The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Custodial conversation

Custodians Jerry Pear (left) and Harry Outlaw (right) at the City College receiving dock.

A FLEET OF SMALL “cone orange” trucks sits dormant outside the receiving area at City College as the custodial staff takes a mid-morning break.

This brick building near the center of campus houses the shipping and receiving dock, a handful of offices and a small break room where a quartet of men sit in creaky chairs and chat over snacks. These men serve as the stewards of the campus, tasked with maintaining the buildings and grounds.

City College custodian Harry Outlaw  has worked on campus for 39 years and will be retiring at the end of this year. He sits in the far corner with a grin lighting up his face.

“We keep the place clean and tidy, set up for various functions, and teardown,” says Outlaw as the other custodians in the room nod their assent. “We basically keep things running around here.”

The custodial work is fulfilling, Outlaw adds, but it isn’t the highlight of his days.

“I get to see people from all over the world,” says Outlaw. As he talks, his smile turns into a wry smirk. “And I see some strange things around here.”

One of Outlaw’s coworkers and his close friend, Jerry Pair, laughs in agreement.

“Oh, we see strange things all right,” says Pair, who has worked at City College for 22 years.

When the subject of “strange things” around campus pops up, the group around the table nearly explodes, swapping stories about everything from raccoons in dumpsters, to having to break up illicit activities in supposedly secluded parts of campus, to the perils of the old library and theater.

“Before the [Performing Arts Center] was remodeled,” Pair says, “we had to use this catwalk to change the lights. The walkway was about this wide,” he holds his hands a foot or so apart and cocks an eyebrow, “and it was pretty dark up there. There was nothing below you but a long drop and some seats to land on.”

“Oh!” Pair changes the subject, “there was this one time that I was taking a trash bag out of a bin near the quad,” says Pair. “I didn’t see it, but there was a squirrel in there. When I opened up the lid, the thing came rocketing out at me!”

Pair stands up and gestures as he continues his story.

“The little guy hit me right in the chest,” says Pair. “[He] used me like a springboard, knocked off my hat and took off like a shot!”

Pair remembers that he and a number of students who also saw the incident stood frozen for a moment before someone asked if the janitor was all right.

“I was fine, but it was definitely a surprise,” Pair says.

When not on the job at City College, the custodial crew participates in various activities to keep themselves active. Outlaw says he likes to go bowling.
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“My bowling game could use some improvement, definitely… I’m a victim of the seventh pin, but I’ll get it with diligence,” says Outlaw, explaining that the seventh pin is situated on the far left of the last row of pins. As a right-handed bowler, he says, it’s difficult to hit it without veering off into the gutter.

Pair isn’t shy about his life outside work either, and he details how he keeps busy.

“Well, before I got here I was—well, I still am—a licensed barber,” says Pair. “I’m also a musician — a guitarist. I play mostly country and old time rock ’n’ roll.”

Pair also belongs to the Capital City Motorcycle club, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary. “I have a Road Star 1700 Yamaha,” he says with a smile. “Anything can be in [the club],” Pair explains, “everything from a Harley to a Honda.”

Before moving along, Pair reveals that Outlaw is a musician as well.

“I heard him singin’ a song that I hadn’t heard in years!” Pair says. “And so I

joined in.”

Along with Outlaw, Pair and one of their friends played an event together a few years ago and invited the City College staff. There are no current plans for a reunion tour, but Pair and Outlaw reminisce about the event with smiles.

Outlaw stays quiet in his corner of the room, but Pair exclaims, “It was great!”

The friendly rapport between these custodians is evident in their tone and faces as the conversation around the table turns to the previous night’s episode of “Sons of Anarchy,” a TV show about a fictional outlaw motorcycle club in California’s central valley.

“Yeah, we watch that show and come in and talk about it,” says Steven Lind, another custodian at City College. “ ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire.’ ”

“We talk about lots of things,” says Pair. “Not just TV… In here, we have a pretty diverse bunch of people. Just don’t let anybody take someone else’s beer and we’ll all be OK.”

Before stowing away their food, snapping their radios back into the holsters and making their way back to their orange trucks on an adventure to keep City College running smoothly, the custodians all agree on the best part of their jobs: the people.

“This is a good job,” says Outlaw. “Good people.”

Pair agrees with a nod, “I like the people. Get to meet all kinds of people here.”

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