I saw you earlier today in the hall, when I was on my way to check out of my beautiful room. I wanted to say thank you for all that you did for me, but I was too shy (and worried that I was late for my meeting) to manage more than a quick smile and a rushed morning hello.
On the way to the airport, I thought about a typical day for you. I did your job in the summer between high school and college, although comparing what I did to what you do is like a parish priest comparing himself to the Pope. It was a Ramada Inn in a small Michigan town, as opposed to a world-class luxury hotel in ritzy Santa Barbara.
As I thought about you, I imagined that you likely awoke before dawn. You probably helped a child or two get ready for the day, and maybe you walked a dog. Perhaps you threw some dinner ingredients into a crock pot, as I often do, and put the clean dishes away that dried overnight. You probably put on your uniform at the last minute, wishing it was more comfortable, and plucked a pair of stiff black shoes from the bottom of your closet.
You arrived at work early and went in through the back entrance, smiling at various coworkers on the way, greeting them quietly in case of guests looming nearby. You hurried to the stock room to get a cart – you hoped you were early enough to score one of the newer carts with the squeak-free wheels. Finding one, you loaded it up with supplies; first the sheets, then the towels, then the cleaners and toiletries. You prayed for one of the good vacuums, since the bad ones could add as much as 3 minutes to the time spent in each room.
You stopped by the supervisor’s desk to get your list of room assignments, helpfully organized into “check-outs” and “stay-overs.” The sheet contained a time limit in which you should have completed all of the rooms, as though all messes are created equal. The time limit didn’t account for the kinds of disasters created by late-night parties/the food poisoning victim who couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time/the little girl who couldn’t bear to leave her hamster at home and has been keeping it in the bathtub for the past three days.
You pushed your heavy load down the hall, accustomed to and unaffected by the perpetual feeling that the whole thing was going to capsize. When I saw you, you were probably already on your fourth or fifth stay-over room, moving at a steady clip, not yet exhausted and dreaming of putting your feet up.
I should’ve said out loud that I’m grateful for what you do. At the very least, I should’ve left you a note on the dresser, thanking you for caring for me and cleaning up my mess in your unassuming, anonymous way. Your work is important and it is truly appreciated. For those of us who are especially weary of cleaning up our own messes (and those of our children), your services are a rare and cherished luxury.
The Woman With All The Unnecessary Shoes in Room 525