Backbone of America:The Invisible Workforce

We are people, too!

We’ve all used them, hell, most of us have probable BEEN them, or still are. We are those little people, the beings that those with money basically seem to use without caring, seeing or being grateful for. We are those who bring you your food in restaurants. We are the ones who make your bed and give you fresh towels when you stay in a hotel. We are the ones who clean your toilets and pick up after your kids if you are fortunate to have maid service in your home. We are the ones who make your hospitals and doctors offices shine and sanitized, preventing infections and the spreading of diseases. We are the ones who cook your food while you sit and enjoy a meal that you don’t have to slave over. We are the ones who restore your power in the rain, who make sure your cars don’t die on you or a wheel fly off while you’re on the highway, who make your trash disappear from the curbside every Tuesday. We are the biggest majority of workers in America and around the world, the ones behind the curtain, the ones who really make everything work-the ones that are forgotten and taken advantage of. Today, I am going to concentrate on the ones that clean your world, since that is the industry I am a part of.

I am a maid. Yup, I hate to admit it, but I work for a company that provides maid service for those, again, fortunate enough to be able to afford it. I have been in the “cleaning” industry for almost ten years, ever since I discovered I couldn’t afford college or get any aid. I took a job three months after I graduated because it sounded “exciting and different” and I needed cash! I cleaned after fires and water damages and was able to demolish the insides of houses affected by mold. I enjoyed the satisfaction that came from bringing a home back from tragedy. Then I moved on to various related jobs, from office cleaning to hotel room service and now, here I am, ten years later; tired, battling back problems, tendinitis, and a constant worry about what all those chemicals I’ve been breathing in over the years has done to my insides. And I’m not even thirty. And I’m still cleaning for a living.

Let’s face it. If you are not brought into this world being fed by a silver spoon, then be prepared to work, and work hard. Also, be prepared to be nearly forgotten, to get paid horrible wages, be denied most benefits, and be treated like absolute dirt.

I’m going to stop here for a second just to be clear-not everyone that uses these services are awful. I have had some clients and customers that gushed about my work, thanked me a billion times, and tipped better than I could have imagined. But for every ONE of those, there are at least FIFTY people that Just. Don’t. Care.

I’m talking about those people who fill their $400 a night hotel room suite with bags from Macys, Swarovski, and Abercrombie and Fitch, have two laptops and an IPad for their kid stacked on the nightstand, takeout from Olive Garden thrown in the corner, and empty bottles of wine everywhere-and don’t leave a tip. These people seem to just be completely oblivious to the fact that when they return from their day of shopping and throwing money around, they have new clean sheets on a freshly made bed, all their trash is gone, and they have fresh towels folded on the rack. Their shower is sparkling and the crap they got on the toilet seat is gone.

Same goes for those who have maid service, like the type of people I clean for. Some of them are very nice, but I can’t believe how lazy some people can be. Nothing is worse than dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing someone’s house while they sit on the couch and sip coffee and watch TV while they use their laptop. Then they bark orders at you, “Hey, can you do the sunroom floor? Also, vacuum the furniture”. No please. No thank you. Just me feeling like friggin Cinderella wishing a fairy godmother would come along and turn me into a princess, even for just a day.

If you are fortunate enough to have a maid or someone do a service for you, please, don’t take it as an invitation to be a complete slob. If you can’t seem to aim right at the toilet, or have an unfortunate #2 episode, be a dear and wipe it up yourself, instead of leaving it for three days until we get there. Empty your own trash if its full, and please, for the love of God, tell your college kids not to roll their eyes and slump away irritated when I ask if I may have their room for a moment to make their beds and vacuum their floors. Rich parents: You are raising a generation of entitled, lazy, spoiled young people. I am amazed that my 16 month old son will help me put his toys away and put clothes in the dryer, but these 20 year olds can’t seem to get their booger filled tissues in the trash can. But why should they care? Someone else will do it.

And that’s the attitude I hate. “Someone else will take care of it” That’s why people throw up on the floor in a hotel room and don’t care. Someone else will clean it. That’s why people let their kids throw food on the floor and laugh when they smear donuts all over a window. The maid will clean it. But what I hate even MORE then that attitude is the ungrateful complaining that comes along with those that don’t get their services JUST PERFECT. You know what? If you don’t have to clean your house, ever, and someone happens to miss the waste basket next to your piled up desk in your office, why can’t you just take care of it this one time? The amount of time you spend on the phone yelling at our bosses is much more than the time it would take you to, God forbid, empty your own trash. If you are sitting on your butt doing nothing when the power is out, don’t call and complain endlessly that it’s not on yet. There are men, yes, actual men, spending time away from their families, climbing poles and balancing in buckets in the elements, sometimes still in torrential rain and winds, trying to repair that for you (that one I take personally, because my father is one of those men). If you don’t like how something is done, here is a wonderful idea, probably foreign to you- Do it yourself!

Here’s what you need to remember, and I think it will help you become a better person in the long run. These people that make the world go round, behind the scenes, are PEOPLE. They are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, etc. They have arms, legs, feet, hands, wrists, and backs that ache and throb and are subjected to all those illnesses that spread around (because we have to sanitize your surfaces so YOU won’t get sick) and all the dangers that come along with prolonged exposure to chemicals and just plain unsafe environments. Many have chronic illnesses but can't afford to stop working. We get headaches, we have bad days, we don’t make that much money, we are worried about getting hurt because we don’t have insurance, we are worried about our bills and if our car has enough gas to make it home from work. We have a lot of problems, one of the biggest being our thankless jobs. And the worst part is: we have to go home and do all this stuff ourselves in our own homes, because WE don’t have maids.

So please. Be nice to those that serve you. That waitress might seem a little rude, but you know what? She is probably worried about how little tips she made that day and how much she has to pay her baby sitter. That housekeeper that doesn’t smile much might have a bad pain in her back, or is just plain tired from cleaning sixteen disastrous rooms in one day while only making five bucks in tips. So just be nice. Make the world a better place, and be nice to those that make YOUR life easier. And, for the love of God, our wages are meager, so please LEAVE A TIP! If you just dropped seventy dollars on a meal or $150 on a hotel room, I think you can manage to leave five bucks on the nightstand or the table.

From the backbone of America- Please remember us, and help US have a good day, and we will make sure yours is great too. Because remember-we see all your dirty secrets, we touch your food, and can put your toothbrush wherever we want. Just sayin'.

Be Nice To Your Housekeeper

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Comments 17 comments

xstatic profile image

xstatic 3 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

This is an awesome and useful rant, one that needs saying too. When I read the first part, Tom Joad's monologue in Grapes of Wrath came to mind (all about working people trying to make a living).

I always try to remember to leave a tip in hotels. If someone can afford the kind of room and shopping you mention, five bucks would be nothing.

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

Exactly! And I like your reference to Grapes of Wrath! My great grandmother was one of those "Okies" whose family moved from Oklahoma to California in search of work. Thank you for reading, and THANK YOU for tipping!! A few dollars on the end table can make someone's day = )

wayne barrett profile image

wayne barrett 3 years ago from Clearwater Florida

Venting? Lol. Writing is sure a good easy to do it. By the way, did you call me an okie? ;-) you know you are one too :-P

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

Haha yes. I am proud to be, its my past and what made me today. And yes, venting = ) I hate my job and can't wait to graduate and hopefully find a CAREER.

sherrituck profile image

sherrituck 3 years ago from Virginia

Cleaning is one difficult job. My office had the same cleaning lady for years. She was employed by an outside agency but we would always take up a collection for her at Christmas just to let her know how much we appreciated her hard work. She would always cry when we presented her with the gift. She has since retired, but I often think of her.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great message, Elizabeth, and you are absolutely correct. I actually did janitorial work for a couple years...middle of the night...hated it, and everything you say is true. There are quite a few people who are slobs and do not appreciate the work that goes on behind the scenes. Good job for bringing this issue into the light of day.

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

That is so awesome and amazing that you're office did that. Most cleaning companies do not pay much and its a lot of work for one person, so it's fantastic that you did that. Like I said, there are some people that are grateful and show it, and they always make it worthwhile, so I am so glad to hear your company did this. Thank you for being kind! You help restore my faith in humanity!

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

Third shift custodial work, yuck! I cleaned offices at night for a bit and hated it too, mostly because I was a young woman alone in these buildings late at night downtown. Thank you for reading, and I am glad you don't have to do that anymore!

Jewel01 profile image

Jewel01 3 years ago from Michigan

I have waited table on and off for 32 years. I too, have cleaned offices and homes. My mother worked for a hotel for several years, so I get what you are saying. I am a very generous tipper.

With that said, I would like to know who we should really be tipping? I have seen tip jars at the dry cleaners, pizza shop (when I pick up my pizza), The take out counter at every food service industry, and many other places, including the bowling alley. Should we be tipping everyone, or is there a cut off point?

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

Jewel01 Thank you for being a generous tipper. I am sure it is much appreciated. I'm not sure where you should limit tipping. I know I understand tipping with waiting tables and cleaning, because they don't pay very much, and with things like housekeeping, there are times when it is very very slow, and the tips are a huge amount of the income. I guess I've never really thought about it. If I was rich, I would probably tip anyone and everyone that made me happy = )

Jewel01 profile image

Jewel01 3 years ago from Michigan

Yes, it is difficult to walk away from the jar, without dropping money in. I have to admit lately, I have tipped based on service. It seems as though the industry of service is less than desirable lately. My general rule of thumb is 25 to 30 percent based on good service to excellent service. I have even been known to tip 40 percent for exceptional service. I have tipped extra out of pity, too. My complaint is when they never return to my table, I watch them flirt with the manager, bartender, or spend too much time at their boyfriends table. I have been ignored from the beginning for no less than a half hour, because I was a female. This was their first mistake.

I appreciate anyone in the service industry who takes pride in their work. I get it when their world falls to shit and the day is unending. When I go a hotel, I always clean the sink wipe out the tub with the used towels, put all the bedding on the bed and make sure the garbage is condensed. My late husband, and current fiance says I go too far. I think that if maybe just one person (meaning me) makes it a little easier for the person, maybe the day won't be so hard.

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

You don't know how much I appreciate people like you! It was those that do what you do, that would make me walk into a room and sigh in releif, because it wasn't a disaster. I have always been a neat freak, and a clean person, I clean according to how I would want my own home, and would try my hardest to always go above and beyond.

I do understand not tipping for bad service. I can usually feel people out and can tell when they might just be having a bad day, and tip out of pity, like you said, or if, like you also said, they just seem lazy or not taking it very seriously. Which, then, that is a whole other topic of rudeness in the world!

I'm glad you are such a great tipper! I try to be when I can, but it's a tight world out there right now. I usually just stay home anyways = )

Jewel01 profile image

Jewel01 3 years ago from Michigan

Me too, I am currently unemployed. I believe if you can't tip at you shouldn't expect to get service.

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

LOL I hear ya. I don't go anywhere anyways to worry about tipping = )

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

And I am sorry to hear that. I only work one day a week, so I know how much it bites the big one. I hope you can find employment soon!!

pramodgokhale profile image

pramodgokhale 3 years ago from Pune( India)

i appreciate author who focused on hardships of cleaning jobs. I am an Indian, most of the life worked as a blue collar skilled worker, so i understand. unfortunately in India these workers are known as backward class and that is shame but for employment and bread they are engaged in this profession as life skill!!

These cleaners tribe is doing important job for the nation where they reside.

I think developed nations provide them better benefits and security than other countries.Evey job and skill is important so their is dignity for labor. We classify them as unskilled workers.

I do not know what International labor organization is doing or any discussion there?

We hope they enforce all nations something to offer for such depressed class

Thank you for bringing this article and highlights plight of invisible workforce.

pramod gokhale

bizarrett81 profile image

bizarrett81 3 years ago from Maine Author

pramod gokhale, I thank you for reading and bringing to light that it is not just in America but all over the world where professions like these are overlookd and people can be treated badly. I do try to be thankful for what I do get from my jobs (benefits, security, etc, as you mentioned) because I am in a developed country. I think that is a very good point to bring up! There are labor organizations but nothing for cleaners. I hope more people someday can just have more compassion for those who have to do it

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