The Man Behind the Job

Therese Lindquist

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The Man behind the Job

It is a late Tuesday afternoon, the men’s basketball team will soon be
done with practice; but for one man the day is only half over. The man I am
referring to is Keith Erickson, the longtime custodian of the Cox Activity

I find myself walking into a room which I have never entered; I may have
stuck my head into it but never completely entered it. I am talking about the custodians’

The space is very narrow and full of different cleaning gadgets, and it
smells like a big mix of very strong detergents. All the way in the back of
this crowded space are two small desks placed next to each other, a computer
screen, and two old desk chairs to go with it.

After a quick look at the chairs I decided to sit on the side of one of the
desks instead, it felt like a safer choice. I looked over at Keith, a short man
with glasses, a big smile and with an almost shaved head.

It hit me that all I know about this man is that his name is Keith and
that he has worked as a custodian here at Northeast for a very long time.

I have talked to him several times a week for the last year and I still do
not know who he is underneath, outside of work.

Keith started as a student at Northeast when he was 20, but he soon
dropped his classes because he did not have time to study along with his work.
That was 29 years ago; it will be 30 by the end of November this year. Keith
still loves his job, and believes he will work with this for the rest of his
working days.

Keith has become more than a custodian to the Cox Activity Center; he is
as synonym to the building for both students and faculty. Something that became
clear a few years ago when Keith got moved to another building. Teachers and
faculty located in the Cox Activity Center rallied in order to “get him back.”
Keith belongs to the Cox Activity Center, and he cannot be replaced according
to them.

Born and raised in Wausa, Nebraska, on a farm with four older sisters. The
family raised cattle and pigs but that was not something that Keith’s father
wished for his son. “He wanted me to be secured with a pay check every month,”
Keith explains. The farm was sold a few years before his father passed away,
his mother still lives in Wausa.

Throughout the interview students kept walking by and yelling out “Hi
Keith!” Keith did not seem bothered by it; he just laughed and shouted back. I asked
him what the best part of his job is and he answered, without hesitating, the
students. His answer did not come as a surprise to me; it is very obvious that
he enjoys the interaction with the students.

Keith starts his day at 1:30 in the afternoon every day and works until
10:30 at night. He is responsible for the whole Cox Activity Center.

He is also a frequent supporter of the basketball team, though he admits
that he leaves the gym when we start to play too bad.

Curiosity made me ask Keith if he remembers any of the basketball
players who once played for the school. I thought that he might name one or two
players, but he said the names of more than ten players. It is just another
sign of how much Keith enjoys his job, and especially the people involved in it.

One of the returning basketball players, Cameron Adderley, got nothing
but good things to say about Keith. Adderley who is an international player
from the Bahamas says that Keith is a “nice individual, respectful, and who talks
funny.” He also refers to Keith as sociable and easy to talk to. Adderley appreciates
how Keith does things in his own way.

Music is another big interest of Keith; he likes a lot of the 80’s and
rock type of music. He said that he listens to a lot of music in his spare time
and even though he has a favorite type of music he enjoys pretty much any type
of music, he listens to whatever is on the radio.

Another thing that Keith does in his spare time is to go on walks; he
enjoys taking longer walks by himself without having any specific goal.

Keith lives by himself in a condo in the outside of Norfolk. He does not
have any animals, though he takes care of a sister’s dog from time to time and
that is enough for him.

I truly enjoyed talking to Keith; he is a man of simplicity, something
that is not too common in today’s society. There is a great treasure in learning
other people’s story, as well as in sharing your own. I am glad I had the
chance to hear Keith’s.

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