Winter 2011 - A Thoughtful Tip
My first real job, my summer job when I was sixteen, was as a maid at a Holiday Inn. I lasted 3 days. Without going into the disgusting details, I'll just say that unless you've worked as a hotel maid, you have No Idea how hard she (or he) has to work to get some of the rooms clean and presentable for the next guest. At 16, I was clueless that people could be such, well, slobs. After working my eight hours, I was bone tired at the end of the day, something I'd never experienced even though I played high school sports and often took miles-long bike rides. This was going to be a long, long summer. And since my days off were scheduled for mid-week, I could forget about staying out late on weekends. I was prepared to stick it out despite the arduous work and the lousy pay, but when a sleazy salesman staying at the motel offered me a 'job' as his assistant, all signs pointed to getting the heck out of there, and fast. My parents and boyfriend were behind me all the way at that point.
It had been a long time since I thought about that summer (those 3 days of it, anyway) until someone introduced me to the practice of leaving a tip for the maid in the hotel room each morning when I am traveling. I don't tip her in order to get a cleaner room or more free soap, although that probably happens. Rather, I tip her in acknowledgment that she has a backbreaking job that probably barely makes ends meet, and heaven only knows how many buses she's had to take to get to work and what time she had to get up in the morning to be there. A couple of bucks isn't going to break my bank, and those same dollars are going to mean a lot more to her than they do to me. Sometimes doing all the tipping that is expected of us these days doesn't exactly make my heart sing, but I must say that leaving a few dollar bills on the desk or on the bed in a hotel room makes me feel good.
I'm thankful I never had to relive those 3 days that summer because that was the only job I could hope to get. But having walked a mile in a hotel maid's shoes -- OK, more like a few blocks -- has brought me to a place of a tiny bit more generosity and understanding. And so I'm here to make a plug for not only hotel maids, but for anyone who has a job you wouldn't want to touch with a 10-foot pole and has been of service to you. And if coming up with a few bucks is too much of a stretch, a heartfelt smile or sincere 'thank you' is always appreciated too. May your holidays be bright in all sorts of ways!