white egrets

I’ve been meaning to get back to my career story, or whatever this is. I’m kinda hoping that by writing this all out, I’ll understand better just what I want for the next ten, fifteen, maybe twenty years in terms of work.

Anyway, so I left off living in Davis, “living my best life” as Tinhinan would say. I loved my job at the motel, and I liked my co-workers. I loved the simplicity of it, the satisfaction of cleaning things, the orderly routine of it, and especially that I could work on my own at my own pace. And Cho and I had a good routine for our days and evenings. And we even got through the peanut-butter incident, mostly.

And then her step-dad dropped in for a surprise visit. Now, her step-dad owned the trailer, and he was letting Cho use it in place of having to stay in dorms. But he didn’t know I was also living there, helping out with the rent and utilities. We panicked. We tried to pass it off as I was just spending a couple of nights there, visiting. But he wasn’t having any of it. I had way too much stuff to be spending a couple of nights. He kicked me out, threatened to kick Cho out, and long story short, I moved back home.

Where the pressure to go to college started back in. At least community college, my parents argued. The main point of their argument was no college meant no health insurance. The ultimatum was college or a full time job. So naturally, I secured a position as a housekeeper at the Quality or Comfort or Clarion or Days or whatever heck Inn it was at the time. I think one of the first two because I’m pretty sure it was a Choice Hotels brand. It was out past the Nut Tree. The Nut Tree was a restaurant, bazaar, sweets shop, miniature train ride, airport. It’s an establishment that no longer exists, not in the same way, not since they put all those damned outlet shops up around it and the restaurant/bazaar closed down. But that’s another rant for another time, maybe.

Work at the Campus Motel was relaxing, self-paced, the place was small enough that my job covered rooms, lobby, laundry, parking lot, whatever needed picking up. The Quality (I’m pretty sure) Inn was run a little more tightly, but I do mean a little. The Inn had an odd vibe to it, and a weird smell. I felt squicky in that place and I was the one cleaning. But I quickly fell into the routine, going in and getting my assigned room list, and the only downfall was then having to go back to my parent’s home after work.

Well, that, and the ants. I have myrmecophobia. I’m sure I Mary-Sue’d that into my Maria character, amongst a few other traits. I’ve heard it’s common for those with a fear of ants to also fear other insects, but that is not the case for me. I can handle flies, mosquitoes, roaches, spiders, bees, wasps, silverfish, earwigs, you name it. But not ants. I used to be teased for it. I can’t describe the visceral reaction I have to being teased about anything. I remember once someone put a cartoon drawing–I think it was Farside–of ants up on my locker. It wasn’t funny to me. And then there was that time in class in one of the portables and the ants had started making a trail and I couldn’t leave my desk. Or the time I had carnations in a vase by my bed and when I woke up the next morning there were ants all over my headboard.

I have plenty of stories about ants, and the nightmares I would have, sometimes still have, about them, but again, that would be another post. I’m trying to stay focused here. But the reason I mentioned the ants is that they were all over that Inn. C’mon, Choice, I’m sure you had the budget for an exterminator. Although it didn’t help that every third room usually had food left out, pizza boxes, burgers and fries, open cans of beer or pop. So, yeah, ants. *shudders*

Anyway, living at home, miserable, hiding out in my room. I’d gone from this idyllic lifestyle in Davis of simple living, enjoying my time off, to dreading going home after work. Not liking being at home led to staying out until the wee hours of the morning, which in turn led to getting into even more fights with my parents. It became a vicious circle. I even went to work drunk once, not just hungover but actually still drunk, because I’d been out partying all night and was still tipsy when I had to drag myself into work the next morning. Thankfully, no one at work really noticed since I was “weird” anyway. Except Alma. Alma noticed. But Alma was cool, so she didn’t say anything. She rarely said anything, ever, to anyone. And not in an “I don’t like you so I’m not talking to you” way, but more of a “I don’t talk to people–period” sort of way. Probably why she was my favorite co-worker there.

Life seemed like the typical eighteen year-old experience from my limited knowledge. Miserable, depressing, self-destructive in some ways. I had a few close friends, very few, but they were all at college making new friends, having completely different life experiences than myself. Except Janene. Janene had dropped out of high school and run away from home when she was sixteen. She was my best friend, my next door neighbor when we were both living with our parents, and my partner-in-crime for many of our high school adventures, she along with Ken. But she lived in San Francisco and I was still in Cow Town (aka Vacaville), and we both worked and didn’t have vehicles that could transport us at freeway speeds, so we didn’t see each other that often. Yeah, life was better than high school at that point, but I needed to find a way to get out.

And then my sister saved me. She was at college, at UC Berkeley, and one of her roommates was moving out and I was able to move in with her and her friends. I had a room to myself in the house, shared use of the kitchen and living areas. And it was great, but there was also the stress of trying to find a job once again. Since housekeeping was still something I enjoyed, and I had experience at it, I made the rounds and applied at every hotel and motel in the area. I spent weeks calling places, filling out applications, scouring the want ads, and rarely getting a call back unless it was to say the position had already been filled.

By some chance or other, I somehow convinced the Berkeley Marina Marriott to hire me, despite feeling like I had completely botched the interview. I mean, this was a housekeeping position. I hadn’t expected an interview at all. There was something about that bus ride to the hotel that feels like it is forever engrained in my memory, and it wasn’t like the bus ride should have been all that memorable. I was sitting somewhere in the middle, my head pressed against the window, my eyes half-shut, and yet my ears alert to every sound around me as the bus made its way down University Avenue. Stop after stop, the number of passengers on the bus dwindled, until it was just me and one other woman.

The route to the hotel went over the railroad tracks and the freeway, and the grayness of the city faded away as the bus descended that small overpass. I could see the basin to the left, the fresh produce market on the corner, and then the eastshore park lands cut with trails to the right, and slender, white egrets foraging in the tall grasses holding as still as statues. I wanted to be like those egrets.

The bus curved around the road, away from the hotel, heading toward the pier, and I thought I’d missed my stop. I was already nervous, anxious, because I had to go in for an interview to start with. I couldn’t be late. The bus driver grumbled, pulled over, and dropped me off. I had to walk the rest of the way, which wasn’t too far, but it was a solid ten minute walk. I learned later that, apparently, even though the route map said it went into the hotel, most drivers rarely bothered.

By the time I got to the hotel, I was sweaty on top of being anxious. I fidgeted a lot. I didn’t know how to answer questions like “why do you want to work here?” and “where do you see yourself in x number of years?” I still don’t. But two weeks after that date, I got a call asking if I was still interested and when could I start. I hadn’t secured any other job meanwhile, so I jumped at it. Not just for the paycheck, not just because I liked that kind of work, but I remembered those Great Egrets and was looking forward to seeing them as part of my daily commute.

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