Trash left carelessly on the PCC campus does not magically pick itself up, nor do the floors and toilets of the restrooms scrub themselves clean.
With the many things students need to do, from ferrying between classes to cramming last minute for that test conveniently “forgotten” about the night before, the last thing a student wants to face is the horror of a filthy toilet or to wade through a minefield of litter.
Enter the custodians of PCC, men and women who get the job done, whatever it need be, so that students can enjoy a clean campus to properly study in.
“We have guys emptying trash receptacles,” said Alice Hawkins, a custodian who has been working at PCC for 13 years. “Each building has men and women in it; we’re everywhere. This is all day and at night we have people that clean up. It’s a constant thing.”
Hawkins is not assigned specific duties, but does a bit of everything. This includes making sure that other employees are assigned duties if something needs to be taken care of, she said.
Hawkins works an eight-hour shift, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday. Even during her two twenty-minute breaks, and thirty-minute lunch break, she is subject to being called upon.
In ten minutes alone, she received three calls: one about a broken air conditioner, another for an elevator out of service and then an order to clean the women’s restroom after she finished eating her sandwich.
Despite the constant demands, Hawkins said that “the job isn’t really hard. It’s a daily grind, but there’s nothing stressful. Absolutely none.”
“I feel like PCC is like one big happy family. We all try to get along,” she added.
Candelario Diaz, 48, is another custodian who shares many of the same sentiments as Hawkins.
Diaz has been working at PCC since 1982, right out of high school. He is currently in charge of the Westside campus, such as the area bordered by the CC, C, R, D and L buildings, as well as Lancers Pass. He also does the north side of the GM building and parking structures one to four.
Beyond doing his assigned duties, he also voluntarily helps students in need of his services.
As he took out bags of trash from the various receptacles around the C and D buildings, one even dripping brown liquid, he received a call. It was from a student who had lost her wallet. He promised her that as he was making his rounds, he would keep an eye out for it and contact her as soon as possible if he found it.
“My job is to help students,” he says. “If the students are happy, I’m happy. It makes it better for us. We all try to help each other.”
The only problem he feels there is, however, is in the number of workers.
“When someone is out, they don’t have substitutes to fill it in, so that means those of us who are on shift are forced to fill in those empty spots,” he said. “[That] means I don’t have as much time to do the job that I’m already assigned to properly.” Doing twice the work and at a quicker pace can be demanding.
The lack of custodians is not lost on Sarah Flores, supervisor of Facilities Services. In an email, she said that there are not enough custodians because “while we add additional square footage to our campus, due to the construction of new buildings, we are not adding adequate additional custodians.”
Another important reason is in “the current state budgetary crisis our District has suffered numerous cuts equaling millions of dollars. This in itself will not allow for replacement or additional employees.”
Beyond the shortage of facility employees, Diaz said that he likes working around students, and is thankful he has a job in light of high unemployment.
A newer custodian who began January is Ramona Cabrera.
Her job mostly lies in restroom clean-up and restocking. The hardest part about it is keeping up with students, she said.
“There’s a lot of restocking,” she said with a little smile.
Even so, Cabrera likes her job because it keeps her busy.
Since she personally knows the amount of work it takes to keep a restroom clean and sanitary, she personally compliments the workers when she goes out to eat at restaurants with tidily kept restrooms.
“[There’s] not a lot of stress beyond picking up the pace,” Cabrera said. “You get called a lot.”
Students around campus seem to appreciate the work of the custodians.
Audrey Appaza, 22, language, said, “I hardly see any trash around. The halls and inside of the buildings are well kept and bathrooms sanitized. Overall, excellent job keeping the campus clean.”
Mayra Ortega, 18, nursing, said, “I see them walk around cleaning up trash in the restroom and putting in new trash bags. They keep everything pretty clean. I think they do a good job.”
Candelario Diaz drives a dumpster through the quad on Sept. 13. Diaz has been a custodian at PCC since 1982 and is in charge of cleaning the West Side Campus. (Gabriela Castillo / Courier )