Recorded at KenCrest Services April 2015.
Thomas has worked at KenCrest for 1 year.
LIVES LIVED APART Interview with Thomas Recorded April 23, 2015
GAIL'S COMMENTS: "I guess what struck me when I was doing it, and stays with me still, is that there is so much more that unites us than divides us. People are people. Everybody has a story. And it's just a question of eliciting it from them really.
[This experience] made me, to a certain degree, question the nature of institutions—quasi-institutions of special situations for people with disabilities. I think that there are really two sides to that question and they need to be explored deeply. But I think we, as a culture and a society, need to devote more resources and more attention to human needs, and this is one area of human need that merits greater resources and greater attention."
Gail: Let's see. You want to just say a few words so I can test the sound level on this, Thomas?
Staff: I tested the levels before so they should be...
Thomas: When she said that. It didn't start when I said that, did it?
Staff: No, what you said before wasn't recorded.
Thomas: OK, alright.
Staff: It just started right now.
Thomas: So it's (inaudible) what I said now?
Thomas: I thought it was... oh man. Can you.. Is there any way to put that back?
Staff: What you share?
Thomas: Take it back... take the words off? I didn't know. I didn't know you pushed the button.
Courtney: You're fine. You did exactly what they wanted you to do, OK?
Thomas: Oh, OK.
Courtney: There is no wrong thing on this, OK?
Staff: And you're going to get a copy of this and if there's anything you said you want to take off later, you can take that off later, OK?
Thomas: Oh, OK.
Staff: OK Gail.
Staff: I'll be right back.
Gail: Let's see. Is this on?
Staff: Yep, everything is recording and the levels have been tested and you should be just good to go and pretend this isn't here.
Gail: OK. Will do. Thank you.
Staff: I'll be right back.
Gail: Let's see. It's April 23rd, a Thursday. We're here at KenCrest. It's about noon. My name is Gail Freedman and I'm here talking with Tom who's going to share some of his story with us. Do you just want to introduce yourself and say hello and give your name, Tom?
Thomas: Hello. This is my coordinator, Courtney.
Gail: Courtney is in the room.
Thomas: Courtney, yeah. Courtney. That's what her name is. She helps me a lot. She looks on me while I do my work and makes sure I do it right. I clean bathrooms, do upstairs bathrooms. I do trash. I take the trash out. What else? I do... I mop the stairs. I mop this way and I mop the other way. I mop. I do all the bathrooms, clean bathrooms, mop a little.. the ladies room. I do upstairs first where her office is if she has any trash. Go around Mary's and get the trash up there. What is it? Third floor or second? It's the second floor but that's about it. She's just the one... she's the coordinator. She's my coordinator. She's basically the one that looks on what I'm doing while I do my work so that's basically what I do. That's why I'm a janitor. The other guy who was cleaning... he was doing it before I even came. His name was Charles and I came to this place because I wanted to be somewhere where it's quiet and I can work with less quiet. I used to work at Bridgewater and that's where I came. I worked for Owen and I didn't really want to. That was my last stop. I didn't want to... I used to reload trucks and unload trucks and I didn't realize. I wanted to get out of life because it was too much. I was getting lousy pay and they only have me between 30 and 40 bucks an hour every two weeks. I like this place because it's more safer because not too many people talk and I like it because it's quiet, it gives you more opportunity to do what I have to do, you know? And I feel like my watch by looking at my watch I catch on to what I'm doing. I don't do my watch all the time. I don't look at it all the time but I add up the day of my clock of my watch but I don't watch it... I don't look at it all the time, you know. How many hours I look. I just look over sometimes and catch on how much I do look to how much work I do and by then I look at my watch. Not all the time I'm working. I catch on after I work how many hours that I worked and I add it all up in my head, you know, and that's how I do it because I work six hours a day and that's how I do it. That's why... when she looks on at me she doesn't want me to get in trouble so I just do what she tells me to do and I just do it. I do my work; no problem. My boss, the other guy that I was working with, he had another job, his name was Charles. He was the main one. He was the one that was teaching me how to clean the bathroom and stairs and everywhere else, you know? So that's basically what I did. So now I know how to do it but she's... Courtney, she catches on... learning me how to do it and teach me how to do it as she goes because she told me before. She said I can see what you do when you're working and she says I do a real good job because when I first came here I had an ice cream and it was my very first ice cream before I started. She told me that I can take the day because I took off the first day before I came here actually because I was new so she let me go. She let me go on the first day because nobody really works. When you start a job nobody works on the first day unless it's a different work area. I had to work on the second day. That was the day I started, you know? I came to work. My mom and dad were at the meeting, the company, my supervisor... my supervisor Darren, Eric, people at the office you know? Things... good things that I can offer you. I mean it... what I mean is this job makes me feel better. It gives me. It teaches me. I'm learning how to do it. I'm learning myself. All she's doing is catching on and making sure I do my job. She's teaching me and as I do it I'm teaching her. It's two different ways. I'm going forward and she's going backwards. We go back and forth at the same time, you know? And every once a while you look at her time that I do for her to put in... It all depends on how much work I do. That's all and that's it. That's basically what I... what I can actually say about my job. That's about it.
Gail: That's a lot.
Photos by JJ Tiziou
A Fierce Kind of Love has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.