Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Daily Gazette’s Sinan Kazaklar ’14 sat down with Joan Scheer, his EVS technician in Wharton EF, for a conversation during last week’s EVS Appreciation Week.
DG: What’s difficult and what’s easy about your job?
JS: What is difficult is the physical aspect of keeping up a particular place, to get done all that I feel I need to do in a day. The easiest part of it is is that this has been my career for over thirty years, so it’s second nature to develop a certain way of working.
DG: What’s a typical week for you?
JS: A typical week? Mondays are usually just full of lots of cleaning in general. I do all three floors of [Wharton] D E and F, and if somebody’s out sick or we’re short somebody I’ll cover other areas too. And I do C basement, and D basement if need be…so if you cook, clean up.
DG: So you must be happy we don’t have a stove here.
JS: Yeah…you can see, even the microwave they don’t keep clean.
DG: You’ve been working here for thirty years now, or in the profession?
JS: No, in the profession. I’ve been here for…I think it’s five years. I really don’t bother keeping track. Every day is different, every year’s different, a new group of people.
DG: What do you like the most about your job here?
JS: The quiet, and the stimulation of a college atmosphere and young people. Those three things have to be top.
DG: Do you find it fulfilling…do you feel like your time is being rewarded by your salary?
JS: Not particularly. (laughs) If I were to do private work, I could probably make twice, at least, what I’m making, if I were to go into someone’s home and be a domestic. But that’s much more detailed, and much harder to manage the time, and I know where my forte lies, and what my shortcomings are, so I’d rather be in an environment where I’m more structured, and I feel comfortable in developing my own system of getting done what needs done.
DG: When do you start working and when are you done, in a day?
JS: Six in the morning to two thirty in the afternoon.
DG: You talked about your shortcomings: what are those?
JS: I’m not good with management, I’m not good with numbers. Assessing a situation, yes, but not really being able to put it down on paper. If I were to go freelance, to become someone’s domestic, it would be very difficult I feel for me to manage that kind of work schedule.
DG: Do you feel like you would be able to find jobs in that field?
JS: Word of mouth usually gets you, yeah. When you do good for one person it might come up in conversation, “Do you have your lady’s number?”, that sort of thing.
DG: What is special about Swarthmore for you?
JS: The environment that’s created for the students, the individuality that’s encouraged, the acceptance that’s fostered, those sort of things.
DG: So if you were given an option to choose from, would you choose Swarthmore?
JS: As opposed to other colleges, as opposed to a hotel? Yes, I would choose Swarthmore. I’m always challenged by either someone’s personality, their ideas that I butt into, or just any aspect of what I might think up on my free time too. A physical job leaves you a lot of time to think.
DG: What’s one memory that you’d like to share about your time at Swarthmore?
JS: The breakfast club. A few years ago, we had a student here on the first floor, and he was studying to be a teacher, as were a few more here. So every morning, around seven o’clock, there would be juice and bagels — I don’t know how he got them — but they would invite me to sit with them and have a little something to eat and chit-chat. That was interesting, and it made me feel awfully good, as opposed to some of the people who you have to break down a little social barrier with.
DG: And what was the bad, the grossest cleaning memory?
JS: Oh Sinan, that’s a shame. It has be seeing vomit….
DG: Does that happen a lot?
JS: It better not! You all know the rules.
DG: How often do you see vomit here?
JS: I see that people have cleaned it up at least a few times a week.
DG: Does it get worse as the year goes on?
JS: No, actually it doesn’t change. The same silly people who drink and get sick are the same…. If I’ve seen that someone has tried their level best to clean it up, yeah, I’ll go over it. But if it’s laying there on the floor, I’m bound by the code that we have an agreement with to get a hold of the RA, because obviously it’s been left, and the RA’s stuck with it.
DG: As the housekeeper of this place, what do students do that you don’t like?
JS: Leaving the toilet unflushed. Yes, that happens. Or women leaving a trail of blood, that happens too. Some people just don’t think, or they have their habits that they had at home, and that’s fine for home, but you’re in a collective setting here. I say, and I’ve left notes that say this, “I go home at night. This is how you’re all treating each other.” You can leave it there for me in the morning, but everyone’ll see it in the meanwhile. If other people don’t find objection to that, that’s on them.
DG: So do you report those to the RA?
JS: If it gets out of hand, yes, otherwise I’ll stick a little note up on the stall door and say “Is this right?” or “Would you please flush?”. Usually it’s taken care of.
DG: You’ve only worked in Wharton for the last five years?
JS: Yes. I’m taken to other places as need be: I’ve filled in in Parrish, the pool, the fieldhouse, Dana and Hallowell. When we do our weekend work in the summer, we’re all bound to provide a weekend work day, it’s the whole campus. In the summertime they open it up to summer camps, because we have all that sports complex and all the fields, so we have soccer and lacrosse and softball, learning camps; anything to fill the dorms. I have tennis camp up here because we’re right by the court, so I usually see the same people for a couple of years.
DG: As the year goes on, do you feel like you’re becoming part of a family?
JS: There are some, that I will develop camaraderie with, but others…it’s each on the individual. I don’t push myself.
DG: So what are your future plans, in terms of your job here?
JS: Just my job here? Why, I’m a ferret rescue also.
DG: What’s that?
JS: A ferret? A small weasel-looking animal. What would it be called in Turkey…? It’s a Turkish animal too, but not the same as the domestic ferret. Mustela eversmanii…Steppe Polecat, is the closest thing you have in your country, but those are wild animals, not domestic. When people realize that this type of pet is not the right fit in their family, they maybe want to put it in the SPCA or say “I’ve got to get rid of it” or just for whatever reason they have to leave the home. This is where I step in. I take it in, assess its personality, assess its health. Hopefully I can correct any health issues, vaccinations. I take any background I can get, if I can’t get background I start from scratch, and I try to find it another home. That’s what I do.
DG: And how long are you planning to keep on working?
JS: Until I’m retirement age.
DG: How many years…?
JS: Well now, that’s rude! (laughs) Shame on you. Oh, Sinan, hopefully I’ll get another twenty years.
DG: Working is good, it keeps you fresh.
JS: It does, especially since I have arthritis and fibromyalgia, so I have to do a lot of moving. If I had a sit-down-at-a-desk job, I’d be a cripple, I’d really be so uncomfortable. But because I can shift around, and I’m never in one position for any length of time, this is a good thing. I’m very happy to have this job, if only for that. Otherwise I would rather move my mind around, but we’re here doing this.
DG: Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
JS: Yes, I have something to add. You should have thought this out before you sat here and interviewed me, ad-libbing the questions as you go! (laughs)