The sunrise was a beautiful mauve color, perhaps the most beautiful he’d ever seen. “Oh well, he thought; good day to start an adventure.”
Average Joe was a janitor. He took pride in his work; he grew up wanting to major in custodial studies in college and minor in air conditioning repair, but scratched the second part because he loved cleaning so much.
“Woof, woof”--the sound came from somewhere behind him. It didn’t sound friendly.
It was Balthazar, the neighborhood watchdog; a big fat pit bull who had been overfed throughout the years by his lazy owner. Slobber ran down his face like the Fountain of Youth.
But nothing was going to stop Joe from making it to the Greyhound bus stop on time; he was headed to college--an HBCU---and no foul-tempered dog was going to stop him.
“Nothing stops me from cleaning,” Joe said, and he took his broom that he always carried on his back and whacked the dog as hard as he could. Joe smiled smugly; he was proud of himself.
As he walked to the bus stop carrying the bag of fried chicken and biscuits made by his mother, he could almost hear the UNCF theme song in his head We’re not asking for a handout, just a hand! He would be the first in his family to go to school beyond the 6th grade.
“Hey!” Joe suddenly turned around as a not-so-friendly voice caught his attention from behind. “I see that you just whacked my dog, and I don’t appreciate it,” said the owner. Joe never liked Mr. Smithers… and it seemed mutual.
“How would you like it if I whacked you with a broom while you were just doing your job on neighborhood watch?” Mr. Smithers went on and on and on. “Now just think; if everyone in the world went about whacking people with brooms that they didn’t like, the world would be out of whack indeed.” He laughed at his little joke.
This was silly. Could Mr. Smithers have the beginnings of a smile on his face? Out of the corner of Joe’s eye, he saw something moving way up on the hill---it was the bus! Now he had a dilemma: sit here jaw-jacking with Mr. Smithers, or sprint up the hill to catch his bus. His destiny…
“Nothing stops me from cleaning,” Joe said, and he took his broom and whacked Mr. Smithers with it as hard as he could. Mr. Smithers fell all the way back onto the pavement, flopping around like a big whale. “Ohhh, my hip,” he groaned.
Joe started sprinting as fast as he could. The grease spot in his brown paper bag made the paper soft and the chicken leg came tumbling out, but he couldn’t care. Not now! HIs legs felt like lead as he told them to pump faster and faster. Surely the bus would wait!
Eventually, he made it to the bus, made it to Hampton University. He was a little late and his boss wasn’t happy: “Is that blood on your broom?” he said. But Joe was too exhausted to answer and he just stared at him. “ Boy, where are you from?” asked the dorm master who would also be his work-study supervisor for the next four years.
Joe didn’t answer; he just wanted to get dusting and sweeping and forget all about the nightmare that had occurred that morning. Soon enough, rumors began to spread around campus: “Hey, you know that old pervert janitor who’s always hanging around in the hallway? Well, I heard he beat up a dog and then beat up his owner. What’s up with that?” and “Not cool to hit the dog” and “What did a dog ever do to that creepy old janitor?”
Their words bothered Joe a bit. But, he just kept to himself mostly. He was grateful that his high school principal had set up this arrangement for him at Hampton: free tuition and two meals a day in the cafeteria in return for him being the main janitor during the afternoons and weekends. It was lonely, though …
Suddenly, a girl came running up to him. “Average Joe the Janitor, Average Joe the Janitor!” she cried. “We have an accident in the bathroom.” Average Joe the Janitor went into the bathroom and almost fainted; brown stuff was smeared all over the walls, trash clogged up the sinks, the stalls were a mess, and the toilets were overflowing. It was then that Joe knew what this was about--it was a test. Revenge on the students for the dog that he had whacked. Joe took a deep breath.
And so it went for the whole first semester; cleaning up after the inconsiderate, well-dressed and well-monied students. It was lonely and Joe missed home. Then, one day in English class, he saw the prettiest girl he had ever seen. She said she was from “Dublin, Ohio,” with a sweet, honey-brown voice. Where in the heck was Dublin, Ohio? Well, Joe couldn’t take his eyes off her. One day, she caught him staring at her …
Her name was Margaret, and she tried to be nice and ignore Joe, but Joe would not be ignored. Following her between classes, offering to shine her shoes, stalking her around campus, Joe had it bad. He wanted to talk to her, but he was so shy and socially awkward that he could not get out a syllable. One day, when Margaret was walking into her dorm, Joe grabbed her hand. She whipped around and said, “Stop!”
“Uh, I didn’t mean nothing. But you sure are pretty.” The whole hallway erupted with laughter as the other students mocked him. But Margaret didn’t laugh.
“I don’t speak to dog-beaters,” she said and turned on her heel. Joe felt a flush creep up his neck as he looked down in shame. “And also,” Margaret said, peeking her head out from the door. “I didn’t mean nothing is improper English.”
And so Joe was lonely forever. He was adept at stalking and sneaking up on people, and thus was doomed to stalk and follow people who desperately needed advice. Yeah… Average Joe the Janitor could help with that.