I was a janitor while I was in high school. Every Wednesday after school and Saturday mornings I had to clean an office. I emptied the trash, cleaned the bathrooms, swept and mopped the floors. As jobs go, it wasn’t difficult, and it did have some perks.
I had my own mop bucket with one of those fancy squeeze wringers on the side. After sweeping the whole office, I took the bucket to the work room to fill it with hot water. The most disgusting part about cleaning the floors was shaking the heavy-duty rug mats by the doors. I always got a face full of grit and dirt.
The bathroom was always filthy, but I had my own supply of rubber gloves, cleansers and sponges to make everything spotless. A pile of uniforms usually lay in the unused shower stall.
There was a huge barrel in the back room where I dumped all the trash, which was mostly paper and a few cardboard boxes. I discovered rather quickly that aerosol cans made burning the trash a lot of fun. I built a raging fire in the burn barrel, then I threw in the spray cans, one at a time. Boom! Boom!! Boom!!!
As I think about it now, I should have been more selective about the stories I told my kids. My wife and I were sound asleep one night as our boys were enjoying a bonfire in the backyard with some friends. Suddenly, a huge explosion that seemed to shake the house brought us to our feet.
I opened the window and yelled, “What was that?!”
“Oh, we threw a can of soup in the fire,” someone answered.
“I hope you weren’t close to it!” I hollered.
“No, we were back by the fence!” they yelled back.
Many years later we learned that wasn’t quite true. They threw a can of mushroom soup in the fire, then ran and waited. When nothing happened, one of them walked up to the fire and poked the can with a stick. That’s when it exploded. The impact blew out part of the brick fire pit. Our son was covered in soup-ash-soot and had to pick mushrooms out of his hair. I should have kept the spray can story to myself.
I learned how to drive a forklift to load a truck because I often had to make deliveries to Flint and Lansing. I once poked the forks through the fiberglass garage door and never told anyone. The crack in the door is probably still there. I was always afraid I would fall off the loading dock.
By far, the best perk of being a janitor was taking stuff to the dump in Metamora. I loaded the red pickup with junk and headed south on M-24. Throwing stuff as far as I could, I unloaded the truck without hurrying too much. What came next was the best part of the trip.
Sweeney’s Bakery was just north of Metamora Road. Sweeney’s was an oasis of donuts, coffee, gooey goodness, and more donuts. It was one of those places where a person could go and make the world go away for a while. Everything lives within the four walls of this bakery.
Chocolate covered fried cakes were my favorite. Two donuts and hot coffee in a real cup on a saucer with a spoon on the side was heavenly. Trips to the landfill became a favorite event, which I repeated as often as I could.
I don’t remember when Sweeney’s Bakery closed, but I wish I could go back.