Sep. 16th, 2006 12:07 am
yinshubackup: (Default)
It's midnight. I just got home from work. Did about 15 rooms tonight. Been there since 3:00 pm. Gotta go back in the morning; my next shift starts at 8:00 am. Yay.
I need sleep soon.

The most amusing part of my day were the looks of surprise, confusion, vague disgust, quick recovery/shame, and "new respect" (usually in that order) that I got from several of my former front desk and bell-desk co-workers when they saw me in the back of house wearing a real maid uniform (don't get too excited: it's a modest mousy brown-gray dress with a little white apron, pantyhose and black OSHA-approved athletic shoes) with minimal jewelry and almost no make up.
Some of them didn't even recognize me when I said "Hi" to them- but most of them did a quick double take and then did recognize me (cue interesting facial expressions and loss of vocal chords).
Except for wearing pantyhose, which I really dislike, I've been enjoying wearing the uniform every bit as much as I thought I would.

Most people weren't expecting me to do it, I guess, but to me, wearing the uniform serves multiple purposes:

-It gives me something to wear and get dirty in that is A)likely to be modest, non-restrictive and always perfectly appropriate so I don't have to waste time thinking about it and B) more durable than my "office clothes" and is no cost to me if it gets torn, stained, or bleached while I'm working. (This is probably the most selfish reason, but really it's practical enough to stand on its own.)

-It sends an instant message to the guest, if I encounter any guests, about what task I am likely to be responsible for- it informs what they will and won't expect me/ask me to do, which allows me to focus on the task at hand instead of being called off on wild goose chases

-It telegraphs my position-of-the-moment to any other L'Auberge employee, like flying a flag in battle. They instantly make assumptions about what I am doing, so I have to explain myself less- until they notice the nametag that reads, "EDP Associate" beneath my name- and some of them ask about it and some of them don't. But again, time saver.

-It sends a strong message to my coworkers, both subliminally and overtly. Overtly, says, "I am one of you, and I am not too good to wear what you wear and do what you do."
Subliminally, it reinforces their almost Pavlovian response to whatever uniform they encounter on whatever person they're interacting with. I've observed that they seem to react to the uniform first, the person second.
There is a definite food chain in the hotel world, and right now, as a housekeeper, I'm about three rungs from the bottom. And I don't really have a problem with that; I just want to let it be known that, yes, I am "paying my dues". Even if someone hasn't literally seen me on my knees scrubbing a bathtub, I get the instant "street cred" anyway because they see me wearing the uniform and they know (or imagine) what that entails.

Also, as expected, I got more smiles and greetings today from people who percieve themselves to be at or around (or just above or beneath) my "station" as a housekeeper. For example, when I'm dressed in corporate office wear, the dishwashers, housemen, janitors, and laundry mules act like little ghosts, barely making eye contact, seeing me as someone who doesn't really "speak their language" (literally and figuratively). In a housekeeper uniform, all these people are suddenly my friends. They grin, wave, and say hi in the halls even while they're pushing a cart full of trash to the loading dock dumpsters. Why? I think because they percieve me to be of a similar class.
I have possibilities- maybe I'm a nice girl, maybe I'll talk to them, maybe I even Habla Espanol? (Ci, hablo y intiende un poquito.)

And of course, wearing the maid's dress really seems to endear me to the housekeepers themselves, as well as their immediate supervisors (who have been tolerating me being an interloper in their otherwise clockwork department only because the directive to train me was handed down to them by their boss).

But later, I expect this to work to my advantage also- For example, when I "move up" and I am inspecting rooms, I will wear the inspector uniform, and if I need to correct a housekeeper who's been lax, I can expect her to listen to me because I'm wearing the right uniform. I bet at this level of duty (and probably up into middle management) probably half (okay, well, maybe 25%) of a supervisor or manager's power depends directly on them being dressed differently than their subordinates.
At least, that's what I've been observing, and so far, it seems to be playing out predictably. We'll see how it goes.
(note about "moving up"- I'm not, really. part of what makes this position so awkward, I think, is that to me, all these different parts I'm playing are lateral moves within the context of the EDP program- I may wear different uniforms, but really it's just another day, another lesson. I have to keep in mind that it's definitely not percieved that way by the coworkers, though- to them, I am "class jumping" all the time...)

Lord, it's 1 am now, and I really got to go to sleep.

Also, can I just say, I like working with Jamaicans? Even if I can't understand about half of what they're talking about? They are mild-natured and just... pretty easy going.
But seriously. Their language is crazy. It's a Creole based on English, but it's not really English because it incorporates a lot of French, African, Spanish, and local slang. I mean, when they talk directly *to* me, I can understand them... mostly. I know they're slowing it down/switching into "English" for me, because when they talk to each other, I'm lost.
Also, with their sweet Jamaican singsong lilt, it's hard to be around them for a hours and hours, because my ear picks it up and my mouth starts forming words like them, and my brain wants to start mimicking the syntax-- but thankfully, it's just too complex for me to follow, so it makes me conscious of what is happening. Then I have to consciously think about how to enunciate my words in a standard American-English way (constantly reminding myself that "the beer is in the back of the pick-up truck", for you faire folks, to guard myself from "the gypsy effect") so I don't start mimicking them to the point of sounding patronizing or ridiculous.

For example (I took this example from a website about Jamaican language, but this is really what it sounds like):

A Jamaican Conversation

"Bredrin, wa gwaan?"
"Bwai, ya done know seh mi deya gwaan easy."
"Yes I, a so it go still. Not 'n na gwaan, but we a keep di faith, nuh true?"
"True. How de pickney dem stay?"
"Bwai, dem aright. One a dem wan tun DJ an bus. Nex one wan go a foreign an bus. A try mia try reason with dem still."
"Yeh man, a so pickney stay fi real. Dem fi know seh every mickle mek a muckle."
"True. Mi deh pon haste, ya hear? A faawod mi a faawod."
"Yeh man, lickle more, seen?"
"Lickle more."

The English Translation

"What 's up, man?"
"I 'm here just taking it easy."
"Yeah, that 's how it is. Times are hard but we have to keep the faith, isn't that right?"
"Yeah. How are your kids?"
"They 're alright. One wants to be a DJ and make it big. Another one wants to migrate and make it big. I 'm just trying to reason with them."
"Yeah, that's how kids are. They have to know that you have to work for things little by little."
"True. Listen, I 'm in a hurry. I'm going to leave."
"OK, see you later."
"See you later."

I am so totally going to Jamaica someday. I used to joke around the hotel school that I was going to move to Jamaica immediately after graduation, because everyone knew I hated the snowy weather up there. Now I might have friends to visit when I go.
But really. I think a little peice of my soul has always belonged to the Carribbean somewhere.
Maybe I'll retire there when I'm a little old lady.

bedtime now.
Everyting gwin be irie.


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