Friday, February 21, 2014
DENNIS: FOLLOWING UP ON ‘HOUSEKEEPING 101’
i learned a number of housekeeping skills from the women in Nancy's family, and look back on my many learning sessions with fondness. Unfortunately, the women in Nancy's family weren't necessarily concerned with speed and efficiency, only quality.
After we were married with a priority placed on Nancy's career, more and more—and eventually all—of the housekeeping fell to me. Additionally, there were the routine shopping and volunteer work that I did at the Women’s Center. Trying to balance even my secondary career with my domestic duties, i started falling behind and obviously needed some help. That help came in the form of training at both a large hotel and with a woman-run residential maid service. In both instances, quality had to be balanced with speed and efficiency; it was an economic imperative. Nancy's mother, Sue, knew a hotel housekeeping supervisor and a Woman who ran a maid service; both were always looking for help due to the high turnover, which was mainly attributed to the grueling pace. Initially Sue lined up a job for me at a hotel and later with the maid service.
Rhoda, the supervisor at the hotel, was a tough-as-nails woman. She was quick to chastise Her maids if their work wasn't up to Her expectations—and things seldom met Her expectations; and if they did, She'd raise the bar. Rhoda agreed to take me on so long as Sue could promise that i'd work regular hours for at least six months and that i'd recognize that She and “her girls” ran the show; whatever She and her girls said was law!
While Rhoda was my overall boss, she assigned me to one of Her maids, who was responsible for my on-the-job training. The maids appreciated having the help but didn't like having to stop and correct or instruct me. They did enjoy having someone to boss around and did so with about as much energy as did Rhoda. My helping them took some of the pressure off the maids and gave them more frequent opportunities to go out on the balcony to grab a much deserved smoke.
Each maid was responsible for cleaning 12-15 rooms a day—more if we didn't have a lot of guests checking out—plus common areas. It was tough work, but i learned so many lessons that helped me get more efficient at home. I cut the time it took me to dress a bed by over half and learned how to plan my work. It took a lot of yelling and screaming on the part of the maids and Rhoda. but after a few weeks I was elevated to “maid” status and given my own block of rooms, which I cleaned on weekends and whenever else I might be available. My work was all subject to Rhoda's inspection and approval, and no matter how good I thought i was, she always found fault and made me do it better. She was in my face if things weren't right and made it a point to give me all of the “problem rooms” as a rest for her girls and to teach me a bit of humility.
As for pay? Well, i really didn't need to be paid since this was a learning experience, but i received minimum wage that went home to Nancy and Sue. i was required to turn over any tips i found in my rooms to Rhoda, and, on Sue's advice, i gave Rhoda and my supervising maid a gratuity every week. i kept this job for eight months and even today occasionally go back and put on an apron when Rhoda finds herself needing help. i will tell you this: a maid's work is hard and most maids are under-appreciated.
The maid service job was also a training that Sue arranged. A Woman friend
ran a local maid service that cleaned residential homes. Again, I worked this
Punishment? Infractions usually cost me cigarette breaks, or she might make me smoke while standing outside in frigid weather. And if i got done early with a task, she'd find more for me to do by stripping a bed and having me fix it up. All said, i learned a lot; when you pull up to a totally disheveled house and leave it immaculate an hour and a half later, you're doing something right! And on weekends we usually did five or six houses a day.
In addition to teaching me to be an efficient housekeeper, these two jobs also strengthened my Feminist convictions. men should have to do such work, so that they can appreciate what maids and other pink collar workers do for a living. most men i know couldn't keep up with their female colleagues.