holiday inn soap

A Match “Maid” in Heaven
by Karyl Carmignani

I got kicked out of the house when I was sixteen and had to find a job fast. I needed something within walking distance of my new apartment and high school. Living near an airport with its bevy of hotels and restaurants was about to pay off. I landed a gig cleaning hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn. I enjoyed working after school, as I mostly cleaned rooms of “late check-out” airline people. The pilots barely shed and left their beds politely rumpled. Stewardesses—yes, we called them that in the 70s—left their rooms messier, but with a clean, shampoo-y scent lingering in the air. Sometimes there was even a dollar and some change left next to the TV. Other rooms were used more recreationally, and my adolescent nose would catch a heady whiff of sex haunting the darkened room. But on weekends, families were holed up like wild animals leaving a whirlwind mess, with hide-a-beds, playpens, room service trays, and empty bottles left in their wake. At least they didn’t lick the doorknobs!

Loading my cart with tiny soaps and still-warm linens, there were always foreign tongues wagging around the folding tables to the persistent throb of industrial-sized washers and the twirling of bedsheets behind the glass face of the dryers.

I learned to clean fast—dusting, scrubbing, vacuuming, and polishing with great efficiency. My beds were made taut, pillows plumped, with bottom sheets folded tight around the mattress, like a gift for the weary. These days, I make my living in front of a computer. But still, when I put my line-dried sheets on the bed, shaking them out like billowing parachutes and tucking those corners snug, I recall those dim rooms and my first real job.

IMAGE: Wrapped bar of  soap from Holiday Inn (1970s).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As a lover of wildlife, the great outdoors, and writing, Karyl Carmignani is blessed to have a day job at San Diego Zoo Global as a science writer. She grew up in Seattle, traveled the world, and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Anthropology. This led to more traveling and pursuing her fascination with nonhuman primates. She relocated to San Diego in 1999 to find a husband and an animal job and is pleased that both have landed in her world. She is fond of taking writing classes, which provide the perfect excuse to reconnect with her “core stories” and spill her honest, floundering guts on the page. Her writing has won several Press Club awards, and she recently won third place in the Mesa Visions Magazine Creative Writing Contest 2017. If there was one thing she’s like to tell the next generation it would be: follow your dreams, even if you have to wrestle them to the ground. And be kind to animals. And to each other.