“That’s disgusting…thanks for taking one for the team.”
“But I don’t want to take one for the team. I want to leave the team to its moldy fate.”
– Student employee, C.
One of the downsides of working at a university is that everything is time is cyclical. The wheel of life and work turns by semesters and even though you are out of school, you are directly affected by this fact. For example, I do most of my hiring and firing of students at the beginning of new semesters – kids graduate, have tough schedules, or sometimes even drop out and have to be terminated or replaced. During Fall and Winter terms I’m involved with projects related to various athletic seasons. When Spring and Summer terms roll around I, and others, will be beating our heads on our desks for whole weeks at a time for lack of work – you can only reorganize the supply closet, update your all of your forms, and rearrange your staplers so many times before you’re quite longing for heinous crimes to be committed.
But there is a sneaky week or two in the middle of every semester, after you’ve finished hiring all of your new students and finished your major projects, and just before you have to start ordering next month’s supplies and prep next term’s spreadsheets, that you are stuck.
It is at this soul numbing point that I start wandering about the office begging for work. Susie is usually pretty good at giving me some filing or shredding, or handing one of her own projects over to me if she is swamped, but even her ideas can give out. And so it proved this mid-Winter.
I had my annual employee evaluation and told her that since I began working here I’ve tried to streamline and improve processes and I’ve been successful – to the point that I regularly don’t have enough to do, especially during mid-term deadlock. When she asked what sort of small project ideas I’ve come up with, I listed the various tasks I’ve given myself over the past year and declared without guilt that the idea well has run dry. After a moment she said she had a job that needed doing but didn’t want to offend me by asking. I told her I didn’t mind.
So today I spent an hour on hand and knees cleaning out the two refrigerators in the break area.
I pulled seven one litre bottles of soda that were up to a year old (and fermenting), three packages of cream cheese that had turned teal (and grown eyes), almost an entire pizza that had dried out months ago (and fossilized), and several tupperware filled with various rotting mush (that had apparently evolved highly enough to invent a rudimentary form of communication). Let us not speak of the fish I found. Really. Let’s not.