Maurice Summons

Custodian, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Maurice Summons
Photo by Tim Harrison

Twice, in the beginning, Maurice Summons left work, got into his beloved Chrysler 300 and fell asleep before the keys slid into the ignition. He'd wake up hours later having never moved from the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport employee parking lot.

"I'm sure you've been tired before in your life," the night-shift custodian says. "But not like this. It's not anything you can control."

These bouts of extreme tiredness came when he added a second job as a third-shift custodian (9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.) at the airport, while also keeping his twice weekly shoe shiner gig at the Cleveland Shines station on Concourse C during summer mornings.

"I'm used to it now, but it took a lot of getting used to," the 37-year-old says. "I started the night shift in 2013, and I didn't get used to it until 2014. Going to sleep by 3 p.m., you have to get used to that too. Everybody, the kids are getting out of school, you have to find your own quiet to get to work by 9:30 p.m."

Our interview with Summons takes place in the middle of the day, a time he has selected, meaning he's functioning (impressively well) on a couple hours of sleep. Walking through the less-than-busy airport baggage claim, Summons greets every employee who passes by before settling down in a conference room to chat.

Summons, a transplant from the South Side of Chicago, says this is the best job he's ever had. He says that at night, when his crew is stripping, washing and buffing floors, "People [departing their planes] will tell us 'thank you.'"

He finds as much satisfaction in keeping a clean home as he does a clean airport bathroom or polishing someone's shoes (which he claims to be one of the best at). Summons says he probably has OCD. His DVD collection is always in order and no dish is left unwashed in the sink.

But like any job, his gig has its concerns. A member of the Service Employee International Union Local 1, Summons worries about mandatory overtime and getting more workers hired for the night shift.

Also, to schedule anything from family events to working out vacation time with the HR department, he has to be clear about dates and times. "I'm always a day ahead," he says. On his two days off a week, he makes time for his kids and seeing friends.

Still, there's something about the hours that he loves, like beating the traffic in the evening and the morning. And he enjoys going to the grocery store right after work when the only people in the place are senior citizens.

"I like being the guy making money while everyone else is asleep," Summons says. "Sometimes it feels like I have the whole city to myself."

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