Ever wonder who picks up that cigarette butt that you stomped into the marble steps of Olin? Meet Steve Hunter, landscaper extraordinaire, who, among other things, scours the campus every weekday morning for trash. Not only is Hunter, 25, very good at his job—which we can all attest to—but he happens to be one of the friendliest guys on campus, maintaining a rolodex-like knowledge of the many students he has become acquainted with. When he’s not picking up our garbage, he is probably jamming on the harmonica with various student bands or his own group, “Blues not Bombs,” hitting the Middletown bar scene (he prefers the Fishbone Café and the Shadow Room), or doing something else that is invariably funky. Also, he asked me to give a special shout out to the “Spunky Girls” (don’t ask).
Argus: How did you end up in Middletown?
Steve Hunter: My brother and I were living in East Hampton, and one night at three in the morning we were woken up by this explosion in the building. We ran out of the building and we were all told that we couldn’t come back in. I ended up staying with my sister for a week. I ended up finding an apartment right next to Giuseppe’s Pizza (now The Cardinal’s Nest). That’s how I met my first Wesleyan friends, about four or five years ago.
A: So what caused the explosion?
SH: Well, the first floor was a nail salon, and this guy, who they suspect was the landlord, threw a pipe bomb through the window of the nail salon and it hit this chemical closet that caused this chain reaction of smoke within ten seconds of the bomb blowing up. Nobody got injured directly, thank God, but my apartment and my roommate Jesus’ apartment were the closest to the bomb! My brother actually slept through it—that kid could sleep through World War Five. I had to grab him by his ankles and yank him out of bed, wake his ass up. He goes up all swinging at me, and I’m like, ‘Oh My God.’
A: How do you like living in Middletown?
SH: I like that there’s tons of stuff to do. I used to work at Marco’s Deli and I saw all those Stonehedge guys every day, and I would harass them all the time until they finally hired me about three years ago. I ended up getting a job with those guys landscaping the campus. It’s great. There are so many different people—you got friends from all over the world. I get some of the benefits of the college without actually going there. There are a lot of friendly people. It’s cool. But you can tell—there’s a few who don’t realize what’s going on and they’re in their own little world. And that’s all good.
A: What do you mean?
SH: You know, people who just look straight ahead, keep walking, don’t hear anything. Got an iPod going in their ears. You could say hi to them all day long but they just keep going. [Laughs] Some people like to live their lives like that, but I think it’s pretty boring.
A: What’s your impression of Wesleyan students overall?
SH: They’re a real friendly bunch. The kids that I feel should represent the school are the artsy kids, the kids that are super friendly to everyone. The kids who don’t judge anyone whatsoever by their cover at all, will say hi to anybody walking by them—those type of kids are the type that should represent Wesleyan, because there are also a select amount of kids that trash the campus on a regular basis. Throw their garbage anywhere, disrespectful, don’t give a flying F about what the hell that whole college is about, and supposedly it’s supposed to be this green campus, “Save the earth,” you know, “Don’t litter,” composting everywhere. There are lots of kids who appreciate the college and abide by the rules, though.
A: So you’re basically picking up all the trash?
SH: Every morning I do grounds from 7 to 9 o’clock. Cleaning up garbage, cigarettes, cleaning up messes, anything that’s left behind across the whole campus. All the cigarette butts at Usdan, Olin Library. I’ll find Gatorade bottles full of piss at the corner of Church Street and High all the time. Piss, tobacco spit. And then over by the Foss dorms there are always a couple of them. They cap it, they didn’t even dump the piss out. It’s like you left a bottle of piss packaged for somebody to pick up.
A: Do you think students just don’t think to the next step that someone’s going to have to pick it up?
SH: Oh yeah. And gag while they’re doing it? [Laughs] Somebody was telling my friend one day they didn’t even realize there were landscapers on the campus. They were asking how the lawns and everything get mowed, and how everything stays so nice all the time, and my friend was just so flabbergasted at the question that she just had to walk away.
A: I’m not surprised by that at all.
SH: How you could go to school here for so many years, even a week, and not notice the landscaping crew on campus is beyond me, man. Some people just don’t care. But there are a lot of kids that enjoy the outside areas, and those are the ones that appreciate it, those are usually the kids who have classes in the arts center, the kids that notice the stuff we do. A lot of kids from over there ask us for help with things. There’s this one girl, Sarah, she does dance, and she was asking us to do some performance thing. She’s trying to get the whole landscaping crew to do this video thing for her, she wants to watch us work, and watch the motions and stuff. I had this girl come up to me one time and tell me it looked like I was dancing when I was raking these leaves, she said, “It looks like you’re doing some kind of a dance,” and I was like, “Awesome.”
A: You’re considered a friendly guy. What’s your secret?
SH: I don’t really do any extra effort other than just be polite and courteous. I think it’s rude if two people are walking in opposite directions toward each other and there is nobody else around and it’s morning or something, I think it’s rude to not just say “Good morning!” There are so many people that just walk by you and won’t even look at you. I guess they don’t feel like meeting anyone else. Especially since I usually am going the same route every day, I tend to run into the same people at the same time every day, so it’s like, “Hi, again.” Or if you’re alone in the morning and it’s a little early or whatever, and you see a guy in the distance walking toward you and you don’t recognize him, you’re worried he’s gonna mug you or something, and you’re just like, “Good morning,” even if it’s a mugger he might think twice about mugging you. You know what I mean? He’ll be like, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t mug this guy—seems like a nice guy.” I’m not really religious, but I do believe in karma. If you are nice to people it will come back around sooner or later.
A: That’s what my mom says.
SH: It’s true. If you’re a dick to everyone you meet, everyone’s going to talk shit about you. But if you’re nice to everyone you meet, no one has anything bad to say about you. [Long pause] Some friend of mine told me I was on this freaking anonymous crush website or something last year?
A: The Anonymous Confession Board?
SH: Yeah, like a few times. [Laughs]
A: Did you check it out?
SH: Nah, I don’t have a computer. So I don’t do Facebook or e-mails or anything like that.
A: Why not?
SH: I don’t need it. I don’t even watch TV, I just have it for movies and stuff. This is my entertainment right here (points to his guitar).