Mountains of stained laundry, gnats and a foul stench covered the basement floor of the hotel laundry room. Normally, housekeepers are left to sort through the filth ridden sheets, wash rags and hand towels of yellow tint and yesterday’s makeup. But today a younger crowd takes over.
Four females who attend Florida A&M, including myself, work at a posh, local hotel as turn-down associates/housekeepers. By readying the room for the guest to sleep, we fold down the comforter, bring in chocolates and ice, and roll down the window shade.
“I don’t say I’m a housekeeper,” said my co-worker, a senior business administration student from Fort Lauderdale. “I normally introduce myself as a worker in guest services.”
From day one, working at the hotel seemed to be the perfect job. It was something new and exciting, provided plenty of hours and the work didn’t give the impression of being too complicated.
Furthermore, when it came to our school schedules and short notice holiday request, our employer cooperatively worked with us. But within the first three weeks that all changed.
After a while we found ourselves carrying boxes filled with pillows and table lamps up six flights of stairs because the elevator was out of order. Starting with only major items such as the bed and television, we rushed to complete rooms quickly for Florida State’s Parents Week.
If only the people waiting in the lobby knew that their room had no chairs, coffee pots, ironing boards or lamps until minutes before they arrived. Saying you’re a housekeeper just isn’t as admirable as saying you’re a receptionist.
Often, explaining how your job is to clean urine off toilet seats or feces off walls tends to dispirit conversations after a while. This goes right along with telling people how little you get paid to do it.
The shame comes from not only the title; the uniforms are an even bigger degradation. A knee length dress, solid black shoes and apron mirrors a costume that you would only see in movies like “Maid in Manhattan,” only this time` instead of Jennifer Lopez, it’s you.
For years, minorities have been cursed with the occupations of caretakers where their roles have been limited to butlers and maids. “Imitation of Life,” a 1959 film, has one particularly controversial element: the maid becomes content with her job and makes it a lifelong profession.
On many occasions, we suffer with changes in rules and regulations enforced by the hotel. When the hotel first opened, housekeepers were to take the stairs instead of using the elevator because “it slowed down the customers.”
Housekeepers in the morning shift were once told that, when leaving work, they could no longer travel through the lobby, but had to choose a more “discrete exit,” due to employee traffic.
But unlike many at the hotel, we understand that this is only a job and not a career. By being in college and from different cities in the world, after school we plan to either venture home or somewhere new and exciting. This is the mentality that keeps us sane and trekking to work everyday.
“I will be graduating in August so I don’t have any concerns as a housekeeper,” said the co-worker. “I know I’m not going to be here or in this field forever.”