It’s 8:45 on Monday morning, and AVI employee Bob Haws is unloading both a cart and a stack of trash bags from a company van for the first stop of his daily dish pickup. I met up with him in Peirce Dining Hall and went with him on his route.
“This cart is the answer to all mankind’s problems,” he said.
Haws had some trouble locating the keys to the van, so his route began a little late that morning. As a result, we rushed out of Peirce and were hasty to start up the van. From the passenger seat, I noticed a salt shaker on the dashboard. Haws explained that AVI often uses the van for catering, so employees sometimes eat meals during their drives.
Every day at the same time, Haws, friendly and upbeat, drives the van out of Peirce’s loading dock and collects dirty dishes from more than 20 buildings, starting with some faculty offices along the road to the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC). He must finish by 10 a.m., when he will bring his haul to the dish return and begin his next task of preparing pastries for lunch.
Haws began collecting dishes from the many bins distributed throughout academic buildings across campus when he first came to AVI about six weeks ago and was trained by another employee. A student, Harper Beeland ’20, collects the dishes in residential buildings less frequently. “Old Bob is the staff member with the responsibility of doing this job,” Haws said of himself. Despite his work, AVI spends about $3,000 on new dishes and utensils each month.
Haws’ route includes three major stops — the science quad, the library and Ascension Hall — where he turns off the engine in the van and uses the cart instead of carrying dishes by hand. Olin and Chalmers Memorial Library has two bins on the first floor and one on the two subsequent floors. On Monday, the bins by the front entrance were overflowing.
Every now and then, a fork punctures a hole in a trash bag and liquid leaks out from the bottom. To prevent this, Haws knots the bottom of the bag, but only if the bin is big enough to still fit it. Otherwise he has to cradle the bag of dishes in his arms in order to bring it back to the van.
One of the stops on our drive was Gund Commons. Haws told me that back when the space was a dining hall, he worked for the Mansfield distribution center for Nickles Bakery and delivered goods to the building. In the period between that job and his current one, he sold new and used cars. He has also sold time slots on a local radio station and worked as a substitute middle school teacher.
Haws explained that sometimes, in addition to the dishes he picks up from the bins, he sometimes passes orphaned dishes on his route and adds them to the pile. However, he said that because his route was so rushed, there was no time for him to track down rogue cups that students failed to bring to the bins.
Haws makes sure to greet people he passes during his route. In the Gund Gallery, Director of Operations and Visitor Experience J. Christopher Fahlman ’72 ran into Haws while retrieving something near the dish bin and expressed his thanks, explaining that he had noticed someone stopping by to remove the dirty dishes. Fahlman said students and other people alike enjoy lounging in the Gallery’s lobby, so dishes often pile up.
Because Haws was so rushed, he explained there were locations he had to skip and get to the next day. When we parted ways back at the loading dock, he dropped off everything he had picked up at dish return, where it would be washed and restocked in the servery.
Haws said that so far, his morning dish route has usually gone pretty smoothly. Still, he wished to remind students that the bins are for dishes, not books and water bottles.