For years after, I had dreams that I was pushing a cleaning cart down a long exterior walkway– and was way behind on doing the rooms.
I worked as a maid in some motels by the Green Airport in the 70′s. I couldn’t afford a car, and I was living with my parents, and the public transit was nonexistent. So I would commute to work by biking up Occupatuxet Road, now known as Airport Road. We had not invented bike lanes then, so it was an adventure. The work was physically taxing but generally the people were nice. I mean my fellow-workers.
The motel guests were mostly not around. You can sit at home for free. If you rent a motel room you are likely either going out to do something or hanging a ‘Do Not Disturb’ on the door handle. Our busy time, late morning to early afternoon, was vacant room time at the motels.
Thirty years later, this New York Times account of the workplace rings true, and the job has not changed much.
The following matches how we did it in 1974, and not much is different whether upscale or no-tell…
Housekeepers, by the way, usually have no idea who is occupying a particular room or suite. Each morning they are presented with “boards,” or room lists, that indicate whether their assigned rooms are to be fully “flipped” (for a new arriving guest) or cleaned as an occupied room (for a guest staying on for the evening). The guest’s name — never mind what position he or she might occupy in the larger world — is rarely listed on the sheet.
It has been reported that Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s defense might be that any encounter was consensual — that, in effect, “she asked for it.” During my time managing, the only thing a housekeeper ever asked me for was to leave early, or have Christmas off (both of which I had to deny — as I said, the housekeeper’s is the hardest job in the hotel).
Some people are alleging that the maid at the Sofitel was part of a conspiracy. Much more likely she had no idea of who was staying in the rooms she cleaned, and was expecting that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was gone, as his room would have been marked for a full cleaning.
Just to mention, also, that my fellow motel maids were not easily categorized. What we had in common was needing a job and having the physical stamina to clean rooms for six hours at minimum wage. Honest work is nothing to be ashamed of. There is no excuse for disrespecting workers.
UPDATE: A New York legislator has proposed mandating panic buttons for maids similar to the medical alert buttons worn by the elderly. Sounds like a good idea.