As students get in line to swipe into Kramer Dining Center for lunch, they may look up to see an older man crack smile as he says hello and holds out his hand for their ID card. The man under the ball cap is James Swartz, retired for over 20 years from the military, waving his weathered hand as he says “See you later!” after you put away your dishes and walk out the door.
During his time in the military, Swartz became a “people person” through training and corresponding with fellow personnel.
“I don’t like putting people down,” Swartz said. “When I see people who are down I try to bring them up as much as possible. If they’re rude, I’ll also be nice to them when they’re rude. It’s going to make them feel worse because even though you try to bring me down, I’m going to say something to let them know that regardless of how you feel about me, I’m the same person. I bring that to work everyday.”
His friendly greeting never wavers, but his attire might, depending on upcoming holidays.
“Every time they have different events like spirit week, my wife will dress me up in different types of things, [she says] ‘Do it for the kids’,” Swartz said. “Normally I’m not that type of person but I mean, the conversations are there but as far as dressing the part, it just seems like the kids will enjoy it, and if they enjoy it, I don’t mind. My wife had me dress up as the Queen of Hearts I believe it was, I kind of like that but a lot of the kids liked the ‘cereal’ killer on that I did [for Halloween].”
Last Friday, Swartz dressed in Easter attire, with a basket of eggs in hand to pass out. On Valentine’s Day he had small cards with candy in a basket in front of the card swiping table for almost every student during the lunch rush.
In less than two years as a card swiper at Kramer, Swartz has developed relationships with students, even spending time with a few on weekends.
“I enjoy talking to a lot of the kids,” Swartz said. “I like a lot of them and they kind of let me into their world a little bit. I’ve been asked to go hang out with some of the guys, go have a beer or two. I have fun hanging out with them, keep the old man young in a way.
“A lot of them actually take the time, even though it’s just a walk-through thing, a lot of them make a point to say ‘bye,’” he said. “That shows me that at least they appreciate me, even though I’m getting paid, even though they’re going to school. It’s mutual thing.”