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.