Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yuhl-Sheem (9)

Two or three years later both of my daughters were in college. Christen was in her last year of undergraduate school at and Amy was in her second year. Again, I wanted to send them just a little bit of money, enough for books. My mah-uhm hurts when I think of my daughters trying to study and work at the same time. I would think of Amy who was at work more than she was in class and I was willing to do anything to help my children.

I started working at a newly built hotel. I was hired as a housekeeper. I was the only non-Spanish speaking housekeeper. Even though my co-workers and I couldn’t really communicate because most of them spoke Spanish, we got along. Also my supervisors were nice to me because I worked hard. It was my first time doing housekeeping in a hotel, but I was good at it. The other ladies would ask me how long I had been doing it and I’d say, “First time.” They would be so surprised.

At lunchtime we would sit together. If you looked at the cafeteria everyone sat according to their department. The other housekeepers and I would sit together and try to chat. I would bring apples for lunch and cut them up so we could all eat them together. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t verbally communicate. We were all housekeepers. None of us went to college; we’re all alike.

Housekeeping is hard and humiliating work. I would knock on the room doors and say “Housekeeping” to see if anyone was in there. After a little bit, if nobody answered I would take my key and open the door. Sometimes there were men in there! I would tell them that I’d come back but they would tell me to go ahead and clean. I was scared. If somebody else was in the room I’d always keep the door open. One time I had to clean a room and it smelled heavily of cigarettes. I couldn’t breathe because it smelled so disgusting. I propped the door open to air out the room but the guest told me to close the door because he had a cold. I told him that I couldn’t breathe because of the smell; I was coughing and everything. He still made me close the door. So I tried to clean it in a hurry but he would say, “You missed a spot. Clean over there.” That bastard didn’t even give me a tip. Most of the customers don’t tip. The families on vacation would tip, but not the business people. The business people always leave the biggest messes too and they still don’t tip!

When I first started working we had to set up the rooms before the grand opening. We had to get all the sheets on the bed, wipe down all the furniture down, hang up the shower curtains and put the new furniture in place. It was too much hard work. When I worked at the hotel I cried so much. It was back-breaking work. I would be working all day and I would get thirsty. I would want water but I would have to take the elevator to another floor and that would waste time so I wouldn’t even drink water. In 8 hours I had to clean 15 rooms. The manager gave me all the smoking rooms. I was the only one who was assigned to clean these rooms. Everything smelled like smoke, even the floors. One time I got so mad that I took a drinking glass in the bathroom and threw it at the wall. It shattered into pieces and I felt good.


powerpolitics said...

I love your Yuhl Sheem stories about your mother. You should be very very proud of her, and she of you.

It's so important to know our family's histories and struggles so that we may know who we are and what defines us. And then the path is open and free.

Hui Jeong said...

thanks PP. your kind words are encouraging. i'm hoping to teach a class this summer to 10th and 11th graders on oral history. i want to incorporate the ideas politics and infrapolitics in the lives of immigrant women workers.

Gar said...

Ah, the great series continues! =)

Hmmm, why am not surprised that so many business people, especially businessmen, behave so badly when they deal with blue collar folks like hotel workers?

Nothing quite like a little bit of money and power to turn your average joe into a big prick.

I commend your mom for her self-control.