After almost suffering a stroke and heart failure in May, 48-year-old John Howard has revived a passion for his job at UF.
“I just took this job because I got tired of staying home doing nothing, so I said, ‘The first job that comes along, I’m going to take it,’” Howard said.
Howard has been working at the Hub’s Chick-fil-A since Aug. 22. He is in charge of keeping the compactor and bailer area clean. He picks up trash from the dining room and the prep area of the kitchen, he mops, and he refills the condiments.
Thousands of UF employees like Howard make the university run smoothly. They cook student’s food, drive them to class and clean buildings. Although students may not even know their names, they’re a constant positive force throughout campus.
“Every day is my best day because I always have a good attitude towards people,” Howard said. “I keep a positive attitude, and I just love the work I do at Chick-fil-A. Every day goes smooth for me because I’m happy all the time. I don’t have anything to bring me down too much.”
Eventually, he would like to move up and work full-time at the restaurant. His dream is to own his own cleaning business one day and become more independent.
“I’m just so dedicated to my work,” Howard said.
Suzy Knight and Pam Summers, two UF employees, sparked a friendship last September while on a lunch break.
Summers, who cleans for Gator Dining, approached Knight, a line cook and clerical worker at Arredondo Café, to sit and eat lunch with her.
The two hit it off and have been friends ever since.
“When I first started out, I didn’t know her, and she asked me to each lunch with her and we’ve been close ever since,” Knight, 46, said. “We don’t argue, we don’t fight, we get along real good.”
Although their conflicting schedules don’t allow for them to eat lunch together anymore, Knight and Summers see each other every morning before they begin their shifts. They catch up over a cup of coffee, and when Summers is feeling down, Knight is always sure to give her some advice.
“Some days she might come here upset about something or whatever,” Knight said. “I kind of lift her up a little bit, and she likes that.”
On days when they don’t see each other, Knight makes sure to give Summers a call at home to check in on her. They also go out to dinner, go shopping and grab candies at Russell Stover Candies on weekends. Last week, they went out to eat at Golden Corral and went shopping at Walmart.
“We buy candy, all different kinds in the box,” Summers, 62, said. “She’s a good person. We have a good friendship.”
Tuesday through Friday from 6:19 a.m. to 4:22 p.m., Dontae Brown drives route 12 from the Reitz Union to Butler Plaza on the Regional Transit System bus.
Brown, 26, has been working with RTS for five years, and he said loves his experiences, especially with students.
“Every time I pick up students, it’s always a good experience because they’re always greeting you ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon’ and ‘thank you’ every time they get off the bus,” Brown said. “It’s been a good experience. I’m a people person, so dealing with different types of people, that comes in a great big aspect of the job.”
Being a bus driver for RTS has been more laid back than his previous jobs at Walmart and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. It’s the students who keep him energized while he’s driving. He said he especially enjoys working during the football games.
“It’s always a pretty good experience dealing with all different types that come from out-of-state,” Brown said. “Actually, for the Tennessee game, a Tennessee fan got off the bus and said that that was one of the smoothest rides he’d ever had when I took him back to The Oaks Mall.”
Although Brown doesn’t feel like he’s made any particularly close connections with students, he said there are always random students who sit in the front and engage in conversation with him throughout the day.
“I have different ones that come on and most of them will sit up front and talk to me and ask me how my day is going and how many hours I work,” Brown said.
Sometimes, being an RTS driver can have its ups and its downs, Brown said. In the summer months, it can also get lonely with fewer students to talk to.
“Sometimes you’ll have your aggravated moments, and sometimes someone will come in and cheer you up so you have your mixed emotions throughout the day, but overall, I always have a good day,” Brown said.