Friday, August 14, 2009

Things I've Done For Money

Ya. That got your attention, didn't it? hee!

So by popular demand: what I can manage to remember from my days scrubbing toilets in a cheap motel along the interstate. Probably told in some ramshackle disjointed vignette form. With made up names for everybody. Not so much to protect anyone's identity, but because I only remember one woman's name. If you know the Neko Case song "Prison Girls," please hum along as background music.

Every morning upon arrival, report to the lawn furniture table and chairs located in the indoor swimming pool area. Kind of humid in there, so the cigarette smoke hangs extra heavy from the Marlboros and Virginia Slims. Charming plastic ivy plants dangle in macramé hangers against the back drop of permanently clouded glass windows. No uniforms in this motel, everyone wears street clothes- blue jeans and cheap tennis shoes. My tennis shoes are especially cheap and looked very much like Ernie's shoes A major score at the Goodwill. I had a penchant for Vintage Goonie from the Goodwill: sweater vests, men's zip-up ankle boots, gold lamé hot pants. I never actually wore the hot pants anywhere but I did wear the lime green thigh high stockings...

So I am the rookie. Fresh out of high school and, in retrospect, naive as hell. Everyone else is decades older than me, save for one very overweight twenty-something. And I don't think she stuck around very long. Also in retrospect, though no one was overtly unkind to me, they were always a little wary and probably gave me some of the literal crap jobs on purpose. But that would've been only fair since I was the newbie and the youngest. No hard feelings.

These women were veterans.

Dee looked like an old motorcycle mama. Wiry thin petite, long hair, and godawful giant plastic glasses. She was quick and nervous and asked me for whatever dirty magazines I found so she could take them home to her Old Man. A lot of times she worked the laundry, so she wasn't out doing rooms with the rest of us, but I think she taught me the ropes. I still fold my towels like the motel did.

Fay reminded me of my old Girl Scout troop leader. Whom I loved. Brassy cotton candy hair, a ready smile, but an underlying toughness I wouldn't mess with. I have the impression that she was a sweet woman who hadn't been treated with anywhere near the kindness she deserved. She was the one who went the extra mile wiping the carpets down to perfection.

Jem was a 50-something Korean woman. Attractive and hard-working, she was known for her signature toilet cleaning moves. Was it more efficient to use the water from the toilet to wipe the commode down? I don't know, probably not, but you tell her how to do her job.

The front desk clerk, Rhonda, also served as a housekeeping director of sorts. A giant Muppet of a woman, she was in charge of assigning us whatever rooms we were cleaning that day and following up with random inspections. She was firm. Firm but fair.

Meg was closest to me in age, also not quite part of the veteran clique. She was energetic and agile despite her size and liked to tell room cleaning war stories when we cleaned together. Her tales were along the lines of slumber party ghost stories so I don't know if they were true, but they helped pass the time. It wasn't hard to believe at least some of what she said in the farthest, darkest windowless chambers of the detached section of rooms on the backside of the property. (phew! That was a lot of "of's." My bad, but I'm not fixing it. Laaaayeeezeee!)

I don't know whether that separate building housed the less desirable guests or not, because I rarely worked in any rooms other than those in the 'back forty.' Given that the giant lighted sign towering over the motel simply advertised "$29.99 MOTEL" and not an actual name, I'd say all the tenants were probably of the same caliber.

So. Memories. Let's see....Construction workers. Rough looking men in town for work. Many times they shared the "suites" with 2 bedrooms. They could be in the same room for a week at a time and you weren't allowed to touch their stuff when you cleaned. You had to clean around it. If their stuff was on the bed, you couldn't change the sheets, etc. Ninety-Nine percent of the time they were out working but occasionally you'd find them camped out in the room. I always had a lurking fear that they were hiding in the room waiting to pounce on me. But they never gave me any real trouble. Except, riddle me this: a bar of green soap buried beneath a mound of ice in the bathroom sink aaaannddd a five dollar bill under the mattress. Was the soap a clue for me to look for the green under the mattress? Probably 100% not, but what would make me imagine such a thing? Maybe because it was so unusual for us to receive any tip at all, that five dollars was quite a fortune and I was feeling generous.

I'm pretty sure it was the same room that left me a nasty thick besprinkling of intimate manscaping debris all over the sink and floor.

I forgot to mention that this motel had no two rooms alike. Some were similar to one another, most bed spreads were interchangeable, but the majority were all different floor plans, decor, bed arrangements, etc. How this would be efficient, I don't know. It's not like there were special themes to the rooms. It was all pretty much a consistent essence of brown despair and wannabe The Shining creepiness.

$29.99 MOTEL also featured a special room on the backside with a king size waterbed. A waterbed. Can't get much more romantic than that. Which probably explains why Anonymous Dude wanted to save his ejaculate in the complimentary plastic drinking cups. King size waterbed.

Next door to that room was a large room usually occupied by some scrappy family with raggedy children. One unruly bunch in particular kept declining our offer of housekeeping services. Why they were camped out in a motel in the middle of nothing, I'll never know, but after they left it turned out they brought their cat along for the ride. Now, if you're going to bring your cat with you on a road trip don't you bring along his or her litter box? I mean, I don't know, because I wouldn't likely take a cat to a motel, but I do know that using a dresser drawer in place of a litter box is not cool. (Why are you travelling with cat litter but no cat box anyway? Did you already have this planned out?) But it did explain why they wouldn't let us in to change the sheets.

I think we've all read or heard about some exposé or other on hotel cleanliness and what not to touch and what to immediately disinfect, but here's a little anecdote to go with that helpful info. Tiny room in the back forty that I had just finished cleaning is rented out shortly thereafter. Normally I'm gone for the day by the time rooms start filling up again but sometimes it does happen while I'm still working. About an hour later I get a call in the room I'm currently cleaning to add that first room to the bottom of my list to clean again. Huh. Ok. A walk through of the room reveals a slightly mussed bed spread. That's about it. Sooooo...maybe that person or persons just needed to take a short nap and continue on their way. Ya, that's it. Maybe they were napping on the bed spread. At any rate, that bed spread did not get laundered on that occasion. None of the bed spreads got laundered daily. So if you didn't already immediately discard the bed spread upon entering a hotel room, I hope you will in the future.

I believe that room was also the sight of a major major bedwetting. I found that bed with so much pee I question whether they used the toilet at all. Just kept going back to the bed to pee. Now, I was there when they dragged the mattress away, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it wasn't actually replaced, just scrubbed and returned to duty.

Eventually I did get to work in the main building of the motel though I can't really say it was an improvement in scenery. Have you ever stayed in a hotel/motel with fake wood panelled walls? I think they main reason I got the occasional 'promotion' was because I made it to work during snowstorms when others did not.

So what were the benefits of working in the main building? Well, all the illegal recreational drugs I could get my hands on, for one. Just kidding. I only found them once. Quite the stash, too. And they left an entire dresser drawer of clothes to go with it. Bonus! But seriously, I still wonder how they made such a screw up. Too stoned? Had to leave in a big hurry? Took an unplanned detour to the pokey? Or was I being set up? Because, if I was, sorry about their luck. I wasn't much for mind altering substances at that juncture and promptly ran to the front desk clerk like a tattletale little girl. That's pretty much how that went down.

The ultimate frosting came towards the end of my stint. Just a normal day, dum dee dum, last room on my list. Nice looking older couple had checked out with their suitcases. One of the most normal looking rooms available actually. The usual routine is to first go in to collect and count all the used towels and linens so you know how many clean pieces you'll need to restock. (And that meant leaving what was unused. Not sure how you feel about that but uh, it kind of creeps me out that someone could've wiped their nose on or sneezed on a towel but didn't unfold it so it looked unused and so it was left for the next person to wipe their face on after their shower. Or something.) Anyway the walk through also gives you an idea of how much work each room is going to require. Like, in case somebody pinches a loaf on the bathroom floor. Like when somebody enters a very small bathroom where the toilet is one step in front of you upon walking through the bathroom door (i.e. handily close for emergencies,) closes the door behind them, wedges their butt into the corner and takes a big 'ole poop as far into the corner behind the door as they can.
Of course I went straight to the front desk to tattletale. But for the most part, I thought it was pretty cool. I mean, sure I had to don the thick rubber gloves and scoop up someone's giant poop, but I was kind of a celebrity for a brief moment. Everyone came to my room to see what all the hubbub was about. And I have a priceless story to tell. So thanks, Mystery Pooper!

Anyway I hope you've enjoyed today's edition of Things I've Done For Money. I know you were probably all juiced up for some serious motel craziness but all in all, it's pretty mild stuff.

Either that or I'm just a jaded former motel maid. I'll leave a light on for you...the burning ember on the tip of my cigarette.

*a smoker's gravelly cackle echoes into the night*

Aaaand Scene.


Becky said...

Oh yes, that was good! Like all the stuff I wanted to hear from that Barbara Ehrenreich book, but she was too busy makin' her point and bein' right.

I am mystified by the green bar of soap and the five dollar bill. Actually it sounds like some kind of modern art installation piece.

And the guy with the ejaculate and the plastic cups? Probably a serial killer, 'cause that is cray-zay.

We should all blog about things we've done for money. I might write about when I temped at the prison. Great post girl!

Sara said...


Oh, I should probably get to reading an Ehrenreich book, I suppose. But making a point. Mmmmm, I dunno', overrated. ;)(kidding!) There was definitely no moral to my story!
Well, maybe my stinky writing is a cautionary tale in and of itself: Don't Be A Fool, Stay In School. Mr. T's walking billboard for education...?

Prison? Oh, heck yes, you should blog about that!

Sara said...

Great post! My husband thinks it is odd that I bring my own bedding to hotels.

honeypiehorse said...

Wow, you should probably write a book. Oh, heck, I wanted to mention Ehrenreich, too. You added more juicy details.

Anonymous said...

Loved the dirty deets!! Whew - can you imagine doing that job, like, your whole life? (Yeah, I read Ehrenreich too.) And now you have given me backup for when I have to explain again to the husband fella why I always but always whip that spread off so fast it makes the curtains flap...

Annette said...

And you still STAY at hotels???

Okay, you all HAVE to go out and read "Murder Between the Sheets" by Elaine Viets (I don't think she intended that to rhyme). Elaine writes the Dead End Jobs mystery series and spends a year at each dead end occupation for research. She has some stories about being a hotel maid...well, maybe they don't completely rival yours, Sara. But they're wild. Including the bit where the maid used the same brush to clean the coffee maker as she used to clean the toilet. Room service coffee ONLY for me now!

delaine said...

Well, after reading this piece, I don't feel like I'm so crazy that I NEVER remove my shoes in a motel room. I cannot stand the thought of my feet on the carpet where goodness-knows-what has taken place! Also, I'm with you, girl, about those ghastly bedspreads! Sara, I enjoy your writing very much ! It's good.

Sara said...

Thanks, Delaine! That means a lot!

And obviously I'm in good company.

I take shoes specifically to wear so I don't have to go barefoot in the rooms. I mean really-you wouldn't go barefoot in Walmart or McDonald's right? lol!