By Hannah Jeske ’16
As students groggily stumble out of their bedrooms toward their 8 a.m. classes, Cleaning Services staff members are already busily scrubbing toilets and wiping down counters in the residence halls. Cleaning Services staff members often go unnoticed by the busy students, but Harstad’s housekeeper is quick to offer a bright smile to anyone who looks up at her.
Susan Garland wears Cleaning Service’s uniform of slacks and a gray polo and adds a bright smile wherever she goes. She can often be found saying hello to the students who pass her in the hallway.
Garland’s friendly attitude seems to draw students to her. “She is the sweetest person ever,” Katie Darling, sophomore, said. “She always says ‘hi’ to me, and she is always willing to give you a hug if you need one.”
Garland has been working in Pacific Lutheran University’s Cleaning Services for 11 years. She said a housekeeper cleans a resident hall like one would normally clean a house, except on an industrial scale. Her normal routine is cleaning bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, lounges and, if time, stairways.
Garland, without hesitating, said her favorite part of being a housekeeper is the students. Her eyes sparkled as she recounted various students who have given her a hug when they have returned to PLU after graduating. Garland said she enjoys hearing all about students and their lives.
Garland’s goal as a housekeeper is to make the residents comfortable. A resident hall is a student’s home while at college. She said she wants to help the students feel as at home as possible while living here. “It’s your house,” Garland said.
Garland takes it a step farther than just making sure the bathrooms are clean. She makes herself available to students in a more personal way. She gives anyone a hug who wants one. She is often found talking to students in the hallways. She even said she is a shoulder to cry on if anyone needs it.
Garland keeps a smile on her face because students sometimes just need a smile. “I enjoy the kids,” Garland said. She does her job with her positive attitude because she cares about the students she interacts with.
“It’s OK to laugh at yourself,” Garland said. She takes her own advice to heart. “I have a sense of humor,” Garland said. She can quickly call to memory several stories that demonstrate this. She said to remember that your path is not always going to be smooth, but to keep your chin up. Laughing at yourself makes life more pleasant.
Garland’s advice for how to live well at PLU is that “everything you learned in kindergarten applies to today.” She said to share with others, be kind to everyone and pick up after yourself.
Cleaning Services staff members have more to them than their uniforms. Some might have helpful advice for students while others might be there for a hug on a bad day. If students spend the extra minute asking how the housekeeper is doing as they pass each other in the hallway, new friendships could be formed.