COLUMN: My future, reflected in a janitor

Ryan deBiase

What is it about being in college that everyone who is not in college must feel the need to give gratuitous life advice? Having a plan after graduation is the best way to go, obviously, but I know few who have one set in stone. And so every person I encounter in the “real world” takes it upon themselves to tell me the best way to live my life.

As I am enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, my future is particularly hazy. What the hell does one do with a Bachelor of the Arts, anyway? I’ve asked myself that probably more than anyone else, and I think I may have a plan. Even with some semblance of post-graduation guidance, people still toss all kinds of unsolicited advice my way.

Recently, I was conducting my Sunday night laundry routine at the Campus Coin-Op when I watched a guy drag in three full garbage bags of dirty whites. There’s something about carrying laundry in forty-gallon plastic bags that makes me uneasy, though I don’t know why.

After loading about five washing machines with his ample wardrobe, he shimmied over to where I was sitting to remark on the book I was reading. It was then that I noticed his T-shirt. It held the image of a right hand, palm out, gingerly gripping an invisible vertical shaft. Underneath the picture of the hand was printed: “Meet My Girlfriend.”

Now, even a person with a mind millions of miles outside the gutter would look at that shirt and say, “Damn, that guy’s not shy about masturbating.” My mind being pretty much permanently stuck in the gutter, I could not repress a smirk over the duration of our two-hour conversation. There’s just something about a guy wearing a masturbation shirt that makes me not take him seriously.

He was able to discern that from my black-rimmed plastic glasses that I was an English major. One would be surprised how often this happens.

“What a coincidence,” he exclaimed, “I got my Bachelor of the Arts from Kent over twenty-five years ago.”

Definitely a coincidence, I pondered, as he told me how ill-prepared the degree left him for the real world. He cited that the English major is basically unemployable, so pursue a double major in something practical, like business. He sure wished he’d done that. Me too.

Then we reached the point in the conversation where he told me about his present-day endeavors. Apart from vaguely considering writing part-time, he has been employed as a custodial specialist at the university for the last 12 years.

A janitor.

Now, don’t get me wrong, janitors are great. The world needs janitors. But to see my future reflected in this masturbating clothes horse left me a bit deflated, despite the fact it would be (hopefully) a long shot for me to end up as he did.

Once the conversation shifted into relationship advice, I knew everything we’d spoken about was completely irrelevant. Ultimately, the only person who can decide my fate is me. Advice is good, but with no frame of reference, it just takes the form of a rambling custodian with a real lack of self-esteem.

Ryan deBiase is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.  Contact him at [email protected].