Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm thankful for Elaine Viets

I've been doing a fair bit of travel these past few months and that has meant staying in hotels. Because I read Elaine Viets book MURDER WITH RESERVATIONS I knew hotel guests should tip the housekeeping staff.

One particular morning up in Boston at CrimeBake, I got ready then grabbed a couple small bills from my wallet so I could buy a coffee IV transfusion at Starbucks in the lobby. By the time I'd gotten my venti-mocha-no-whipped-cream- the bills were nowhere to be found. Oh crud. Fortunately the barista let me add the bill to my room charge.

When I returned to my room that afternoon, there were the bills on the bathroom vanity. Untouched. I'd obviously set them down when I was checking my halo in the mirror. They'd were right next to the fiver I'd left for the housekeeper, on a note saying "thank you housekeeping." The fiver was gone, the forgotten bills untouched.

That small act of honesty didn't so much astonish as humble me. Working for hourly wages, in a physically demanding job, the person who cleaned my room didn't make the 'mistake' of thinking all the bills were intended for the tip. I'm profoundly thankful to her for a powerful reminder that character is what you do when no one is looking.


Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Good story, and Happy Thanksgiving!

DebraLSchubert said...

A perfect post for Thanksgiving and a great reminder that honesty and kindness pay off in ways none of us can really imagine. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Janet, for all the ways you add to our lives. I have no doubt it's more than you'll ever know.

Literary Cowgirl said...

When a person is stripped of everything,only their word and their reputation remain. After these hard times, it has become pretty clear that any of us could lose everything in a very short time. As a society, our goals still centre around buying more, instead of being more. I have always been very touched by those private acts honesty.

I proudly attended a university with a strict honour code. I am not sure that I fully appreciated it until I lived in Cape Town (a gorgeous place, but definitley somehwere were trust is a weakness). We have a serious integrity deficit in the world, and I sorely miss the days when I never locked my door and always got a straight answer. Even back in Canada, way out here in the boonies, we have to lock our doors and have been robbed.

You'd think integrity cost a million bucks, people are so stingy with it,but it doesn't. Though it is worth far more than that.

Angelia Almos said...

What a great reminder, Janet. Thanks for posting that story. I also didn't realize I was supposed to tip housekeeping until someone had mentioned it several years back.

Barb said...

Why, oh why, didn't she slip the first ten pages of her MS under your forgotten bills!

Jim Ringel said...

There's a glamourous superstar for each talk show each night of the week, with plenty of others clawing their scratch their way there. But the housekeeper speaks up to teach us a lesson in character.

Whoever he or she was, they must be someone very comfortable in their own skin

That's something to be thankful for.

Thank you.

Vicki Lane said...

A lovely post! I too learned from Elaine Viets how important it is to tip the housekeepers.

And I'm thankful for your blog -- a fund of good information and wicked humor!

laughingwolf said...

happy turkey day to you and yours, janet :)

Les Edgerton said...

Growing up in the South, my grandmother who was very old school, always had us spend two hours a week with lessons in manners. We were always taught to leave a tip under the pillow for the maid in a hotel. That's pretty commonly-known, but what may not be as well known, is that salads were served as the last course in the meal up until WWII, when a restaurant in So. Cal. was facing bankruptcy and the owner got a deal on salad fixings and offered a special to diners where they got a free salad with their meal... and he served it as the first course. First time it had happened, and it became the vogue thing to do. Except at the restaurant my grandmother owned in Freeport, TX. Until she died in 1963 she refused to serve salads other than the last course. I understand the custom still survives in Europe. To do otherwise was to be a "classless Yankee who ate watching TV" who didn't know any better (her words). Now... if we can just let people know they're not supposed to clap when the applause is for them...

Anonymous said...

so it's NOT commom for the Bellboy to heavily tip me, give me his home phone number and ask me to meet his parents?
I'll never understand Americans.

scaryazeri said...

I am always stressing out about tips whenever I travel! Every country has such different etiquette on that. And the US is the scariest. I had to ask my friends about every single thing when I was there last month. do I top the shuttle bus driver? if so, how much? do I tip the receptionist? I guess not, but how is she different from the bus driver? Agrrr...complicated! In the UK it is a completely different story. we tip but not bar staff for example.
but it is a lovely story indeed. Restores your trust in humans.

Chris Eldin said...

And in these troubling economic times, doubly hard to show restraint and character. Bravo to her. Thanks for sharing.

GiGi said...

What a great post.

One of my first jobs out of college was in HR at an upscale resort. The majority of our housekeeping staff came from eastern Europe, where they had been, among other things: a pediatrician, an elementary school teacher, a pilot and an architect. It was eye-opening, to say the least.

Even more eye-opening was to spend a day in housekeeping uniform working alongside the staff. The same resort guests that smiled and greeted me while in my office attire now passed by without meeting my eye. It was very humbling to learn what it felt like to be invisible -- especially considering the people I worked with that day had more impressive credentials than I, with my four years of college and measly year of work experience under my belt.

Needless to say, whenever I stay in a hotel I always smile and greet the staff -- and tip, of course.

Thanks for the perspective and Happy Thanksgiving!

ryan field said...

So cool.

Diana said...

Thank you for posting Elaine Viets' name! Mystery writer Nancy Pickard wrote Elaine Viets into one of her books (she mentions a panel of mystery writers), and I thought she sounded interesting. I returned the Pickard book to the library, but COULD NOT REMEMBER Elaine Viets' name.

If you haven't already done so, it wouldn't hurt to contact hotel management and let them know how much you appreciated your housekeeping staff. Everyone likes it when their boss says, "Hey, I hear you've done a really great job."

Sal said...

Lovely story. Thanks, Janet.

Maryann Miller said...

What a great story. It is always so uplifting to hear of an experience of the goodness of human nature. So glad you got to experience it.

Terri said...

Good Morning! I know I am late, but wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the post and the blog.

Your reminder on honor, gratitude, and common courtesy came home to me on black wings.

A week ago, my husband was badly injured in a freakish accident. His 'so-called' friends did almost nothing to help him and a legion of strangers has been working non-stop to help him since then.

I owe his life to a cop, the EMTs, the ER staff, the LifeFlight crew, the docs and nurses of ICU, the social worker helping with the maze of disability filings, and all the quiet orderlies doing unpleasant things that keep him functioning and comfortable.

Bless them all!

Next, his family, who put aside a silly family feud to flock to his bedside. His mother has been keeping vigil 24/7 at the hospital so I can tend to our business and make clear-headed decisions about his care. Also, his TRUE friend who flew halfway across the country to sit with me, even though it meant he missed Thanksgiving with his family.

Bless them all!

Finally, I owe my sanity to all those folks of my small town who are helping with our pets, picking up our mail, covering for me at my job, and sincerely calling to see if I need anything. Rest stops like this blog (and Cake Wrecks!) also help me have a few minutes of normalcy before I commute 150 miles a day to the hospital. Also his true friend that flew halfway across the country to sit with me

Bless you all!

His "friends"? Let's see, I had to beg one to bring my husband's car back to the house so it wouldn't be towed and another decided she wanted to keep his leather jacket as a keepsake. It took 6 days to get it back. I still don't have his shoes.

Sorry for the long-winded post, but my new resolution is that I make sure I express my thanks and gratitude to everyone that makes my life easier, even if they are just doing their job. Ms. Reid, I appreciate you. Your teaching and humor is making me a better writer and your blog is a sure-fire route to a smile. Thank you!

Astrology said...

I hope the housekeeper is one of your readers so she will know of your kind words. She deserves them.