My record for shortest employment use to be thirty days when I was seventeen. Now, at the age of thirty-six I have beat that record. Recently, I lasted one day-six hours to be exact, at a resort with a great ocean view. Just to be clear, I quit. To date I have never been fired from a job. I’ve been cleaning houses for extra money, so I thought a housekeeping job at a motel/hotel wouldn’t be much different. Cleaning is cleaning, wiping away germs and fecal matter of strangers is the same anywhere. Right?
I was hired at one of the nicer places in my town, but now I’m thinking I may have had a better experience at one of the smaller, “please come in, WE HAVE HBO,” establishments. I was hired at the end of my interview, and before I left, the manager of the resort introduced me to the head housekeeper, who was to be my trainer. I was also introduced to my first problem.
If you’ve seen the movie, “Pitch Perfect,” you know all about the character, Lilly, the quiet whisper girl, no one could understand. This was my trainer. 100%. No exaggeration. I guessed at everything she said and responded appropriately. I also questioned my hearing since her vocal level didn’t seem to be an issue for anyone else around. I assume they’re just use to it. Like, how a mother is usually the only one who can understand her rambling toddler.
I had a few days between my interview and first day on the job, and in that time I convinced myself that when she trains her voice probably elevates, and goes into vocal beast mode.
It does not.
On THE day I arrive at ten in the morning, get introduced to other employees, who all seem nice, but there seems to be some issues in the air. I’m ushered into the back office to fill out paperwork, and the manager turns on her heels quickly back out to the front, mumbling about someone not showing up for work this morning. A straight up no-show without calling. I dreaded those when I worked in retail. Another employee arrives and introduces herself to me. After a couple pleasantries she asks me if I smoke.
“No,” I said.
“Good,” she says. “Those girls that smoke on their breaks will stab you in the back.”
A “hmm” facial expression is all I could muster. I didn’t have any desire to pick up what she was putting down. I had only been there ten minutes for Christ’s sake! I didn’t want any part of workplace hostility.
My trainer had been shoveling a giant waffle in her mouth, quite loudly funny enough, and also heard everything Ms. Positivity had to say, and didn’t say anything like, “That’s inappropriate.” Or maybe she did say something, how would I know. Once I finished the paperwork I came to the conclusion that Ms. Trainer might be storing pieces of waffle in her mouth, and must whisper to keep them in place.
In any case it was time to learn how to clean the rooms.
First I’m taken to the housekeepers supply/ laundry room. It was a hot mess. Clean sheets were thrown atop a table, mangled and twisted. The shelves where you were supposed to grab most supplies, such as, towels, blankets, different sized sheets, and comforters were mostly empty. Random supplies were strewn about. The entire layout didn’t make sense. The room was in desperate need of an organizing makeover. Ms. Trainer was grabbing this and that, moving from here to there, without explaining one single thing. The only thing I learned was the manager was also the owner…I guess. I was sure of at least every fifth word out of her mouth throughout the day. And it was the owner’s husband doing the laundry, making the different sized mangled sheet pile larger. I meet another housekeeper talking with Ms. Positive, who walked in shortly after I did.
She proceeds to start talking about the no-show.
“She’s probably with Carly’s husband. She’s too busy with everyone else’s husband to show up for work.”
The owner’s husband says nothing.
I’m already over this work environment. I don’t care if the smokers are backstabbers, and I don’t care if no-show is a homewrecker, what is worse than all of that, is gossipers, and cliques. With no sign of an authority figure putting that crap in check. Sure, maybe informing me the smoking circle carry knives was doing me a solid, but I should be able to make my own decisions about people. And maybe Ms. Positive has a perception problem and is a raging bitch.
Moving on from that, we have put cleaning products, towels, and sheets on a cart. Ms. Trainer is going to do a few rooms with me, and then I’m supposed to do a few alone. Normally, a housekeeper would do eight rooms at least in a six-hour shift. Only spending thirty minutes or less in each room. And the faster you are, the more money you make. We go to another supply room where you get toiletries, coffee, and cups for the rooms. She explains all this stuff goes into a caddy, which then goes on the cart. Every housekeeper has their own caddy, but there aren’t any extras, so I’ll have to figure something out. Oh, okay.
On to the first room. First we strip the room of used sheets, towels and garbage. Ms. Trainer has suggested not to wear gloves, but I could if I wanted to. She said she worked better without them, so I chose not to as well. As soon as I picked up my first dirty, wet towel I regretted that decision. So gross, so gross, was all I thought.
I always wore gloves when I cleaned houses. Plus, I knew who I was cleaning after.
Notice, I did not say we stripped blankets or comforters. I already had a suspicion I wouldn’t be replacing the top comforter, but the blanket?! Ew. I was told only if I see a stain or if it feels wet, do I replace the blanket. Ew. We proceed to strip and make the beds, two queens. They’re not strict on folding corners of the top sheet and blanket underneath, but I did get a lesson on folding the top sheet over the blanket (that was last washed God only knows when) at the head of the bed, which was way more complicated than it sounds. Instead of tucking the ends under, they are left hanging, that means your double fold had to stay. Mine continued to come undone. A hot panic attack flash washed over me. It was one of those simple, yet complicated things. Logically you know you’ll get better over time, but this was making me angry. I wish I had a picture to show exactly how she said to do the fold.
Next we moved on to the bathroom. Pretty basic until I watched her make fans and a swan with wash cloths. She didn’t ask me to try while I watched, even though that would have been a good idea. I was shown all the other basic cleaning stuff, and then we went to the next room. After repeating everything two more times my back was killing me. Since I was hit by a drunk driver in 2005 my back hasn’t been the same. Making the beds and the constant bending became torture. I still did my best to move like I wasn’t in any kind of pain.
I was supposed to do three rooms by myself, but Ms. Trainer only left me alone for the final room. Before I started I took a ten minute break. I only brought an energy bar with me. No water or anything to drink, not very smart on my part. I was told I could buy a water, so I go in the back office to get money out of my purse. A nice young lady tells me there is a container of water in the refrigerator, and random cups on top of the refrigerator I can use. At this point my throat is painfully dry, and my back feels like it’s been stabbed twenty times with one of those kitchen knives, you know the ones, the ones in the movies people always get stabbed with. So I grab a cup, pour the water, and gulp. I glance down to see clumps of dirt and dust floating in the water. The young lady is at the only sink washing cups, and she knows I already drank from the cup, so how do I wash it without her knowing I already drank dirt. Or at least I guess that was my thought process, I don’t know, my brain was fried, I was working with a low-level of brain functions, and I was miserable. So miserable, and so full of not caring I continued to drink my dirt water. Oh, hell yes, I did.
In my solo room I finish Making the beds and I am very ready to throw up. I vacuum, dust, sweep the balcony, wash sliding glass doors, scrub the toilet, bathtub, get on my knees to wipe the bathroom floor with a cloth, as I was shown, and that dirt water is definitely not agreeing with me.
Now it’s time for towel origami. I have to make two fans and a swan. The swan was supposed to look like this…
Pretty basic as far as towel swans go. But I could not do this to save my life. By the way, I already spent an hour and fifteen minutes in this room. I was told normally first timers take forty-five minutes at the most. My back wasn’t going to allow that. This towel swan was not going to allow that. At least I didn’t have to attempt something like this…
My lack of towel origami skills almost pushed me to walk out before my six-hour shift was over, and let the manager know I would never be returning. I’m not generally a quitter, but the reality was my body was not going to be able to keep up with the demands of this job. Plus, making shapes with towels is stupid. When I walk into a motel/hotel/resort I could care less about the shape of my towels.
I found Ms. Trainer in another room. “Could you show me how to do the swan again?”
“I’ll do it later,” she said. Again, I’m assuming. But yeah, the effort she was putting into this training matched the effort she put into the volume of her voice.
The six hours end, and I walk up to the boss to thank her for this great opportunity, but this occupation isn’t for me. But before I can say anything she says, “I know today was kind of rough, but I hope you come back tomorrow?”
“Sure, sure,” I said. I very much punked out.
When I got home I cried from the pain in my back. I cried at the thought of returning the next day. I cried remembering how the stark white towels mocked me with their lack of swan shape. I cried wondering what the hell sort of disease I drank from that cup.
At eight o’clock the next morning I called and said I could not continue working there. She thanked me for at least letting them know.
So with that my career as a hotel slave was over. And I will never have to knock on a door and say, “Hello, housekeeping. Housekeeping.” Knock, knock. “Housekeeping!”