August 29, 2010 § 10 Comments
When we vacationed in WDC in July, I was always last out of our room. HM was working; I was vacationing.
I knew of course that Housekeeping would be showing up during the morning hours to do those things which I should do every morning in my own home (and don’t always, more like occasionally) such as dusting, cleaning the bathroom, arranging towels, making the bed so smoothly you could bounce a quarter off the sheets (ok, I always do that), and in this hotel, Housekeeping’s visit also included setting out mineral waters, fresh stationery and more L’Occitane gels and lotions, filling the ice bucket, cleanin the wet bar, hanging up the fleecey robes, arranging our shoes just so, opening the drapes and sheers just so, leaving the newspapers, and polishing every single thing, ultimately leaving the place looking like a photo shoot for a getaway resort.
So before leaving the room, I would wonder how much picking up should I do, prior to Housekeeping’s arrival? What did our room tell about us, and did they discuss guests and their habits, terrible, funny or otherwise? I would not wish to have HM and I discussed over the break table in the staff room. Ugh. Of course, I’d never know.
Better, however, to err on the side of bland or boring, in that our room would be tidy. And not offer any details of our lives to be “read aloud” during any Housekeeping chatter.
So I would fluff the pillows and set the blankets straight on the bed. I collected our empty water bottles and tossed them in the recycling bag provided. I straightened the towels on their racks. I hung up any clothes, put away jewelry or bits of things you collect when you travel like ticket stubs, maps, etc. plus stuff HM collected from the conference each day which I organized and put in his business briefcase.
I tidied our morning newspapers, saving them for him to read upon his return. (He is not an early riser and gets up in time only to get ready and leave for the day, not to linger over coffee and the paper!) I tell you this here, but did not want the housekeeping staff to have any tales to tell!
In truth, in smaller rooms, I cannot bear a mess, either. So, I’d sweep through, an eye out for things we might have left on the dresser or bathroom vanity. It’s easy to be tidy in small rooms. I like it. It’s controllable.
But what about the stack of books and magazines I had brought along? The magazines were getting toseed as I read them. The two books were light enough, but might have given the impression that I was staying for one month rather than one week. But you can’t go light on books; what if you did finish one at say, 1 a.m. and had nothing next to read?
And then, did the book and magazine titles tell too much about me/us? Pooh. I took the stack and set it on the deep window sill just behind the drapes, near the wing chair. I would set a bottle of mineral water there, too, for later, and hoping they would give me another to replace it. Mineral water (bottled water, that is) is a luxury when you travel. You can take it with you, out and about; you can chug it in your room if you’re not familiar or fond of the tap water taste in a different city. And at home, we don’t buy it.
And they always did give me another one.. Whether they saw the one I tucked away with my books, I don’t know.
They took care of things; I started to look forward to it, but did not become lax in my pre-clean prior to their arrival.
Oddly, I noted how much I enjoy cleaning, picking up, taking care of silly small things – like cleaning our hairbrushes, tidying drawers, I even ironed while there! – all the things that make things “nice” but get looked over when the household is running out the door to work every morning.
I had no idea what Housekeeping sees on a daily basis. It occurred to me that they must witness the stuff of novels. Is there a “cleaning woman” mystery series? there must be.
About a week after getting home from WDC, on one of my “shopping” tours of the library, I spied a book about writing that I had never seen. It is Nancy Peacock’s A BROOM OF HER OWN.
It’s a series of essays, about her life as a writer. Although she was a published author, with two books, life kept driving her back to a housecleaning gig to sustain herself. ( A hard truth.)
And out of that, at the encouragement of her agent (or editor, I forget which) came this book of essays. Each is a story, though.
Although it’s a book about writing and the writing life, it’s is certainly a book about life. It’s a book for everyone, especially those who love to read, to see how it works, this writing thing, and to see how it dovetails constantly with “being there,” being in the thick of real life.
Peacock talks of the people she’s cleaned for, what she sees or knows, how she puts her writing together through all of it, how she befriends some clients, leaves others. Through it all, she has her feet on the ground and her ear always listening to her writer’s heart.
I gotta recommend it. It’s a skinny book that is rich rich rich with humor, mercy, compassion, and it also illuminates the creative drive.
In retrospect, I suspect my hotel housekeepers would have labeled us as “vanilla.”
That would be perfectly fine with me.