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Arie Kraaijenoord: ‘I stuck around and I’ve been working here for 33 years now’

Every day, Arie Kraaijenoord (64) can be seen driving around in his little blue van, delivering the mail in and around the Lipsius building. He’s been with campus general services since the post of concierge was first created.

For a concierge, no two days are the same

‘I start early in the morning – I usually leave when the roads are still quiet and I arrive at 7 o’clock. Our work doesn’t have a set schedule; things don’t always happen at regular times and we’re not tied to a calendar. I check whether the lights work, including the emergency lighting, when I open the building in the morning, but if a bulb dies after that it sometimes has to wait. The same is true of small repairs. We try to do as many as possible ourselves: for instance, we can often reset a lift or fix a photocopier ourselves. If that doesn’t work, I stick an ‘Out of order’ notice on it and call in a specialist.’

‘Twice a day we also relieve the people who work on reception – they work long shifts, and they have to eat too. When I’m sitting there, I’m the first face people see when they come in. You get a bit of everything, positive and negative: once I got cake because someone was really happy, but people also come and complain at you when they’ve just been given a fine.’

‘Something else I do is arranging internal relocations within the faculty. You often have to cross the bridge by Lipsius, which is frustrating, as is the grit by the PJ Veth building that gets in your boots.’

All roads lead to the post room

‘These days I mainly work in the post room. We receive letters and parcels, but also food and drink for the kitchen, cleaning supplies and textbooks. We often receive parcels for staff members, but of course we don’t want staff to have all their online purchases sent to us. We also receive the post for study associations; they can’t pick it up themselves because they’re often only here in the evening. We sort the post and parcels, then I put them in the little blue van and take them to the different locations on campus. My colleagues make sure that they get to the secretarial staff and the right rooms. And when things are no longer used or broken, we take them away to be recycled.’

Wanted: Jack of all trades

‘I started off as a builder, but in those days there wasn’t much work. After that I worked in the prison at Scheveningen for two years, but that wasn’t for me. It didn’t feel good, and I felt as if I’d been locked up myself. Then I saw in the newspaper that Leiden University was looking for a Jack of all trades. I applied, and got the job. I already had a security certificate from the prison, so that worked out well. It was actually only supposed to be for a few years, but I stuck around and I’ve been working here for 33 years now.’

‘A lot has changed: everything used to be done on paper, and now you can use a computer to report that you’re out of printer paper. A few things are still done by hand, but I actually like doing things electronically.’

Fishing boats and fish dinners

‘I’ve spent two lots of six months away from work, on unpaid leave. I worked on a big fishing boat for five months. It was hard work, but I loved it. That work was mainly for the money, and sometimes you just have to take some time away. Some people go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela; I go to Mauritania on a fishing boat. I’ve seen a lot, but then I’ve been on this earth for a good few decades.’

‘In my free time I like to go to the beach. I live in Katwijk, so the sea is never far away. I’ve gone to the beach nearly every day of my life. Not always for a long time, but I go. Some people like fondue, but I’d rather eat a fish dinner with my fisherman friends on the beach. But only if it’s not raining!’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.

Suzé Klok
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