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Safer at Home:
Thank You, Juan and Patrick
by Janet Banks

The scent of disinfectant wafting in the hallways and elevator, a fragrance better than anything Chanel might manufacture, signals that Juan is on the job. As the condo building’s custodian, Juan arrives early every morning, not missing a single day in the last six months, to hand-clean and mop all surfaces, including doorknobs and railings, leaving the common areas in the building spotless. The sound of his vacuum in the hallway is the perfect accompaniment to calm fear of stepping out the door to the world beyond my apartment.

Patrick, our concierge, was furloughed for ten weeks — what a loss. His office remained shuttered during those long weeks. Deliveries were left on the building steps or in the vestibule in a jumble. The lobby was eerily quiet. The dogs living in the building must have been bewildered. Where were their treats from the friendly man downstairs? Patrick would occasionally swing by the building to see how his colleague Juan was holding up. It was a relief to see him visit, to know that he was well, that he hadn’t forgotten us. We’re so happy he is back on the job, welcoming us home with a wave and smiling eyes, masked, of course, as we are—the lobby again, a bright friendly space.

When the Covid-19 virus tore into Boston, the death toll shot through the ceiling at an alarming rate. The city was successful in flattening the curve and is now in Phase 3 of opening up. My husband and I, both 76 years-old, have pre-existing conditions. We aren’t seeing friends and family or eating in restaurants. We’re continuing our lives in Phase 1 mode, waiting for a vaccine and effective treatment for the virus. The two-man team, Juan and Patrick, continue to be indispensable to my sense of well-being.

PHOTO: Patrick Mahoney and Juan Valenzuela at the author’s building in Boston, Massachusetts. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My husband, Arthur Banks, and I moved into our condo 24 years ago. We’ve had the privilege of knowing Juan Valenzuela for 14 years and Patrick Mahoney for 11 years. They both told me that their favorite things about working at our building is the one-on-one work with the people who live here, and the chance to work with each other. “We’re a team,” Patrick said. ¶ The building has an interesting history. It’s located in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood was built in 1895, originally as an apartment hotel, a six-story steel and terra cotta structure, with a front of Indiana limestone and granite foundations. During the 1930s, under new ownership, it was renovated and renamed as “the only hotel in the United States strictly French in its operation.” In the early 1950s, the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston acquired the building and it was transformed into a home for the elderly. Sold during the late 1960s, the site continued to operate as a nursing home for another 10 years. In the early 1980s, the property was sold and converted into 24 condominium units. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Janet Banks is a writer who is exploring memories from her youth as well as the joys and challenges of aging in real time. Her personal essays have been published by The Rumpus, Entropy Magazine, WBUR’s Cognoscenti, Silver Birch Press, and Persimmon Tree among other on-line sites. Shortly after retiring from a corporate career, she was published in the Harvard Business Review and contributed commentary regarding career development to numerous publications.