Loco Parentis: Sheets Happen

So do towels. And condoms. My daughter’s brief life as a maid

“There’s Towel-Man.” She grimaces. “If Towel-Man doesn’t like you, he doesn’t give you enough towels. Mom, you wouldn’t believe what pigs people are.”

“Do they give you gloves to wear?”


I shudder, imagining her changing beds, cleaning toilets, contracting swine flu or worse. I send my husband Doug out to buy a hundred pairs of latex gloves.


“I GOT A $20 tip!” Marcy announces after Angel drops her off at home after work, a week into her new career. Damn. That won’t help discourage her.

“Do a lot of people leave tips?”

“Nah.” She frowns. “Some of them leave little thank-you notes. But the girls can’t read them, and they think the people are complaining, so they bring the notes to me: ‘Qué dice? Qué dice?’” Picturing the frantic women, I vow never again to leave a thank-you note in a hotel room.

“Raquel the supervisor was mad at me again for being too slow,” Marcy confesses. “But it’s hard to do everything right. And the guests just complain anyway. Since I’m the only one who speaks English, Ahmet makes me go to their rooms when they call the front desk. Then I have to get them more soap or whatever, and I get behind on my rooms.”

“That’s not fair,” I say.

“There’s nothing fair about it. Whatever they tell you to do, you have to do.” A pretty fair summation of workplace dynamics. “And there’s this crazy guy up on the fourth floor. He’s scary-crazy, Mom. Erma” — Air-mah — “had to do his room today, and he went like this to her.” She forms a gun with her hand, points it at me. “He said, ‘Pow-pow.’”

Doug, just home from work, overhears this. “You have to call the police,” he says.

“But — ”

“You have to call the police,” he reiterates. “He threatened her!”

“You don’t understand. They won’t talk to the police. All of them are illegal. They have their kids trained: If you’re in the car and there’s a policeman, you turn the radio down. You keep your head down. You don’t call attention to yourself.” She sighs. “You get pulled over for a broken tail light, and your whole life can change.”

At college, Marcy’s majoring in women’s studies. But nothing she’s read about inequality has affected her as much as what she’s seen for herself. “People think illegals don’t pay taxes,” she says. “They have taxes taken out of every paycheck.”

“Do they have Social Security numbers?” I ask in bewilderment.

“No. They use made-up numbers. So they can’t even file for their tax refunds. The government makes money off them, Mom.”

I never knew that.