It’s 11 a.m. and most custodians in the dorms are trailing about the halls. They come to the dorms with tired faces as they begin the seemingly tedious tasks of vacuuming the crumb littered carpets, cleaning the bathrooms, and some even having to scrape chewing gum off elevator buttons. Linda Marr comes to the third floor bathroom of Luzerne and looks in at the floor that is littered with toilet paper, and the toothpaste that lay in clumps on the sinks. The mirrors are smeared with fingerprints from female students applying their make-up. Linda Marr glances over this, smiles, and claps her hands twice.
“Now it’s time to clean the bathrooms!” she says with sweet excitement that few people show at this hour. In the very beginning of the semester, various community assistants of Luzerne have told students about Marr. She has been described as loving and happy, but the praises do not compare to seeing the woman in person. She is the reason students make an effort to throw out their trash and pick up any litter they see in the halls, hoping of making her job easier. Students know that there is nothing Marr would not do for them, whether it be giving them a trash bag to load clothes in as they pack for the holidays or giving a sympathetic ear to turn to.
The 60-year-old woman is dressed in a navy blue Christmas sweater with light blue jeans and white sneakers. Her thin glasses sit perched on her nose and she pushes back her light brown hair that frames her face. Her smile gleams as she grabs my hands and squeezes them. She says, “I love the students here. I try to help everybody. They are my family…my big amazing family.”
She pulls out a garbage bag and begins to fill one of the trash cans in the hallway. “Well, I’m sixty now, so I’ve been working here for fourteen years, since I was forty-seven years old or forty-six years old,” she says. “I was born and raised in Bloomsburg – me and my whole family. And my two sisters actually went to college here. My sister who’s still living worked in Waller and Bakeless as a custodian for seventeen years. She just loved being around the people, so she suggested it to me. She’s the one that got me first working here. So here I am.”
Marr only has positive words to say about her job, and credits her friendly disposition to the friendly natures of the students and faculty who surround her. She says, “When I first started here, everyone was so kind to me. You have to remember that I have been working here for a very long time. When you work somewhere for a long time, you’re lucky if your job never gets boring, and the people you work with become more than just your co-workers. They do become your family. I’ve been working here for a long time and I’ve honestly never wanted to leave,” Marr says as she drags the trash can to the far wall.
Marr begins walking to the supply closet. When she sees a student walk by her, she smiles and says. “Hi, honey, how are you doing today?” Though she will not admit it, she is obviously friendlier than most custodians. Marr has a sort of holiday cheer that lasts all year round. The litter she sees on the ground left by students does not agitate or infuriate her. She does not mind cleaning up after the students whom she loves as if they were her own. When she sees a cup lying on the carpet she picks it up and laughs. “Kids are known to be messy, and doing this gives me joy. I like cleaning up for them and doing things for them. Them being messy does not make them irresponsible or not good-hearted kids. I don’t have any children of my own. When these kids need anything I always want to be there for them. I don’t know, I guess I’m just friendly and helpful. I guess the students see that and they are so friendly to me, too.”
“I think when you have any job, it should be like family. All the custodians and every person I work with are like family to me. I am at a job where people are willing to work with me, and my supervisor is outstanding. There are people out there who are afraid to talk to their employer or who come to work miserable. But when you’re lucky enough to work with people like that it makes what you do not feel like work at all. And that’s the point, whatever job you have should give you joy.”
Marr finishes filling the cans, checks her time, and winks. “Well, look, now I’m ahead of schedule.” She gives a throaty laugh. “I am of course excited for my two weeks off. I will miss this family I have here. But I cannot wait to spend extra time with my family at home. That gives me joy too.”