Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Institute Of Sanitation Technology

Sometime in 1971, my buddy Cac, who was the official leader of our band, The Morning Reign, announced that he was leaving the group. Cac had graduated from Willamette University, and he had received an offer he couldn’t refuse, working in concert promotions.

I had been contemplating the future myself, since I was not all that happy, travelling as much as we did. I was so in love with my baby daughter, Stacey, that I thought it might be a good time for me to move on too. So, Cac and I quit the band together. It was a bit sad, since we had both invested our hearts and minds so deeply into that endeavor for over 5 years. But we both knew it was time.

We were living in Seattle, and my wife at the time, my daughter’s Mom, Donna, was working for Safeway. But for the first time ever, I was going to have to get a real job. I was 24 years old, I had two kids, and absolutely no idea what to do.

In reading the want ads, I spied an ad that read, “Come to The Institute of Sanitation Technology, Guaranteed Job After Graduation”. In the days that followed, I drove there to check it out, and found that the people who owned the school also had a janitorial company. That was how they guaranteed jobs. I signed up.

I must say, one would think that being a janitor isn’t much more than emptying waste baskets and cleaning toilets. And mostly, I was just after that guaranteed job. But I was surprised to discover that there actually was a curriculum, hands on experience with machines, and lessons about cleaning agents and other substances. There was a section on all the different types of flooring that one might find in a building, and the correct way to clean them, which agents to use, etc. What I thought was going to be sort of a joke, was actually quite a good learning experience. I finished the school, which was about a month, got a job with the company, and for the first time in my life, was supplying my own health benefits. I remained a janitor for about a year, and then found a job as a baker’s apprentice.

In the years to come, it was remarkable how many times I came to need the experience I had gotten as a graduate of “The Institute of Sanitation Technology”. For example, when I built my first bakery, I saved a ton of money by buying my own floor machine, and stripping and waxing the floor on a regular basis by myself. And believe it or not, there is a right way and wrong way to mop, with a big 28 oz. mop, and that little bit of knowledge made my job so much easier over the next twenty years of owning a bakery. Of course I passed on my knowledge of how to clean things properly to my employees.

My friend Stan, who came to work for me as apprentice in 1977 and ended up buying my bakery from me in 1995, used to make light of my “sanitation education”, when I would brag about it to him by stating, “Oh yeah that’s right Ric, I forgot, you did attend "The Institute of Sanitation Technology “At” Seattle”. Very funny. But all in all, I think my experience there suggests that, if you are learning something in school, just about anything, it will probably come back to help you later.

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Pacific Beach, Washington, United States