I asked my grandfather how many times he’d been beaten with a broom in college after he described his freshmen experience.
“Oh, not too much.”
I pressed. How much was that? Three times? Five?
“Maybe 20 times a day.”
Apparently when my grandfather was an undergraduate at a well-known university back before WWII, the custodians would whack the freshmen with the side-end of a broomstick if they couldn’t answer certain questions. Of course, the sophomores joined into the game with requests and demands of meal-fetching, posting letters to sweethearts, and so forth. The way he tells it, I double over laughing every time.
But do you know what question the custodians would ask the freshmen with threat of a good whallop?
“What is my name?” “What is my wife’s name?” “How old is my kid?”
I realize that I could not tell you the names of a single person who cleans my office building. I have no damn clue. I will pass by and nod politely albeit out of habit rather than a genuine desire to engage with them; it’s not that I don’t care about this other person in front of me but that there is a general rule of silence in place- we don’t bother them, and they don’t bother us. We go about our respective jobs in relative silence and disconnect.
Honestly, I think we all deserve a good beating with a mop head or something for not knowing even the names of those who uncomplainingly clean up our offices, bathrooms, and other crap we thoughtlessly leave behind or remembering to wish their kids a happy freaking birthday.