Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Hospitality Industry Will Turn On You Like Gordon Ramsey After A Triple Expresso

...unless you heed a few realities of the trade.  This is the summation of eleven years of my life, folks.  Take heed.

I started working in motels and hotels back in the 1970’s.  Did you ever see the movie “Boogie Nights?”  If you have, that should give you a vague glimpse of the kind of thing I had to clean up after when I first started housekeeping, down in the hot-sheet places, the ones that will rent by the half-day.  And the kind of decor I had to put up with while doing so. It was bad. Really bad. Just like most of what you’re going to read.   

Everyone in the 1970’s was doing the nasty just as much as they could with everyone in sight.  Aids was a distant rumor.  All venereal diseases could be cleared up with a shot of penicillin and a hearty handshake.  Motel rooms were primarily places where people went to “git down.” For an 18 - year - old - just out of the suburbs,  this amounted to the creepy sex version of a “Just throw ‘em into the water and let ‘em figure it out” swimming lesson.  

My first week on the job I was finding cheap handcuffs, lengths of clothesline, wastebaskets filled with used condoms, beds like slaughterhouses, and manly substances squirted into all kinds of unlikely and rude places (like the telephone receiver, the air conditioner, and the bathroom heater, to name a few.)  

And dildos. Lots and lots of dildos.  One was still buzzing.  Yes.  That’s how I found the thing.  They’d turned it on and stuffed it under the mattress to mess with me.  It worked.  And it stuck to the mattress, too.

Bearing that in mind, yes, your room will be very clean more often than not, but it has been used by people before you.  If you find a bobby pin beneath a huge couch in a dark corner, stop and think how your housekeeper,  someone who works like a dog for minimum wage and has 17 similar rooms to clean every day, could have missed lifting up the sofa on her travels. 

If you find a severed finger, though?  You probably should inform the management about that. While it’s still fresh. Preferably.  Don’t wait until it looks like a pepperoni stick with a fingernail.  That’s icky.

Most maids, however, are very diligent, and that’s because the learning curve is so steep.  A lot of people alone in a strange place with time on their hands become sick, sick animals who will take the cover off the overhead light fixture, crap in it and then replace the thing, just  for laughs.  You simply don’t go in expecting to find something like that until it happens.  You’ll get to clean it out and replace it, though.  That’s why Sartre said “Hell is other people”, and why “other people” are called “strangers.”  Strange doesn’t even begin.

People will stick used baby diapers to the wall, like Hell’s butterfly collection. They will cover the windows with lipstick and use hamburgers as tub toys.  They will wipe unholy substances under the edges of things. They will paint the walls using squeeze packets of ketchup.  And they will flop bare ass anywhere there’s a surface that will hold them up, too, so while you’re writing that postcard to your Mom there at the desk, consider that fact.  Every horizontal element of that area has supported human junk in its native state.  The only areas that haven’t would be inside the drawers.  Why? 

Because that’s where you blow your nose.  Duh.  

Those curtains have been used for more than blocking out the light, folks, and yes, we’re back to the subject of ass.  The carpet? Is vacuumed every day, yes, but is not shampooed after every customer.  Use common sense. Go in as you’d go into any other public situation, making reasonable allowances for minor failings, and have a clear idea of what’s appropriate.  Like what you should and should not lick, for example. Each other?  Go for it!  The phone?  No. The mirrors? No.  The headboard? No. Please no. 

I worked my way up the ladder over the course of eleven years, and what I found out is that the only difference between a penthouse suite and a no-tell motel is that you get a better class of creep in the former; and honestly, the  more expensive and exclusive the place, the less inclined the customers are to act like little ladies and gentlemen.  Other people have been cleaning their skid marks off the curtains for them all their lives.  You’re just another servant to them, and you’ll be treated as such.  In fact, you’ll be treated worse, because you have to stay there and work; they’ll be long gone down the road by the time you find that used tampon in the nightstand.  

As a side note, a weird thing I’ve noticed over the years about your typical wealthy man is that they A. Powder their bathing suit regions profusely and then sit splat on the vinyl chairs, which leaves a distinct and unique print, B. Urinate in the garbage cans, and  C. Use the washcloths as toilet paper. This is true nine times out of ten.  No - well, not no shit, but, you know where I'm going with this.     

There.  I’ve ripped on the customers.  Now I have to let down the side.  

As the head of housekeeping I was often told to go through a customers belongings.  Sometimes the police will contact the manager and ask him to have a look through a given person’s room, which is illegal, and happens everywhere, and the manager sure in the hell isn’t going to do that.  You, the housekeeper.  You do that.  You check for guns and drugs and, say, stolen bicycles, bricks of coke, and stray underage girls, to give a few examples.  I tell you what, the first time I eased open a suitcase and found myself staring at five handguns and multiple boxes of ammo, I stopped a moment to squeeze back an immanent bout of explosive incontinence, and to wonder “are the tips really worth this?”  

The fact is, you are the front line.  You as a housekeeper are the person who is closest to the customer, and if you’re 18 and need the job and your manager tells you to toss a room, you pull on your gloves, memorize the original position of every object and toss that room, every suitcase, every drawer, right down to the paint on the walls.  (Message to all the men out there who like to huff ladies panties out of a plastic bag:  You have more contemporaries than you think you do.)  

But no matter where you stay, if you check in to hired lodgings frequently, your luggage will eventually be tossed just for shits and giggles, your clothing will be searched, your day planner read, your laptop trawled and the drawers of your room gone through.  Not every time you visit, and not by every maid, but it will happen. And we will take pictures of it on our phones and tell everyone what we found and laugh at you, too.  That’s the best case scenario. Theft happens. Please keep your valuables - including your recreational drugs - in the room or hotel safe, on your person, or just leave them at home.  If you take Schedule A prescription drugs for any condition and you leave those pill bottles out on the night table?  You’re going to come up a few missing.  Did you rent a room with a refrigerator?  Chances are that bottle of Wild Goose you put in there to chill will have a slug or two taken out of it.  And if you’re stupid enough to leave a bag of weed out in the open, you get what you deserve.  

And here, finally, is the truly down and dirty. 

 If you stay in a room for an extended period of time, you are not allowed to hole up and stack up trash to the ceiling, nor are you allowed to sleep in the same nasty sheets and use the same stiff, funky disgusting towels for a month. You are not allowed to stick baby diapers all over the walls (see above) or use the kitchenette for making meth.  You are NOT ALLOWED TO BRING IN A ST. BERNARD AND NEVER TAKE IT OUT FOR A WALK. 

This is not your home.  It is a business.  That kind of thing causes destructive wear and tear on our facility, not to mention setting up a toxic situation for the housekeepers,  so forget your whining and complaining and marching out in a huff when management, or the head of housekeeping, tells you that we absolutely must go into you room every other day. Them’s the rules. It has to happen. 

If you are a long-term visitor and you treat the maids poorly we WILL get back at you in all kinds of nasty, sneaky, godless ways.  We know how.  We’ve learned from the best - our customers.  And you will not be able to prove a damn thing, because our job is cleaning up all traces of human occupation.  The ball is in our court, folks. Don’t forget it. 

Someone might unscrew the bottle of nasal spray you use and squirt a little spray cleaner in there.  Got open wine bottles?  Did you just shriek yourself crimson at the maid because she emptied your garbage cans before they were full?  Is your palate sophisticated enough to discern the soupcon of pee that was added to your Merlot?  I bet it isn’t. 

Staying in a hotel does not elevate you to Royal status.  Don’t shout at the help and wipe your boogers on the wall next to the bed like Henry the VIII.  (I’m making an assumption here, but I bet I’m not wrong.)  You are not King Henry the VIII.  You are someone who might get “kittied”.  That translates as “I wonder why my pillow smells like tuna?” 

We’re all working stiffs. You work for a living, so do I. The fact that I clean rooms does not make me a lesser life form, nor does it mean that my intimate personal favors come along with the price of the room.  Besides making up rooms, which means I deal with every bodily distillation imaginable, multiple times, every single day,  I also move furniture, run errands, hang curtains, schlep 50 lbs of sheets up and down three flights of stairs at a run, lend you an ear, find your baby’s lost binkie, clean ovens, set up cribs for your kids, and feed your pet.  All I ask is to be treated politely. So stay as long as you like. You don’t have to be chummy. Just be reasonable. Be polite. If your housekeeper does a good job, flip that person a few bucks (or more;  we’re open to large sums, particularly around the holidays.) Yes, this means you too, long term guest, and it means daily in your case.  A couple bucks every day will make your halo shine.  You give us that much,  and chances are good you won’t end up with, oh, say...water dipped out of your unflushed toilet mixed in your hair conditioner.  

Or a suitcase full of tuna-shirts.


  1. That kind of a job is tougher than what I do as a nurse most days. Holy Hannah! I had no idea that kind of shit went down so often. I doff my hat in admiration.

  2. That is worse than I ever could have imagined. We once stayed in the odd motel whilst touring in the US and some felt slightly sleazy - especially the one with a moving mattress. Now I wonder about all the cruises I have done. Think I'll stay home. Looking back over the years, the camping days were the best. Ah the scent of grass.

  3. PONITA: It's just dealing with the public. You help people get better. Yay for you! I could not do your job on a bet!

    PAT: It happens everywhere in every country, Pat. Every rented room, on a cruise ship, in a converted wooden boat, at a mom and pop motel or at a trendy boutique hotel gets the same kind of use.

  4. Barf.

    I mean, this is delightfully written and could be published somewhere*... but barf, nonetheless.

    People who have never worked in the service industry are the worst, unless they have parents who taught them not to be entirely entitled.

    One minor thought about the shitty washcloths: in a number of countries, people use cloths to cleanse themselves or to dry off after the use of a bidet. It could be that some percentage of the washcloth ass wipers were foreign. Or, more likely, they were just shitty people who did it because they could.

    * Re: the publishing questions, I think a collection of short stories would be just the thing for you to self-publish or shop around.