A day in the life of a trash technician

Feb 24, 2015, 09:19 AM by India Ogazi


If you work in the Rebecca Sealy Building on the UTMB Galveston campus, then you’re probably familiar with Jarvis Givens. He’s the eight-story building’s sole trash technician and on any given day, you can see him in his bright red shirt, hustling and bustling through the hallways as he greets everyone with a “Hello, how are you doing?” and a chuckle.

He’s the type of guy who holds the elevator door open for you as he offers to help you find your destination. A necessary task and appreciated gesture, if you’ve ever visited the maze-like building.

He’s always smiling, always in a good mood and always at work. He’s that guy.

“I’m often one of the first people a person meets when they come to work in Rebecca Sealy,” said Givens.

And he’s right. He’s one of the first people I met when I joined UTMB. His warm demeanor made me feel welcomed and I must admit, he helped me find my way one day when he noticed I got off on the wrong floor.

“Hey, don’t you work on the third floor?” he asked, when I mistakenly got off the elevator on the second floor.

That’s Givens.

And that’s why I wondered what it’s like to spend a day in his work life.

Givens2“I’ve been at UTMB for 15 years and I’ve worked in Rebecca Sealy for 12,” Givens said. “My title is trash technician and I’m responsible for removing all of the trash from the building.”

Givens is also responsible for sweeping the stairwells, vacuuming and cleaning the elevator doors. He explains that one of the biggest misconceptions people have about his job is that it’s easy.

And by the time I finish shadowing Givens I can testify on his behalf that his work is not easy.

He works quickly and efficiently, removing bags of trash from environmental services closets, the doors of which we often walk by, unaware of their hidden contents. When I meet up with him at 2 p.m., he’s halfway through his eight-hour shift and on the third floor clearing a enviornmental services closet.

He fills his large black bin with trash bags and then quickly moves it to the trashGivens3compactor, housed outside the first floor of Rebecca Sealy.

Next he gets a page to go to the Graduate Medical Education office to remove recycle bags. “Employees can call 2-4040 from [Galveston’s] campus with a request for trash pickup and we will come pick it up,” Givens said.

Givens stays in high gear and quickly goes to the GME where he greets everyone and they all know him by name. He collects their recycle bins and gets another page request for trash removal.

Before responding to that page he goes to the seventh floor to remove bags he saw in the hallway earlier. “People think my job is easy, but I’m constantly moving and I’m proactive,” he said.

Next he moves to another floor where he again receives a warm greeting. Director of Alumni Relations and Employee Advisory Council Past-Chair Julie Cantini is happy to see his face and speaks highly of his work ethic and positive attitude.

Givens4This is the praise I hear again and again as Givens sweeps all eight floors of the stairwells, removes trash from the fourth-floor cubicles, collects recycle bags, clears the environmental service closets and returns to the trash compacter. And he does all of this in one hour.

Quickly and efficiently. All with a positive attitude, greeting everyone with a smile and a “how are you?”
My intentions were to stay with Givens for another hour, but my feet hurt.

He laughs and explains, “I had a manager tell me once that he was going to work with me for a full eight hours one time and he only made it for two.”

In the time I spend with Givens, I gain a new respect for the work that he does. In a large institution where major medical science breakthroughs occur, our housekeeping co-workers can be overlooked, but they are the crew behind the scenes who play a major role in our mission — to improve health care for Texas and the world. 

Givens and the rest of the Environmental Services staff at UTMB are contracted through Aztec or Sodexho, but Givens knows he’s a part of the UTMB family — and with his infectious attitude it’s to our benefit.

Stay positive, Givens. And that’s a day in the life of a trash technician.