Death of a Legend


Today I got an e-mail from the house manager at East Campus, announcing with great sadness that James “Big Jimmy” Roberts died last night at his home in Brockton. Big Jimmy was the night watchman, known for his size, his ability to carry on a conversation long after you were done with it, and mostly his big heart and love for the students of the east side of campus. Sadly, it seems that his heart wasn’t quite big enough.
I last saw Big Jimmy over the summer when I was crashing on the hall after staying too late to catch the T back to Davis. Hanging out in the kitchen, I heard the familiar jangling of soda cans and large lumbering footsteps. Those cans would eventually be cashed in and the money would be used to buy us ice cream, chili, or some other treat. On nights when I was busy tooling or otherwise occupied, those sounds generally meant that it was time for me to close my door and avoid a long conversation about EC gossip. But on this night, I hadn’t seen him in awhile, so I just waited for him instead.
His head popped into the kitchen to swipe the checkpoint and then he saw me. “Hey, Erin, long time no see! What are you up to?” he said as he leaned all of his weight onto the kitchen table, panting as he caught his breath. It was always apparent that walking up and down the stairs of elevator-less East Campus wore Jimmy out. After my sophomore year, they moved him to a different shift, presumably for his health. But he hated it and rose a stink with his boss. As a compromise, he was stationed at Senior House and allowed to do substitute shifts at EC on occasion.
Jimmy once complained that students on the west side of campus were boring and never came out of their rooms. If you knew Jimmy, you’d understand why that was a problem for him. He was always interested in talking to the students, even when they weren’t so keen on talking to him. He often said that the best way to keep the place safe was to know all the residents. And it seemed that Jimmy knew everything. What he didn’t know, he made up. Ever hear about the student who had sex in every bathroom at MIT? That was a Big Jimmy story, and completely untrue, according to the student in question. He used to threaten to write a book about all of the stories he had gathered over the years. I can only imagine how entertaining that might have been.
I don’t remember what we talked about the last time I saw him. Possibly some embarassing story about a former EC resident or what kind of mischief was happening on another floor. Maybe we talked about my prospects for getting a job. I guess it doesn’t really matter.
An era ended last night. Goodbye, Big Jimmy. We’ll miss you.


2 responses »

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