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Consider the Bathroom Janitor: A Very Peculiar Short Film About the Most Forgotten Job

Whatever your feelings are about "fairly" paying janitors (Harvard just "came to an agreement with its janitors":, though Newt Gingrich "says he wants...
November 19, 2011, 10:05pm

Whatever your feelings are about “fairly” paying janitors (Harvard just came to an agreement with its janitors, though Newt Gingrich says he wants to fire them all and hire kids to clean schools), or the value of World Toilet Day (it’s today), you may be enthralled by this bizarre, almost surreal documentary about the bathroom janitors at a university. Directed by James W. Hall in 1966, “Color It Clean” is a verite look at what it means to be a janitor, with the appropriate dose of arty, horror-movie-worthy bathroom shots, and with “Stratusphunk,” performed by the legendary Gil Evans Orchestra, as its theme music. As one janitor says, using the word as a verb,

“There’s a lot more to janitoring than a person thinks. To me, it’s an art. I have my supplies and my studio. To do a top piece of work, you’ve gotta do more than dust and sweep. You’ve gotta really color it clean.”

Another new way to look at janitors: according to the Dept. of Labor, there are 5,057 janitors in the U.S. with Ph.D.'s, other doctorates, or professional degrees. It’s a reminder that no matter how clean you make the toilet bowl look, the economy is dipped inside. A third of Americans, including a janitor’s family the Times spoke to for its page one story today, are now closer to poverty than previously thought.