inanimate object? We went to that dormitory to fix his clogged bathtub drain (grimed hair) and his sink drain (grimed hair and toothpaste), but he told us about the toilet when we got there. “It does this thing,” he said. “It does this thing where it…it…it sings.” I smiled. Abby chuckled and scratched her nose like she does when she’s laughed and is not sure if it’s okay that she did. He flushed the toilet. We waited. We watched as the bowl kept refilling with water over and over and over again. “Wow,” I stared along with the two of them as the bowl continued its over-flushing, and I wondered if this repetition was what he had meant when he told us “it sings.” He looked at me, leaning in and assuring, “Wait, just wait ‘til it sings.” As we lingered for the bowl’s song, I tried to imagine just how many toilets re-flush like this one, how many gallons and gallons and gallons of water are needlessly cycling. I began to feel frantic, desperate, anxious. I felt trapped in that bathroom. I wanted to shut the water off immediately. I wanted to stop another wasted gallon while I could, run down to the shop for a clean, smooth diaphragm to replace the one that was probably causing this repetitive dance. But we waited. We waited for the “singing.” It was what I imagine a dying whale to sound like, or a seal that’s just watched its mother get eaten, or a ghost melting and moaning. Alone. Despondent. Pleading. It was a cry, a plea like none other I’ve heard. I wondered how to gather all the fresh waters in my arms, hold them, offer them, release them for the mouths that pray for such drops. All the mouths that pray for such drops.
“Warren Wilson College, Office of Admissions, What can I do for You Today?” or, what I’m not saying when I answer the phone We—the paper-cut-tongue envelope-lickers & those who cut the hair from the vacuum cleaner’s dust-drum, we who have perfected the art of placating apprehensive mothers and can laugh at every last bad joke you crack to make you feel at home, we with brains like almanacs and hearts like broad-bottomed pontoon boats—we are not gods. We are more like demigods, the Archangel Michael standing at the gate to heaven like a leather-jacketed bouncer outside the nightclub of the eternal, scanning wide eyes over a clipboarded list. Over and over, we have rehearsed the line “I’m sorry, I don’t see your name here,” trying different tones and inflections so as to somehow deflect the stubbed-toe blunt-force shock of being turned away. We are the airport bathrooms’ droopy-eyed attendants awake since 4:30 AM sitting beside hand lotions, breath mints, industrial-sized dispensers of mouthwash. Half the time, you don’t even see us, but even so
we want you to leave with clean hands. At worst, we are Potemkin’s peasants erecting pleasant-looking facades along the riverside to show you what you want to see, and at best we are like Jesus, placing your untrusting hands into our own pierced sides, saying “stop doubting and believe.”
We are your care-package-sending grandmother, your track meet’s cheerleader counting down laps,
A Recipe for Sourdough Bread Sourdough bread is simple and delicious.
& the mountaintop’s trailblazer building cairns above tree line, stacking rocks on top of rocks on top of rocks. We know your propensity to be lost and confused. We are trying to show you the way up.
To make sourdough bread, you need a starter. You can either make your own starter, get some from someone you know who has one and let it cultivate in flour and water, or buy one at a local baking supply store. Once you have a starter, scoop out a cup of it into a mixing bowl. Add two or three cups of flour, one cup of warm water, and one teaspoon of salt. Mix this together and add flour as needed until the outside of the dough is no longer sticky. The dough should be soft but not soupy. When you press your finger into the dough, it should come out clean and the dough should retain the dimple for a minute and then bounce back. Allow the dough to sit with a damp cloth over it, or allow it to be open to the air for a few hours. When you come back to it, decide what shape you want your bread to take. If you want a round loaf: Pick up the dough and stretch it into a rectangle. Fold it in half and then in half again. Tuck the edges under itself and let it sit for 30 minutes on an oiled baking sheet. Turn your oven to 350. Score the dough by making an “x” in the center with a serrated knife and place it in the oven to bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. If you want a Baguette: Pick the dough up and let gravity stretch it into a long tube. Work your hands down the dough to even it out. Lay it on an oiled baking sheet and let it rise for 30 minutes. Turn your oven to 425.
When the dough is ready, you should finish shaping it by tucking the edges under itself and making sure the ends are sealed. Score it with diagonal slashes every 3 or 4 inches. The cuts should be about a quarter of an inch deep. Place it in the oven to bake at 425 for about 10 minutes. If you want to, you can add a tray of ice below it to ensure a thicker crust. You can baste the crust with olive oil or butter about 3 minutes before it is done to give the crust a nice crisp and flavorful finish. When you are ready to take it out, it should be golden brown. About a sourdough starter: Sourdough starter is made up of wild yeast, flour, and water. Roughly two parts flour, to one part water, it should have the consistency of thick pancake batter. This starter is a renewable resource as long as you add flour and water to it every once in a while and don’t seal it too tight. A healthy starter will bubble and breathe. If you keep it trapped under a lid for a little while the process will speed up. If you keep it that way for too long there will be enough alcohol in it to kill a lot of the yeast.
A Testimony to the Sustainability of Ford Trucks Down at the farm, past the FMTS building, under the pole barn, sits the Campus Support workshop. Our front two trucks wedge in a great white van. The truck on the left is named Blue Bell. The name is easy—it’s a blue Ford, around ’98, maybe ’96. The tailgate is a figment of habit. The left tail light is missing its textured red covering. The front bumper is peeled off a bit on the right side from the time Brett backed into a post next to the gas tank. “MOVE, FREAKIN HIPPIES” is scribbled on the front of the hood in black permanent marker. It’s the more inviting of the two trucks until you get inside. The inside handle is missing, leaving a hole with exposed steel complete with edges, snares, and snags for the untrained fingers of new crewmembers. The dashboard has been ripped out, leaving a chasm where the stereo and radiator used to be. It is now inhabited by an assortment of stray screws, drill bits, and candy bar wrappers. Turn the key and something inside the dashboard ticks like a bomb for the first two minutes of the journey up the hill, which lasts three minutes. A sticker on the dashboard reads “GAS GAUGE BROKEN – FILL WEEKLY” On the right side of the van sits Red. She’s my favorite. It’s not the series of unrelated dents that run up and down each side, all the way to the splintered tail lights; or the missing bumper; or the directionally challenged automatic windows (up is down and down, up); or the tailgate made from fencepost scraps (complete with stylish handles made in our very own blacksmithing shop); it’s the pushbutton ignition that makes Red who she is. Red is not the only poke-n-go on campus, though; it’s really an Auto Shop specialty—Forestry has a couple of them, Farm Crew has one too. The first patient was their very own “Towanda,” the camouflage behemoth that sits outside the shop ready to bail out any of its fallen brethren. Turns out she decided to up and die one day and wasn’t rehabilitated for about a month. Somewhere in there, they lost the key and the Auto Shop Crew “wanted to have a little fun with it.”
Kyle Carpenter was the student supervisor at the Auto Shop until this past December when he was graced with a diploma and forced to move off campus—just off Bee Tree Lane, still a mere forty minutes from his family’s home in Hendersonville. His senior year was indicative of any Wilson student’s: one foot in the Auto Shop, an afternoon in the art studio throwing pottery, co-captain of the soccer team, and finishing the last of his Outdoor Leadership classes. “Working on those trucks was so fun!” Kyle said. “Every one was like a puzzle. A new puzzle every time too! Usually cars have their own ticks, you know? Hondas have shitty windows and radios, and the starter is usually going to be the first problem. Fords will run forever but their brakes go quick. But those things are so gunked up though that it could really be anything.” There are twenty-one work trucks spread across Warren Wilson’s work program. Fourteen Fords of varying intervals of F50, four Vans, Towanda, and two flat beds. The recycling crew claims to use their trucks the hardest, “haulin’ everyone’s shit around.” They have three trucks—“Papa Crypt,” a Ford F250 with a recycled teeter-totter unicorn perched on the roof (blue, of course); “Baby Crypt,” an F150 (blue, of course); and “Whitey.” Whitey is the newest of the three, but “it doesn’t have any character.” “Little Jap” takes the cake. Little Jap sits about one foot off the ground at its pedals. Sitting in the cab, which is usually done with the Landscaping Crew boss, Tom, is like awkwardly squeezing into a bathroom stall at your favorite dive bar with two toilets and a window. It’s the only manual transmission truck on campus, and one wonders whether this is its natural calling, as someone had to cut a hole in the baseboard to allow for the proper range of motion. It meanders more than drives. You hear it coming, but nobody pays any mind—it’s too gentle to be a car, too combustible to be a mower (which are run on natural gas tanks), and looks too Communist to merit any respect. Nobody really knows where Little Jap came from. Ray, the supervisor down at the Auto Shop, has been here for so long that time is told in break pads
and oil changes, so there’s no luck getting anything more than a story about when “the damn thing broke down.” The average age is nearing fifteen years for Wilson’s trucks. The average age of drivers on campus: nineteen. But “it’s not so much misuse,” Kyle would tell you. “The main problem is that they only get driven for three minutes up the hill—the engines never get time to heat up so they just fill up with carbon composites.” The bay doors at the Auto Shop are open from eight o’clock in the morning until five at night. On Monday A.J. worked on “Old Moe,” the Landscaping Crew’s big truck (appointed great uncle of “Little Moe”). “Just an oil change and a check-up,” he said. “This is probably our best truck, especially in the winter ‘cause it’s gotta plow the roads. We put chains on the tires; it’s gotta be ready at all times, really.” The hydraulic jack sighed in relief as it lowered Old Moe’s hull back to earth, the shocks bouncing lightly as they re-shouldered their burden. A.J. pauses as if to make sure everything fell back into place properly. When she doesn’t collapse into a pile of scrap or run off to find her resting place, A.J. turns down the near-deathmetal that can be heard from across the farm and slides the key into her ignition. The engine sputters once. Twice. She hacks and wheezes, clouds of carbon ejaculating from her tailpipe. Plumes of black death, the only manifest of her condition. She screams to life in a triumphant roar. A.J. pats the dash board and eases her back up the hill for a few more hours on the job. The trucks are in and out, in and out. Six in a day. Three in as many hours. Last week Red broke down twice. John was heading up from the shop for lunch and it stopped right around the sharpest bend on the steepest part of the hill near the science buildings. It was Warren Wilson Beef Burger day and he was trying to beat the rush. Apparently the air filter got so clogged that the engine just shut off. John put two new dents in the left side. Each truck roars differently. Sitting on the hill outside of the Campus Support shop, you can hear them all. Give it a
few days. Towanda’s primal roar is the most distinguishable. Carpentry’s “Green Guy” squeaks and winces with every turn of the wheels. The silence of Paint crew’s “Fresh”—the newest truck on campus—is a mockery, really. Plumbing’s “Little Engine That Could” sounds like Ford’s failed attempt at lawn mowers. Each one is a friend with you through thick and thin. It’s a testimony to Fords, really. They age well, like a fine cheese. A bottle of blackberry moonshine. An old growth forest. Last week Blue Belle broke down. After a couple hours of Metallica, wrenches, grease stains, and recycled oil, she came back up the hill riding smoother than I’d ever felt. And the ticking noise was louder.
To Make the World Larger is Hard We always take the space, crumble it in our mouths to fill our stomachs and it always comes out worse—the slow sounds of digestion, food to waste. It's hard to offer ourselves up to growth, needing to feel we have influence— trap experience on the tips of our tongues and spit it at faces with reverence. Even prayer, a name for God, the presumption of nature as though it is outside of our bodies, only touching us—we find ways of penetration and dig, Grabbing palmfuls that sift through fingers; and still the word dirty sticks to the sweat of our hard-worked hands.
Poem Comprised of Quotes by Ray Cockrell, the Auto Shop Crew Boss I. Damnit, Kenny Spit on it an’ give it a twist Aw, hell Oh, I broke it I'm a goddamn mountain goat Ridin' in the back of the bus and gettin' them stinky fingers. II. One time I was cleaning a 14-passenger van and swept out from under the seat a filthy pair of tighty whities. To the owner of that undergarment: shame on you.
—Rachel Keller and Auto Shop
Things That Show Up at the Recycling Center Dead, eyeless bird in a bag Nuclear Nipples hot sauce Bag of used condoms mixed with recycling Jar of dead, infant possums Reptile poster 15 dollars cash Beer Cat in the trash compactor in the morning (alive, unharmed) 10 foot Stomp the Yard movie poster Life size cardboard cutout of Xenia: The Warrior Princess 2 pairs of Air Force Ones Cigarettes Power Rangers coloring book, bed sheets, and pillow case A t-shirt of an obscure comic book character—Shade the Changing Man (the favorite comic book of the Recycling Crew boss) Bondage gear Ninja launching gun iPod Pepper spray Raccoon piss Garbage bin full of maggots Varieties of dildos—double-sided, big, small, black, purple Varieties of bongs and pipes
—Compiled by the Recycling Crew
Cooking Up some Fun
Landscaping Tom Lam’s sausage-shaped fingers grip the red rubber peeling from his rusting hand pruners; he has that crazed look in his eyes. It’s spring and the red berries and orange roots of bittersweet are peering their ugly heads, waiting to weave their twisted leads around unsuspecting native grasses and trees—a strangle that makes Tom insane. In addition to supervising a crew of over fifty bumbling students, every season he has to go through the intensity of crown vetch, privet, and bittersweet. And you know, I may even have the season wrong, but I have seen this shit drive him crazy for three years now. I have heard stories of him bounding off of Old Hwy. 70, planting his truck on the side of the road, and prying a sharpened tool from the pouch resting on his hip, only to spend the next few hours ripping crown vetch from its roots. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he had to wrestle a bear or alligator, catch an eight-foot barracuda, and kill a rattlesnake to get to it. I have seen him stop in mid conversation to drop to his knees and rip his arch-nemesis bittersweet out of the cold ground, as if he could feel it shudder under his boots. Meanwhile, Marc Weller and I work on finishing the perfect slanted steps with a good cadence beside the church. Charlie and Lester later fill in our missed patches with gravel, sand, and brick, making them look like you could just slide off the side—I guess that’s why they put in a handrail. We listened to non stop classic rock on The Mountain 105.9 all summer, while Tom battled it out with bittersweet. My time at Wilson is coming to a close, and as I finish my fifth semester on Landscaping, I know I will miss Tom’s hatred of invasives. I will miss bounding down the gravel road by the saw mill just after a fresh rain and drenching any passengers who forgot to roll up their windows. I will miss watching Bruce float down the Davidson as we try to perform a safety rescue. And afterward, when I sat on the wooden tailgate of the T-Truck smoking my first cigarette
with Joseph Jeffers who was mumbling about god knows what, who punched me when I claimed I would never smoke again. I will miss crew meetings where I never got a question right, the day Bruce forgot he was wearing the tiara while he mowed the grass, Mel’s scandalous side comments, the orange flower on Renee’s coat, peanuts, slots, the dinners with pasta and meatballs, breakfast with Bojangles biscuits and eggs in purgatory, a lot of booty dancing, and Diego Red. In my time on landscaping I have learned the difference between the Italian Hoe you use and the one you avoid; a cat’s ass; how to dismantle a tree from top to bottom; and the difference between bittersweet, crown vetch, and privet. Landscaping and Tree Crew have given me a purpose at Warren Wilson and a motley family I will always carry with me. I am thankful that when I make it back to Wilson, my senior tree will be planted near the library—where I never really studied—in a hole dug by my fellow landscapers, planted with a topping of spit, a little goodbye, and a quick pee of my own as the crew blocked oncoming traffic from seeing my pale ass. We’ve had a good run of the place.
1500 Bathrooms: A Voice of Heavy Duty My first semester here there was a flu epidemic that took out half of the students in Sunderland, including the entire second floor. My hallway, among others, was quarantined. My job on building services required us to heavily disinfect the dorm during that period of time. For an entire week my crew was the germ police, protecting the residents in Sunderland and Vining; and, more importantly, protecting my new home of Warren Wilson. Eventually, everyone became healthy again, but this maternal feeling over my moldy, gigantic building never went away. I have been on Heavy Duty ever since. Now in my third semester on Heavy Duty I am much more aware of how often I wash my hands. I am much more aware of dust gathering on surfaces that go unnoticed. I am aware of the coffee stain on the wall that I cannot stop thinking about during class. I notice too often how dirty the stairwell in Jensen gets and make a mental note to sweep it during my four o’clock shift. I have an uncontrollable urge to get rid of the stains on the carpet in my room and to sweep autumn’s crisp leaves away from the entryways of all the buildings on campus. In short, I am plagued by the accumulating amount of cleaning that must be done; though I know it will never stop growing. But, as part of my job, I know that the longer it accumulates the harder it will be to clean. It would take me years to count the disgusting scenes I have encountered during my time on Heavy Duty. I have seen everything from “shitsplosions” to Monday morning toilets in dire need of plunging. I have carried twenty-pound trash bags down three flights of stairs as garbage juice drips from the bag onto my skin. Once I was cleaning in Vining A and I waded through ankle deep water that was still and murky in the showers so I could plunge the hair out of a drain. And still, nothing seems to faze me anymore. It is times like these when we’re wading through regurgitated water that our crew seems to bond the most, and our hidden camaraderie is uncovered
from under its veil of social stigmas; how you’re supposed to act around vomit-filled sinks has nothing to do with this job. What I feel curses us the most is the 10 Reasons you know everydayness of what we’re doing. I wake up you’re on Heavy Duty: every morning at seven o’clock, hit the snooze 1. You look down at the button until seven-thirty, then call my boss to carpet and think to tell him I’m not coming in for work, but I hang yourself “wow, this needs up the phone while it’s still dialing. I do this to be vacuumed…badly.” because I know that an hour later I will be doing 2. Railings are something what I have been doing for months. The eight you never touch. o’clock routine is to clean all six bathrooms in Jensen, which includes spraying the bathroom 3. Your friend spills beer fixtures with Blue Skies disinfectant, sweeping on the floor and you go straight for the JCM closet. the floor, cleaning the mirror, emptying the trash, replacing empty toilet paper and paper 4. There’s an ant towel rolls, wiping down the fixtures, and infestation in your room mopping the floor. At the end of this semester I and you spray the suckers down with Blue Skies. will have cleaned four hundred and eighty Jensen bathrooms, but this doesn’t include those 5. You wonder why there’s days where I wake up at seven-thirty in the a mark on the wall, how it morning and actually call Tom to tell him I’m got there, and how to get rid of it. not coming in. Tom’s office is a ridiculous shade of orange that supposedly inspires anger. One day I wrote in white paint, “can you hear me Major Tom” on the wall next to his desk, but there wasn’t enough room to put a question mark at the end. I thought maybe he would get the idea, but he just got mad. He eventually decided we would paint the wall. It is a fantasy project that all of the supervisors are dabbling in for their offices; a fresh look for the building with the greater benefit of being a project apart from the normal routine—another way for the bosses to make us happy.
6. You are genuinely excited by microfiber rags and the Carpe Diem disinfectant. 7. You reach into your back pocket for your bandana and pull out a rag, a dirty one. 8. Your hands smell like latex long after you’ve left work. 9. When Tom Wilder says, “I invite you to do this,” you absolutely RSVP. 10. You’re never off duty
Scott Fair, Bill Baunack, Tom Wilder, and Tom Hodges are a major reason I do not want to leave my crew. They do not get enough credit for the amount of work they do, not only for the college, but for their students. They make being at work a good thing; they make the time pass faster and the weeks seem shorter. And when we’re out there on the job they are always looking for ways to make it easier and keep morale high. If they need help they come to us, and when we need help we go to them, regardless of whether it’s work related. Respect is undeniably mutual. I can always count on Scott for a good pick-me-up because I cannot frown in his presence. Bill will give me fried fish in return for helping him organize his music library. Tom Wilder graciously appreciates it when I do something as little as sweeping the floor. And I rely on Tom Hodges to laugh when I make the most obscure jokes about Futurama. These men are the backbone of my experience with the work program. By the end of the semester I will have cleaned onethousand-and-twenty bathrooms in Sunderland, each with a different stench than the day before. My friends ask me why it is that I stay on this crew because I make it seem terrible and boring. I tell them that leaning over a toilet all day doesn’t bother me, that my supervisors are awesome, and that my hours are good. I have a responsibility to my fellow members in this community to keep them healthy and safe. At the end of the day I know I have worked hard because I am tired, but I feel like I have just woken up, like the day never happened at all. Then it is seven-thirty once more and I hang up the phone before Tom answers because I have the whole day ahead of me, and I am nine hundred and twenty-eight bathrooms until the end of the semester.