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Apollo Sunrise

Labor Day: My first job

In honor or Labor Day, the newspaper this morning had a whole section of people remembering their first jobs.

My first job was cleaning motel rooms in a Best Western on Route 66 in Arizona. There wasn’t much in the way of employment in the small town I lived in. Girls had the choice of motel maid or waitress; guys had the choice of gas station attendant, ranch hand, or working at the copper mine. I knew I would suck as a waitress, so maid it was. My mother had also been a maid, so in a way it was all in the family.

The Siamese Cat Adventure:

The motel allowed pets. That led to quite the adventure one day. Most people, when they weren’t in their rooms, kept their pet shut up in the bathroom. (Very few people actually crated their animals back in the day). Nevertheless, I was very careful when opening the door. This didn’t help one day. I opened the door just a few inches and a Siamese cat raced out, and was downstairs and across the parking lot and heading out onto Route 66 before I was halfway down the stairs. The caretaker was downstairs and I shouted for him to catch the cat. I ran after it too (I could actually run in those days, albeit klutzily) and wonder of wonders we caught it in the middle of the highway while semis went past on either side. It squalled and screeched all the way back to the motel, where I shut it inside the bathroom of that room. It kept up a running grumbling commentary all the time I was in the room. Then I had to clean the bathroom – it had even more to say about that. I was very glad to be finished with that room.

I read quite a bit about the recent Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. An article in either Time or Newsweek where hotel maids discussed sexual harassment was particularly memorable. I never had anything that extreme happen to me, but there was that one time. We were always supposed to knock at least twice on a door, pausing in between, to wait for a response. So I knocked on a door. No answer. I knocked again. No answer. I opened the door. There was a naked guy on the bed, holding his dick, grinning at me. I said, “Excuse me” and closed the door. I then went to clean all the other rooms assigned to me that day. By the time I got back to that particular room all the cars in the parking lot were gone. I knocked again, twice, and opened the door carefully. No one there. I still was pretty cautious when I peered around the corner into the bathroom, which was thankfully empty. Then I cleaned the room, checked out for the day and went home.

Two other things. Making all those beds and scrubbing those tubs, toilets and floors on my hands and knees really did a number on my back. Some days I couldn’t stand up straight once I got home from work. Which is why I fully supported California Senate Bill SB 432, which outlined worker safety regulations for hotel maids. With hotel luxury mattresses now weighing up to 150 pounds apiece, it makes me grateful they didn’t have those things back in the day when I had to lift and move a couple of dozen mattresses around every day. And it ought to be a no-brainer for maids to be able to use long-handled mops instead of having to scrub floors on their hands and knees.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/19/california-hotel-maids-bedsheets_n_850766.html

Comments

Quite a kitty tale, Cat! ;)

I saw that Route 66 ran through your town. I've just started watching that old classic series from the early '60s and it's a wonderful time capsule of clothes and cars and social attitudes. Good stories, and pretty darned progressive in the subjects they chose to tackle. Ironically they were set to air an assassination storyline right around the time of the JFK murder, so had to keep that one off the schedule for some time.

Ugh on that 'flasher'. Creep!
You know, I've never seen "Route 66" - I really should! I drove on it often enough, and my family would take a vacation every other year to visit relatives in the midwest, so we'd drive most of the entire route to get there.

What irony about the assassination episode!

I should check to see if Netflix had "Route 66".
I think you'll like it. Martin Milner is one of the leads (George Maharis is the other) and it's cool to see him as a young, idealistic kind of guy instead of the cynical, grumpy veteran of Adam-12. ;)

The stories revolve a lot around other characters they meet along the way, and a lot of guest stars were either already famous or soon-to-be. :)

The stories have been keeping my interest. Retro TV is showing them this fall.
Do you have an opinion as to if hotel maids generally have better or worse employment conditions now than then? Despite all the occupational legislation, I still have the overall impression that it's one of the most exploitative (legal) jobs out there. It could just be that pretty much everyone works more now than then...or it could be that so many of the maids I encounter do not have a functional command of English, so I assume it's one of the jobs someone in that position can get since no one else wants it.
>>>Do you have an opinion as to if hotel maids generally have better or worse employment conditions now than then?

I would say the same or worse. Big city hotels and small town motels are different in many ways, but I think in what counts they’re the same. They’re crap jobs; the bosses feel free to treat the employees like disposable kleenex because they knew the employees have no alternatives. In my case, because my father knew someone at the county courthouse, I was able to get a minimum wage file clerk job after a couple of years when a woman went out on maternity leave and decided to become a stay at home mom. Mostly, the employees at the courthouse stayed in their jobs their entire lives, so it was hard to get in there. In the case of a couple of my friends, it took even longer to find other work (one friend finally got on the graveyard shift as a switchbaord operator at the phone company). Motel work was “piece work”, the local motels paid 50 cents to $1.00 per room, rather paying their maids by the hour. In the lower paid motel jobs, it was impossible to clean the rooms fast enough to make minimum wage.

>>> I still have the overall impression that it's one of the most exploitative (legal) jobs out there.

Agreed.
That cat was quite something! I wonder why people would take a cat with them rather than someone watching it at home... unless they were moving. Hm. Or maybe they missed the cat's chatter when it wasn't around. Lovely story in any case, thanks for sharing!

The maid working conditions, wow. There was recently a memoir by a cleaning lady about her experiences working in German households. Quite the stories, too. Some of my student friends clean for money but I think it's very, very different if you're doing it part-time and while building up a career.