I work in a major hotel chain in London. Which one could it be? For now this is about me working and organising in Housekeeping, but in time, other workers will occupy this blog with their own experiences…If you’re tweeting, use #HotelUnion I’m @hotelunionnow

I’m seeing bathroom taps in my sleep. It’s the repetition of the work. I’m being broken in.

First it was five rooms a day, then 10 and now up to 11 and 14. Because the hotel is quiet, they’re taking rooms off me and giving them to the other girls. I don’t mind but I don’t quite understand whether I’m being paid per room or by the hour. Girls with a different agency say it’s by the room – £3.25 per room. If it’s by the room then the pressure’s higher than by the hour.

The supervisors are chastening me and urging me to work harder and faster.

I’ve been getting the order of the R2 spray on the bath chrome and taps a bit wrong for a couple of days now and it means I’ve been leaving slight water marks rather than the sleek, silver, mirrored shine the supervisors and guests expect.

It’s making me really anxious.

A departure bathroom

A departure bathroom

The supervisors will open the door abruptly. As much to ‘catch’ me as it is because they themselves are under huge pressure to check every room in a short space of time.

Divesh, one of the more angsty ones tells me staccato-like: ‘You have not cleaned properly. You have left water mark. You have left urine on the toilet seat, you must do this properly. If you want I can help, if you don’t want, I will not help. Come back and redo the bathrooms’.

I keep sloping back and re-spraying, re-wiping….

I’ve got to get those taps right…

The lived-in rooms – AKA the stays or the occupieds – are interesting. Despite their uniformity you’re entering into a private, personalised space, made intimate with things: souvenirs, shopping, books, notes.

I pick up peoples’ clothes off their unmade bed or the floor. I fold pijamas, nighties, trousers, even socks and boxer shorts. I tuck a bear into a child’s bed. Sometimes the adults have cuddly toys too….whatevs…..I tuck them in too.

I place belongings carefully to the side, in a neat way as I clean a desk or a sink. I’ll stack reading books. Fold newspapers. Arrange toiletries. It’s a form of care. I like the idea of the guest, the welcome to whoever it is, and making them feel like they are cared for. It’s a cultural thing, it’s a human thing. It’s a bit like being a temporary, brief, home-maker. A housekeeper. Well, that is the department…..

Yep. We do

Yep. We do

In one room, a deluxe suite, I walk in and immediately spot a pile of white powder on the desk.

I freeze.

I look around.

This is a family suite. This ain’t no scar face gangsta pad.

I inspect it a little closer. There’s a sports bottle nearby. It’s definitely got to be some kind of glucose drink powder. I clean around it carefully and chuckle to myself thinking that the guest is going to wonder whether the room attendant thought they were a coke-head. Chuckle. But then I realise they won’t even give me a second thought. They won’t have even noticed I was here.

A high point of the day is a departure room with a leftover box of milk chocolate Brazil nuts in it. There are three left inside. SCORE. I guzzle them immediately. It’s 3pm and I’m flagging and their sweet thick creaminess is a welcome lift.

What we encounter in the rooms shapes our day. Small surprises, insights, chop up the monotony. Sparks imagination, or revulsion.

We peer into and briefly audit someone’s stay in the city; catch a glimpse of their passing lives.

No so bad

No so bad

The channel they were watching or the radio station they were listening to; the books they read, the takeaways they ate, the clothes they wear, their medication, their (usually very expensive) face creams, make up, perfume and jewellery. And their toe nail clippings, old cotton buds, and condoms, used tissues. It’s all there. Little shreds of, and windows into their work, their play, their holidays…

If you're really unlucky...

If you’re really unlucky…

There are barely ever any tips or communication left for us.

We’re literally invisible. And so are they, the guests.

It’s lonely work. It’s silent work.

Before I go to sleep at night or if I wake up too early, nervous about being late for work, and slip back into a fitful half-sleep, I see the bathrooms, I see the large wooden headboards, I see the corridors. I don’t see people. I just see fittings and furniture, and the linen and mirrors that thread people through these hundreds and hundreds of rooms.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Maid in London

An anonymous hotel cleaner goes behind the scenes at a luxury hotel in London.

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