What did I learn working in a 5-star hotel

For the next two weeks I will be taking part on the Scintilla Project, a fortnight of story sharing. During these two weeks I will be writing personal stories inspired by the daily prompts given by the project. For the inconvenience of other participants I will be writing in English. Find out more about the Scintilla Project at

This is a story inspired by Day 1 prompt:
Tell a story set at your first job.

I was 16 and the school year was about to end soon. One day my mother asked me: “So, which one will it be: berry picking or graveyard?”
Those were basically the options for a summer job in our small town. But I wasn’t going to burn my skin at the strawberry fields (like my brother had done for two summers) or work my ass off by gardening the graveyard (I ended up working my ass off anyway, but somewhere else). I had other plans. “No way, I will move to the city and find a job there!” I announced dramatically with a determined voice of a teenager. Apparently my mother didn’t think that I would ever find a job from the city (or even dare to seek one) but she gave me some time to come to my senses. A week later I had a job as a housekeeper in a 5-star hotel. So there I was, moving to Helsinki and beginning my glamorous adventure called working life.

It was a hard job. After I got home every day I was so tired and my body was aching so much that I could barely move. Instead of strolling the city with friends and partying all night (like I had imagined) I just laid in my bed and tried to recover so I could wear my maid’s uniform the next day too. Of course to my mother I told that it was the best job ever and that I was having a blast. Ironically I have always hated cleaning and my mother knew it. She must have been secretly so happy of my stubbornness.


I remember that some of the managers were quite frightening. Especially one of them used to do surprise checks and always found something ridiculous to complain about:“When you stand in this spot you can clearly see some dust in the mirror. Clean it again!” Sometimes she made us practice how to stretch sheets so tight that the bed almost turned into a trampoline. Our fingers were bleeding after stretching those starched sheets. And help god those poor souls who dared to open the TV while cleaning the room. That was strictly forbidden!

During lunch brakes two separate groups were formed: young summer workers who talked about the rumors of stars visiting the hotel (oh yes, that was the glamorous part of the job — cleaning of Jon Bon Jovi’s mess) and the slightly older regular workers who talked about the new microfiber cloths (no kidding!). One day I walked to an almost empty lunchroom and in the absence of my own clan members I was forced to join with the cloth people. I ended up discussing with the most dedicated microfiber advocate. That conversation marked a change in my attitude towards work.

The woman was in her late forties and told me that she had made a successful career in IT consultant business first working for others and later for her own company. Then she had a total burnout and lost the meaning of work and life. After recovering from the worst she started working as a housekeeper. It was supposed to be temporary, something to do while collecting the pieces of her ruined business and self esteem. But soon she found out that she loved the job and had stayed. So what made the job so wonderful that she had stayed there already for eight years? She explained:
“Every day you come to work you have a clear picture of your duties and what is expected from you. You get a list of rooms to clean and by the end of the day you have checked all the items from your to-do list. You can instantly see the results of your work and you never have to bring unfinished business home. I can honestly say that I am good at what I do. Also the people I work with are nice and I get to meet interesting people from around the world. When you truly connect with someone it doesn’t matter what you do for a living, it’s what you are as a person that counts.”
“So what is this fuss about this new microcloth then?” I asked.
“Well, every serious craftsman has to have his tools” she said with laughter in her eyes.

The next day I was cleaning one room while the guests were inside waiting and observing my work. Usually it was unpleasant when the guests where breathing on your neck but this older Finnish couple seemed really nice and sympathetic. We started to talk and they asked how old I was.
“Oh, our daughter is the same age. You seem really determined and independent young lady. Our daughter has also a summer job but it’s not a real job compared to this.”
“So what is she doing then?” I asked.
“Berrypicking on a local strawberry field.”
“But that is a wonderful job! You can see the results of your work instantly and go home with a nice suntan and strawberries.”
I remember the warmth and kindness in her voice when she thanked me and said: “With that attitude you can do anything.”