These are the first words you hear when entering Huden Dining Hall after pulling an all-nighter of studying for a test or after a night of binge drinking. The woman behind this greeting is “Q” – and don’t ask her real name.
But if you ask anyone how he or she feels about her, they will say the same thing.
“Q is amazing.”
“I love Q.”
“Q is the best.”
Senior Catherine Twing was rushing around grabbing some food to fill up her stomach before class started one day. Eating her soup very quickly and not paying attention to her surroundings, she accidently smacked her spoon, launching hot soup onto her arms, sweater and face.
In a split moment, Q came running over with a hot towel to help Twing get cleaned up.
Twing repeated what Q jokingly said trying to make light of the situation: “I’ll help you sue them for everything they got. I’ll help you out if you need help.”
Twing said she is happy to see Q whenever she enters Huden and said she hopes she stays here until she graduates, because having her adds character to the environment.
Fellow Sodexo employee Tyler Williams, the grill cook for breakfast and lunch in Huden, started working on the same day as Q at Fireside two and a half years ago.
They had never met before, but he soon learned his co-worker knew the mother of his children.
“Every day is a different day with Q,” Williams he said. “She is always in a great mood, She’s a hard worker, gives a 120 percent. She’s nice to anyone who walks through that door.”
When they clock out at the end of the day, Williams and Q will hang out for bit, chatting and gossiping to pass the time until Q’s ride comes to pick her up.
“She has a big heart. My birthday was two weeks ago and she had to work that night, so she couldn’t celebrate with me … I met her in Rutland and she had all these presents that I needed that I don’t buy for myself, she bought,” said Williams.
Q remembered everything that he said in small conversations that he needed or wanted, from new socks to little gadgets for his iPhone. There were enough presents that filled up two or three bags.
“She’s a great person and she deserves everything that God has to offer in this world,” he said.
But when Q is in Huden working, it’s clear she is there to work. She can be seen greeting the students when she scans their ID’s, washing the tables after they are done with their meal, making sure the napkin dispenser is full or offering help to her co-workers. You will never see her just sitting down doing nothing.
But no one seems to know who she is, her real name or about her past.
This reporter’s efforts to unveil her a little went like this:
“Excuse me Q can I ask you a question?”
“Of course baby,” she said.
“I’m in a journalism class and we have to do a profile piece and I would like to do my piece on you.”
In two years of seeing her in Fireside and in Huden, this was the first time she looked very serious.
“Really? Why me?” she said with a low voice.
“Because you seem like an interesting person, everyone loves you and I want to get to know who you are.”
“I’m honored; of course I will do that for you.”
Then in a blink of an eye she went from serious to the Q Castleton students know and love.
“Let me know when you want to do the interview so then I can hide from the police! Just kidding baby,” she said with a laugh.
When it was time for the interview, students were having issues scanning their ID’s. Q was running around making sure everyone was getting helped and apologizing for the interruptions. Once everything was fixed, it was down to business.
“I’ve been on my own since I was 13,” she said taking a deep breath after trying to figure out where to start.
She was born in New York, but from age 13 to 25, she was on the road.
“Life was a little difficult at that time, but I got out and I’m glad I did,” she said.
Q soon found herself joining a traveling fair called “James E. Strate Shows” based in Orlando, Florida. She traveled with them for three and a half years building kiddy rides, working at the ticket booth and selling at concession stands. That’s how she got to Orlando and settled for a few years.
When she was traveling, she never had a mentor or anyone to look up to for advice, but before leaving her home in New York her godmother gave her one piece of advice that stuck over the years of traveling.
“You may be an ugly duckling now when you’re small, but when you grow up you will be a beautiful swan,” she said with a reflective look that turned into a smile.
She always had a thing about how she physically looked, but that advice made her realize it didn’t matter what people thought.
As she got older, Q went back to school, taking online college courses while working for bars, odd little jobs that she could find, and building up her culinary skills. Q would try to get her hands into anything that she could reach.
“I’m just a single spirited type person,” she said.
When the economy fell and people were losing their jobs left and right, Q lost both of her jobs. She looked to Vermont as a safe haven, hoping to find a job here and to get closer to her family. Now she is working two jobs, at Huden and bartending and serving at The Holiday Inn.
“Right now I have time for nothing except for both jobs.”
But when she does have some down time, Q said she loves listening to music that crosses different genres. “If it sounds good to my ear, I’m gonna give it a listen,” she said. But the two artists she always goes back to are Patti Labelle and Stephanie Mills because she says they are old souls who talk about life and experiences.
Since her first day at Castleton University, she said she has always hoped for the best for every student who walks through the Huden door, and as a result, the students respect Q and she respects them.
“I am so hoping that all these guys make it. I got to know all of you, at least the majority of you. You guys are good kids man, you got great heads on your shoulders… And you guys treat me with the utmost respect and I try to do the same with everybody else.”
Q lives alone, she had a fish named Gefilte Fish, a reference to the film “Rush Hour,” but he died.
On Sundays, her only days off, Q likes to sit down, watch football, and drink a glass of wine or two.
Though she is content these days, she said she has high hopes for her Castleton student family.
“I’m just wanting everyone to learn, graduate, make all the money they can, and move out of Vermont. Travel the world, live life,” she said.