On most weeknights, Thorne dining hall is shrouded in darkness, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, a light flickers on, illuminating rows of American-favorite foods. While the mouth-watering views draw students in, they are first met by an ever-changing glow of hair, glitter and a bright smile. These striking features belong to Cindy Williams, a Topsham resident and the SuperSnack OneCard swiper at Thorne’s front desk.
During the twilight hours of the night, Williams has witnessed her fair share of student stories.
“I had a student who was in the dining hall, saw them walk[ing] across the dining hall going into whatever side room and shut off the lights [so] I went to go get [my supervisor],” Williams said. “I walked down to the room, and he was in there lying on the floor.”
After a confusing and awkward conversation, Williams eventually learned that the student was intending to fulfill a dare from his friends to sleep in Thorne Dining hall. However, not all her strangest stories involve interacting with students.
“I had someone leave a duffel bag [near the doors] and when I closed up for the night I went over and looked at it,” Williams said. “It was actually full of beer. A thirty pack of beer in a duffel bag.”
Williams was first introduced to campus after hearing about the SuperSnack job from a friend. She has been working as a SuperSnack card swipe for more than four years.
“I actually have never been a student here. I am an off-the-street hire,” Williams said. “So I don’t know a lot of the rules and stuff here because I just worked nights. I don’t know where the buildings are.”
Due to her unfamiliarity with campus, Williams admits to having a few embarrassing blunders, herself.
“My first week here, we had the Brunswick Police Department come in for something, and they looked at me and asked ‘Where’s Coles Towers?’ I looked at them and I was like ‘I don’t know,’” Williams said. “[I] come to find out … [I] look at it every day,” Williams said.
In addition to working at SuperSnack, Williams is a dietary aide and cook at the Brentwood Rehabilitation Center in Yarmouth as well as a private caretaker for an elderly man. In fact, her unique hair color, which changes every few months, is influenced by her work at the Brentwood Rehabilitation Center.
“My residents, some of them have dementia and Alzheimer’s, and special [hair] colors and weird outfits make them happy, give them smiles,” Williams said. “I love to give people smiles, even if it’s just a few seconds of the day, [I] can make someone’s day better.”
Spreading joy also comes with Williams’s work at Bowdoin.
“I love [working] here because … I’ll ask ‘how was your day today’ and [students will] tell me what’s going on. And if they want advice, I try to give them advice on how to fix it. If not, if they just want someone to listen, I’ll listen,” Williams said.
Williams attributes her immense care for students to her extroverted personality.
“[Students] are interested in my day and what’s going on in my life, and I’m interested in knowing what’s going on [with students],” Williams said. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to, whether it’s just to tell them something or [wanting] advice.”
Four years of building connections with students comes with its fair share of nostalgia. On Homecoming Weekend, Williams reminisced about her relationship with now Bowdoin alumni.
“It was nice to hear about new jobs, they’ve moved to different towns.… A lot of [students] are younger than I am, but they also give me knowledge,” Williams said. “I like the fact that I get to know different things, different advice, different personalities.”
Williams’s sociable and caring personality also shines through while working at the Brentwood Rehabilitation Center. She described her sorrow over the current culture of increasingly abandoning the elderly.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of people just put their parents in nursing homes and leave them there. I don’t understand that. I’ve had several residents that I got really close with because they had no one that came to visit them and that really affects me,” Williams said.
Instead, Williams advocates for a different approach, one she takes with her own family.
“I take care of my mom by staying with her,” Williams said. “My dad and I have a father-daughter date night on Wednesdays. I take him out to dinner, we go shopping. I’m really close to my dad and my mom, and I take care of them.”
From connecting with Bowdoin students and spreading joy at the Brentwood Rehabilitation Center to caring for her family, one aspect of Williams’ personality becomes particularly clear.
“I’m a people person,” she said. “I am very much a people person.”