All News & Blogs
FALL RIVER, Mass.--Like many people raised during the Depression, my parents would let the teenage me work at any job, among any kind of people, at any hour.
So, when I was 14, I was washing dishes in a restaurant whose bar was less than savory. By the time I was in my mid-teen years, I was a janitor in a large hotel where, despite the lobby's clear glass and potted-plant loveliness, the staff, minimum wagers all of us, included a number of people who couldn't read, hadn't finished high school, were unwise in the use of recreational substances, and were on either probation or parole.
It was, in the gasping-for-breath old phrase, "an education."
The people I worked with could, I suppose, be referred to as "disadvantaged," but what they really were was flat-down mean poor and likely to stay that way.
The guests in our fine hotel left many items behind in their rooms. If you believe that you can check into a hotel and indulge your most repulsive fantasies free of scrutiny, let me assure you the staff will be laughing about the physical manifestations of your inner life, probably over coffee and a menthol cigarette.
In those pre-computer days, men traveling alone left a lot of pornographic magazines behind when they checked out. The maids tended to give these to the janitors, although not always. We stashed them in the linen storage closets and read them when we were hiding out from the boss. Unopened cans of beer and soda were also left behind with some regularity.
All of these items (and many more) should have been turned in to hotel security, a group of people nearly as poor as the maids and janitors. This option was seldom considered unless the item in question was a dog, cat, or child. None of us would steal anything that might require feeding.
And "stealing" is just how it was defined, at least if you were bored enough and literate enough to read the employee handbook.
And one day, one of the maids, who I remember as being in her early 40s and none too attractive, showed me a red, see-through baby-doll-type nightgown she'd found in some adventurer's room.