Seedy Motels

I once held down a housekeeping gig at a motel. We worked in pairs. One person turned the linens and vacuumed; the other person scrubbed the bathroom and emptied the waste baskets. The morning I started, my housekeeping partner told me, “Don’t ever remove your gloves.” She described herself as a veteran housekeeper; she’d seen things laying around that would turn my stomach.

Ah, I shooed her off. I figured I could handle dust and dirt. I could handle empty beer bottles and banana peels. I could handle the sight and stench of half-eaten Big Macs.

Less than a week later, I thought differently. I was convinced that our supervisor should be bound by federal law to give us more than latex gloves to protect ourselves. We needed gas masks and rubber suits.

It’s true that most of the rooms were in decent shape, the bathrooms spotless and the sheets so crisp you’d never guess that a person had slept between them. In fact, if the comforter was relatively clean, as was often the case, we tossed it aside until we were finished changing the sheets—then we threw it back over the bed, merely brushing off a few visible strands of hair.