Monday, May 20, 2013

Room 420: Adventures In Day Labor and Residual Weed

While staying in Houston, Texas, and desperate to make enough funds to make an Exodus to California, I applied to Labor Ready Staffing. For those not familiar with them they're basically a temporary day labor agency whose employees get sent out to miscellaneous jobs, receiving pay at the end of the day. In my mind I kept expecting to get assigned to some construction site, applying drywall until the imposing-looking foreman -who's a cross between a Belasco drawing and a circa 1976 Jim Brown- escorts me into his office. I'm just removing my protective goggles and hard hat when he informs me that he'd received word that I'd been seen stuffing company property into my coverall pockets and would now have to search me. After locking the door the foreman instructs me to place my hands on his desk, my breath shallow as he states that he had something special he saved up for temps that took things and I feel his mammoth sweaty paw seize the back of my neck--

*suddenly emerges from mental fog brought on by decades of gay porn to find my clothes strewn about the desk, covered in perspiration, and a quart-sized bottle of Gun Oil  in my right hand*

But, Labor Ready sent me to La Quinta Hotel, instead. There was a shortage of housekeeping staff that weekend so I'd be assisting the all female crew with cleaning various rooms. Most were immigrated from Mexico and only a few spoke sporadic bits of English, making me really wish I'd hunted down a bootleg copy of Rosetta Stone Spanish I while had the chance. Maria, the first housekeeper I worked with, was a dead ringer for a Chicana Kathy Bates and probably had a better mastery of English than her co-workers. But I confess I kept waiting for her to retrieve a sledgehammer from beneath her cart at some point, forcing me to write a sequel to Like Water For Chocolate or she'd hobble my ankles. Even though I thought our rapport was okay she ended up ditching me after the lunch break, probably because she preferred working solo. When I got paired with Guillamina later that day was when I finally couldn't deny what I thought I'd been detecting since entering the first room to tidy up.

Just about every hotel room reeked of weed.

And, by reeking, I don't mean a faint hint that you couldn't quite be sure was marijuana or sage (yes, I said sage. Maybe a Shaman stayed overnight on his way to a sweat lodge convention and had to do a spiritual cleansing after the toilet wouldn't stop flushing at 3 a.m.). These rooms were saturated in it so badly that you could've sold the toilet paper in hemp stores. There was the overwhelming evidence that potheads had slept there: more discarded blunt residue than the floor of Method Man's BMW, rolling papers (pina colada flavored! who knew?), enough empty Pizza Hut boxes to build a cardboard replica of The Alamo with, empty Dorito bags, half-eaten bags of Funions, beer bottles domestic and imported, and bags of fresh corn tortillas (for weed enthusiasts that wanted fajitas afterward). Once I remembered the date all of this activity made sense; it was the weekend of 4-20, the National Celebration of Marijuana. Sure, this is a holiday that Hallmark hasn't gotten around to developing greeting cards for quite yet, but it's celebrated by enough people to warrant at least a weed leaf icon on calendars. And the guests at La Quinta had been so overjoyed to partake that they started a day early, infusing the hotel carpets so thickly that even the power of Fabreeze didn't make much of a dent.

And, then Guillamina and I got high. Well, we didn't sit down and roll a fat one together, but the inevitable result of cleaning room after weed-stenched room for hours occurred: we got a contact. One of the guests had left behind a pile of junk food atop the room's desk so big and diverse you'd think Willy Wonka stayed there with an underage Oompa Loopa the night before. This struck us both so funny that we burst out laughing, collapsing on to the bed and hollering for a good four minutes. Finally, my domestic Latin goddess managed to utter "..we go no, okay?" and we staggered out into the hallway before it could get any worse. I ended up spending the entire weekend at this gig, mostly left alone due to my lack of Spanish but amusing myself with the various weird shit I found in rooms and watching spurts of Mythbusters when left alone to clean rooms. Although I never developed an interest in smoking weed, I felt a pang of envy while retrieving empty E-Z Roll Blunt packages and Jack-In-The-Box takeout bags, partially wishing I could've been present for a sliver of the fun the previous residents must've been having.

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