Q: How did you end up being a janitor?
O’Donnell: I was in school during the day so I needed a job that I could work at night. So, I got a job as a janitor at an insurance company and I did that for a little while. My wife Carrie worked as a janitor for another company, and one day she told me that they had just fired someone and needed to hire someone to take his place. So I moved over to that company because I would be working with Carrie cleaning these doctors’ offices. Later on I found out the guy whose place I took got fired because he was stealing drug samples.
Q: How did you go from cleaning a doctor’s office to cleaning a tortilla factory?
O’Donnell: The janitorial company just needed someone to clean the factory so they sent me over there.
Q: How many people cleaned with you?
O’Donnell: Oh, it was just me.
Q: You cleaned the whole thing all by yourself?
O’Donnell: Well, it wasn’t the entire factory. I wasn’t cleaning the assembly line where they made the tortillas. I was cleaning the kitchen, the bakery, the break room, stuff like that.
Q: Are we talking full-on disinfecting here? Or just sweeping and mopping?
O’Donnell: It depended on which room it was. There was the bakery, where they made just regular Mexican pastries, so at the end of the day there was this quarter-inch thick layer of flour and colored sugar all over the floor. Little footprints in it and everything. I dusted the flour off of everything and then started to mop up all the goo on the floor that had built up throughout the day.
Q: And you mopped it up with water?
Q: And water plus flour…
O’Donnell: Makes glue. I dumped and refilled the mop bucket at least three times just to clean one room.
Q: Was that the most difficult part to clean?
O’Donnell: Well, once I was done with the bakery I moved on to the break room. The break room was not that bad. The worst thing I found was food spilled on the table. And then there was the bathroom. Oh. There is… well, let me just say this. Sewer systems are not the same in every country. In some countries, the sewer systems don’t have the capacity that they have here. So, depending on where you are, it is often times common practice to not flush your used toilet paper down the toilet. So, um, what you do is, uh, cleanse yourself and then deposit your used toilet paper in a trashcan. This is the theory, at least. So, there were these huge, four-foot-tall, two-foot-wide square trashcans in the bathrooms that, of course, I had to take the bags out of every night and throw away. Now, the real downside to this was that the trashcans had a plastic rim around the top and were located a few feet from the toilet itself. So, someone would have a piece of soiled toilet paper in their hand, and they would then try to throw it into the trashcan and it wouldn’t always go right in. Sometimes it would hit the wall first or bounce off of the rim of the trashcan before going in. Sometimes it would not go in at all.
Q: Why didn’t anyone ever, you know, move the trashcan closer to the toilet?
O’Donnell: I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Q: What else got made at this factory besides tortillas?
O’Donnell: Different sorts of Mexican pastries.
Q: Did you develop an aversion to tortillas and Mexican pastries when you worked there because you had to clean up their mess?
O’Donnell: Oh, no. After working there I developed an incredible addiction to tortillas. By the time I got to cleaning the break room the foreman of the tortilla factory and a couple of other guys were on a break. Because this was a tortilla factory the people who worked there could get as many tortillas as they wanted. So, they brought in all sorts of Tupperware containers filled with things to eat with the tortillas — meat, beans, rice all mixed up and cooked. They took that, heated up some corn tortillas, and then ate it for dinner. Now, because there was so much food there, and I spoke Spanish and they happened to like me, they all shared their food with me. I got all the tortillas I wanted to eat.
Q: Do you think working in the tortilla factory or being the janitor in the tortilla factory was a worse job?
O’Donnell: Hmmm. Well, I pretty much think that no matter how bad a job is, being a janitor at that job is going to be worse. I mean, you’re the janitor for god’s sake.
Q: What about a sewer treatment plant?
Q: What about working in a sewer treatment plant? People who work there have to wade around in pools of poo while wearing those tall fish wading pants.
O’Donnell: Right, but then those people get out and who has to clean up where they’ve been walking? Who has to clean the fish wading pants when they’re done with them? That’s right, it’s the janitor.
Q: Oh, yeah. Good point.
O’Donnell: Of course, there are some advantages to being the janitor. For instance, the giant tubs of cookie dough.
O’Donnell: In the bakery there were these giant tubs of cookie dough.
O’Donnell: Well, you know, there wasn’t anyone around and there was just all this cookie dough there.
Q: You would just grab cookie dough and eat it?
Q: What else was just sitting around?
O’Donnell: Well, there were the giant tubs of cookie dough, and different kinds of pastry dough. Frosting. Stuff like that.
Q: And you would eat all this?
O’Donnell: Oh, no. Just the cookie dough.
Q: Not the frosting?
Q: So the janitor finally wins?
O’Donnell: The janitor finally wins.