Being a janitor isn’t glamorous work, but I don’t complain. I’m a bit of a night owl, so the hours work for me. It’s nice being in this big building all on your own. Pay’s decent, benefits include dental, and it’s pretty satisfying work. There’s always going to be times you walk into a conference room and find out all sixteen executives shared that ‘I shouldn’t clean, the cleaning staff need the work hur de hur hur’ mentality, and that can be pretty annoying. But when I actually get to do my job of maintaining the building, it’s nice. I’d say the worst thing about the job is that these superheroes keep showing up to steal stuff, and honestly, I’m not paid enough to deal with that shit.
Let me tell you about the most recent one, last month. Two months ago? I don’t know, it all blurs together. I was working on the thirty-eighth floor, buffing the lobby floors in front of the all the laboratories.
As an aside – thank God I do not have to go into those labs. My friends and family don’t get it. Anytime I tell someone new I’m cleaning staff over at VoLeLabs, they always get this look in their eye and ask something like, ‘Does that mean you get to clean all that crazy lab equipment after hours?’ ‘Oh, it must be SO COOL to be so close to the experiments they have going on in there!’ ‘Maybe you could grab me something on your next shift.’
First of all: cool, you’ve just met me and you’re asking me to steal from my employer. Cool.
Second of all: what is the matter with all of these people? I. Am. A. Janitor. There are top-level executives, people on the god damned board of directors, who aren’t allowed in those labs, but they think they’re letting me in there with my mop and bucket? There’s some highly sensitive shit in there, the kind of stuff literal spies have tried to gain access to. There’s also some highly fragile shit in there. Hell, even the air settings need to be constantly monitored. And they think they’re just letting me in there with, what, a rag and a bottle of Windex to clean the fingers smudges off that machine that spins shit around? Hell, no. I am locked out of those labs, and I am happy for it.
Back to the story: I am buffing the floors outside of the labs. The lobby in front of the elevators and the hall. That’s it. If the scientists want the floors buffed in the lab they have to do it themselves. One of the things I like about this job is that my supervisor, Elaine, isn’t one of those micromanaging types. In fact, I can go literal weeks without seeing her. The building is that fucking big and she trusts me to get my shit done. As long as my tasks are checked off and my logs are complete the only reason she’s chasing me down in the middle of a shift is to talk shit about the Knicks.
My last job wouldn’t let me listen to music even though the work was equally as slow and repetitive, so when I tentatively brought up headphones to Elaine I thought she’d laugh in my face. And she did. But only because I was so scared to bring it up. Turns out everyone around here has their own music. Hell, she was glad I asked about headphones because half of the other guys still cart around a little radio. What am I supposed to do with a radio? It’s 2021, I don’t want to listen to Crazy Stu and the Radiator making fart jokes and prank calls in between Imagine Dragons songs. Mostly I want to listen to my podcasts. Which is what I was listening to that night.
That night I was listening to Feeding People, this really interesting podcast all about agriculture and shit. I love these podcasts that are about super specific topics made by people who are obviously obsessed. Like, right now I’m listening to a podcast about model trains. Model trains! Not even the real ones! But this guy has spent literal thousands of dollars on trains. He knows all sorts of history. He nearly got into a fist fight with a guest over Christmas trains, it was amazing.
So, I’m in the middle of Feeding People and I’ve got the buffer going in front of me, and even with all that I still knew the second Lady Justice slipped in through the air duct. Don’t get me wrong, she’s good and all. But still. It’s a completely empty floor in the middle of the night. I should be the only thing moving. I notice when the air kicks on and starts fluttering papers. She slips in behind me, so I can barely see her out of the corner of my eye, and she’s staring at me. Probably trying to tell if I noticed her or not. So I did what I always do.
I ignored her.
I’m cleaning staff. Not security. That shit is above my paygrade. I’ve seen clips of her on TV. She could punch through my sternum without breaking a nail. No, thank you.
This is the other reason why I don’t understand why Micah and Phil have radios. For whatever reason, when people see me wearing the headphones, they think I can’t hear anything else. Like, these are those five hundred dollar Bose noise cancelling headphones or something. I can’t afford that shit. These were forty dollars at Best Buy and don’t cancel a damned thing. But people don’t know that.
Lady Justice sure didn’t. As soon as I turned my back to her I heard her slip off toward the labs. Fine, I thought. Plausible deniability. If she sets off an alarm, that’s Frank’s job to deal with.
Usually when these superheroes sneak in, they’re in and out, but I guess Lady Justice had pissed someone off.
Look, let’s just get it out of the way: yes, I know the CEO of VoLeLabs is also the Arch Duke. We all do. He doesn’t think we do but…come on. As long as he keeps up the incredible pension plan and six weeks of vacation time a year, none of us are going to give a shit.
The Arch Duke must have been wise to whatever Lady Justice was trying to pull because the next thing I hear is an unholy roar and the sounds of millions of dollars of lab equipment getting smashed into tiny pieces.
I didn’t fucking flinch.
Also, I recognized that roar. Komodo. Again – I really can’t stress this enough – I am a janitor. I have a high school degree, I flunked out of junior college, the only sort of exercise I do is walking my dogs. I love my life, but I completely understand where I stand. I’m not going in the labs. And I’m not putting myself in the middle of a fucking fistfight between Lady Justice and the God damned Komodo.
The two of them were fighting, breaking shit left and right, screaming and cussing, and I kept on in the lobby, pretending I couldn’t hear a damn thing over my headphones and the buffing machine. It is crazy how well that works. I don’t think even the five-hundred-dollar pair of headphones could cancel the sound of a giant half man, half lizard tossing a grown-ass woman through a plate glass window, but as long as I don’t turn around and keep gently swaying the buffer side to side they think they’re getting away with it.
I kept an ear on them to make sure they weren’t bringing the fight my way, but mostly I was practicing my shocked reaction. You have to really sell it, for the security cameras. I mean, I know Elaine has my back no matter what, but when that much shit breaks they might try to pin it on someone. The most important part is this: you can’t turn around the second you hear them leave. That gives the game away. No, you turn around when you’re done with whatever you’re doing.
Their fight only lasted, like, two minutes, or they at least took it somewhere else, but I kept buffing the floors in the other direction for another twenty minutes. Because that’s how long it took. I didn’t turn around to look at all the broken shit until I was done. And then I fucking sold it. Sometimes, I really wish I’d given acting half a chance, because I really think I’m not that bad.
I’m good enough that they bought it, anyway. Didn’t even get called into a meeting with HR. Elaine did have a sit down with me, but mostly to make sure I hadn’t been traumatized. That took about two minutes and then we drank from her bottle of Wild Turkey and talked shit about the Knicks.
The reason I’m telling you all this, rookie, is this: Buy headphones. Micah was here a few weeks ago when Blastman tried to get in the basement. He only had his stupid radio on, and now he’s in a hospital with a couple of broken legs and he’s fired. You want to keep this job. VoLeLabs is one of the best employers in the entire God damned city, do you really want to lose $0 co-pay because you stuck your nose in the middle of fights that have nothing to do with you.
Didn’t think so. Go to Target after work. Thank me later.