(This post is the fourth chapter in seven part-series. Read chapters 1-7 here.)The Dominique Strauss-Kahn allegations and the ensuing media attention have everyone wondering what actually happens behind closed doors in hotel rooms. Take bored rich men, add women cleaning up after them — it can get explosive. The Times of London interviewed me about my experiences, and though unfortunately their paywall prevents me from linking to the story, here’s an excerpt from the article:
Rhodes recalls rooms “with piles of vomit in the closet, blood, illegal substances, smashed bottles, stuff in the shower that should have been in the toilet. There were no hygiene boundaries. You never wanted the rooms of celebrities or the really rich: they were the biggest slobs and worst tippers. The people who saved up for their stay were the tidiest and most generous.”
One room attendant at New York’s Grand Hyatt who has been cleaning rooms for 20 years told The Times: “The guests are mainly nice. Sometimes they can be rude, but we all have our bad days.” Anyway, laughs Rhodes: “You see these big-shots strutting about. But hotel maids know how gross they are in private, who they really are. That’s why I never felt intimidated by them.” [Read the full story.]
I’m reminded of the day when I signed off the hotel’s sexual harassment policy. It was laid out in no uncertain terms which behaviours were determined to be unacceptable and intolerable. Suggestive gestures, conversations, and unwelcome physical advances were grounds for discipline, and even dismissal. It took no more than a couple of weeks to realise that while such behaviours would not be tolerated from co-workers, everyone would look the other way when these behaviours were exhibited by paying guests.
My first encounter with inappropriate guest behaviour came during an elevator ride with a man who appeared to be older than my father. I smiled and greeted him as I would with any other guest as he entered the elevator, pretending not to notice the way he looked me up and down. I pretended not to hear him when he asked how old I was and tried to appear intently absorbed in my paperwork, glancing down at my clipboard and scribbling notes. The next comment I couldn’t ignore. “I know something you could be doing that could make you a lot more money, sweetheart.”
Caught entirely off guard, I accidentally looked up and caught his glance in the mirrored reflection of the elevator door. Not certain of what a proper response would be under the circumstances, I pushed the button for the next floor and hastily exited, wishing him a pleasant stay like the good hospitality student that I was.
I imparted my version of the story to a fellow manager a few hours later in the locker room, still unsettled at what had transpired. She nodded with understanding and told me not to worry, that I had handled the situation well.
As a young woman in Manhattan, one becomes accustomed to unwelcome stares and comments while walking through the streets or on the subways. After several years in the city, this rarely offended me. Being expected to tolerate it while at work, however, is something I was not prepared for. But I came to realise it was a reality of the business.
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