‘Sandwich guy’ fills stomachs, hearts

Anna Weggel

From piling an inedible amount of meat on sandwiches to teasing students for ordering hummus, University Dining Services employee Rodney Lenoir can be seen whipping up lunches for superblock residents on any given weekday.

Lenoir, 37, is most commonly referred to by residence hall students as Pioneer Hall’s “sandwich guy.” Because UDS officials have been attempting to create specialty themes in each residence hall cafeteria this year, Lenoir is in charge of Pioneer Hall’s sandwich station.

Lenoir said he doesn’t mind making the sandwiches every day because he has worked in fast-food restaurants for much of his life.

But he said if it weren’t for the students, he wouldn’t be working there.

“Everyone thanks me for the sandwiches,” Lenoir said. “It makes work worth coming to.”

Troubles with UDS

Walking down the stairs of the Pioneer Hall cafeteria, students were once able to hear jovial music coming from Lenoir’s compact disk player.

“I was really spreading the joy,” Lenoir said. “People were happy and enjoying it.”

But the music is no more.

Lenoir said his employers first informed him he could not play music and then told him that he was only allowed to play it quietly.

He said he turned off the music, because it wasn’t worth playing quietly.

Many students write notes on comment cards and ask him daily when the music will come back, he said.

Lenoir said his employers didn’t want to play music loudly because it might offend students, but he said he never played gangster rap or music with sexually explicit lyrics.

He said he mainly played 1960s, 1970s and classical music, and said the most offensive music he ever played was Prince.

“UDS is so busy worrying about not offending anybody that they don’t focus on making people happy,” Lenoir said. “I know how to make people happy.”

Lenoir said that, when he found out he could not play music loudly enough for everyone to hear, he got physically sick and had to take a day off.

“It depressed me,” he said. “It really did.”

UDS operations director Karen DeVet declined to comment about Lenoir’s music situation for confidentiality reasons.

DeVet did say UDS allows radios in the workplace, as long as the music selection and volume are agreeable to all parties involved.

“Any conflict over that – radios go away,” DeVet said.

Last year, Lenoir made Pioneer Hall’s Grab & Go lunches, a job that required him to work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. This year, however, Lenoir is required to work from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., a difference he said he is struggling with.

Lenoir said he is hoping to get hired in another residence hall cafeteria that will allow him to work the hours that he used to, but it’s not as easy as it seems.

“Everything goes on seniority,” he said.

Student appreciation

Lenoir said the kind words and friendly banter from students are some of the reasons he comes to work each day.

“Most (students) are just really kind to me, they treat me nice,” he said. “The students make it worth it.”

The students said they are equally appreciative of Lenoir.

History sophomore Laura Spence said that although Lenoir is a little heavy on the cold cuts, he is a very nice person.

“It seems like he doesn’t ever have a bad day,” she said.

Graphic design sophomore Anna Kulzick said she enjoys Lenoir’s presence as well.

“He is always smiling,” Kulzick said. “He sometimes whistles and throws a song in.”

Kulzick said she noticed Lenoir does not play music anymore.

“I liked the music,” she said. “I think they should give it back.”

Crossroads

Lenoir has lived in more than 10 different cities around the United States and said he is saving up money to head back down South, where he is from.

“I have been homeless a lot with all the drifting,” he said. “When I was younger, (the drifting) was great, but I’m too old for that now.”

Lenoir said that ideally he would like to work in the field of hospitality, entertaining guests at various businesses.

“I feel like I’m an expert in making people happy,” he said.

What Lenoir is most concerned about is leading a meaningful life, he said.

“I’m really at a crossroads in life now because I’m approaching middle age and haven’t accomplished much in life,” Lenoir said. “There’s no telling what I might do.”

For now, Lenoir will remain at Pioneer Hall until he moves on to his next endeavor.

“I can’t express how much the way you guys treat me means to me,” he said.