Urban legend has it that one of the midterm exam questions for some Business Ed. class, somewhere, was "What is the janitor's name?" The students were furious of course, but the question was supposed to underscore the importance of valuing support staff and the people who do their jobs so that you may do yours.
I heard that story long ago and took the message to heart. You don't need to know their life story, just know their names, maybe a little about them, wish them a happy holiday or weekend once in a while or just say hello.
Conversely, they don't need to know your life story either. But for all the times that you forget your keys/passes, lock yourself out, need to borrow duct tape, something blocking your path or you otherwise need a small favour, they may be there for you.
People just want to be treated like a human being and part of that means being recognized by name.
I want everyone to go and find out the name of the janitor/custodian at the place where you work, where you go to school or a building on campus you have classes in. If you're self-employed or don't have a janitor, then just pick a public employee that you see nearly regularly that you don't know — building security guard, bus driver, toll booth person, etc.
What is your janitor's name?
My custodian is Raoul, he's Russian. Every second evening, the floor under my desk is deliberately vacuumed. Some co-workers have noticed, and mentioned to me, that theirs don't always get done.
Raoul always vacuums my floor. I am apparently one of the few who know his name, which surprises me because it's a small company. I thank him every time he comes around to take the garbage from my receptacle. I say hello when I see him working in the hallway and I joked with him about mistakenly getting hand lotion instead of hand soap for the washrooms.
But here's the kicker: I GET UP and move my chair out of the way for him when he comes by with the vacuum cleaner. It's as simple as that.
Other folks: Andy (Building Manager), Dustin (Plant Maintenance)
[Update - 1236h]
All y'all would do SO WELL in Business School! Okay, maybe not, but I'm just proud to show off that I know the plural of "y'all" =D
Yes! Any maintenance or public service staff you see on a regular basis counts =)